Current issues: Situation on the border with Belarus
The EU Foreign Ministers aim to establish concrete measures in response to the latest provocations by the Belarusian ruler Lukashenko, who is luring thousands of migrants to the area along Belarus’ border with Poland and the Baltic states with false promises before abandoning them there in unimaginable conditions.
In an interview last Saturday, Foreign Minister Maas emphasised European solidarity with Poland.
Poland is not responsible for what is happening at its border with Belarus. It is unequivocally the doing of the regime in Minsk. (...) We stand in complete solidarity with Poland, while also encouraging our partners in Warsaw to allow the UNHCR, for example, access to the people at the border in order to provide humanitarian support.
Foreign Minister Maas additionally made it clear that the EU will do everything it can to stop the smuggling of migrants through Minsk by the Lukashenko regime:
At [our] meeting on Monday, [we] will expand the sanctions to cover people who are directly or indirectly supporting this people-smuggling. There will also very soon be a comprehensive list of individuals who are to be sanctioned. We have to tackle this business at its root, in the countries of origin from which people are lured to Minsk. [...] We are also speaking to all airlines which are transporting people to Minsk. [...] All airlines must be aware that anyone who is guilty of complicity in illegal people-smuggling must expect consequences, including sanctions affecting overflight rights or landing permits.
The Western Balkans and the Sahel: Political discussions on both regions
Two other regions that are important for the EU will be on the agenda of the Foreign Affairs Council: the Western Balkans and the Sahel region.
The challenges across the whole of the Western Balkans are growing, and the European Union must respond with resolute, concerted action. The situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina in particular is deeply concerning. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas spoke to a Bosnian media outlet last week about the steps announced by the leadership of Republika Srpska:
We cannot stand by and watch this irresponsible course of action continue. Because it not only harms the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina, it also undoes all of the progress that has been made over many years with considerable support from the international community, the EU and Germany on the basis of the Dayton Peace Agreement.
In relations between Serbia and Kosovo, meanwhile, there continues to be potential for escalation. This makes it all the more important for Kosovo and Serbia to move towards pragmatic positions in the normalisation dialogue led by the EU’s Special Representative Miroslav Lajčák. And with regard to Albania and North Macedonia, it cannot be reiterated often enough that it must finally be made possible for them to proceed to the first EU accession conferences.
After consulting on the Western Balkans, the EU Foreign Ministers will discuss the Sahel region. Their focus will be on the current situation in Mali.
Meeting with the Foreign Ministers of the Eastern Partnership: Shared goals and expectations
After the Council meeting of the 27 Ministers, the next item on the agenda will be the EU’s relations with another region in the European neighbourhood. The EU has been cooperating with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine for many years as part of the Eastern Partnership; Belarus is currently choosing not to participate. The Eastern Partnership meeting, held in the format “27 plus 5”, will address the EU’s ongoing support for the countries of the Partnership, particularly in their efforts to tackle the economic challenges created by the COVID‑19 pandemic. Another common aim is to strengthen these countries’ ability to withstand foreign influence, including from Russia. At the same time, the EU has clear expectations regarding the rule of law and good governance.
On the margins of this meeting, Foreign Minister Maas and his French counterpart Le Drian will hold talks with Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Kuleba.
Closing session in an enlarged format: Foreign and Defence Ministers to meet for discussions of the Strategic Compass
In the evening, the EU Foreign Ministers and Defence Ministers will come together for a “jumbo” session. High Representative Josep Borrell will use this meeting to present the first draft of a fundamental security policy document for the EU, known as the Strategic Compass. This document should then be approved in the first half of 2022.
A wide range of topics to discuss in a single day – Foreign Minister Maas and his fellow Ministers have a busy itinerary ahead of them in Brussels this Monday.