At the invitation of Josep Borrell, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the 27 Foreign Ministers of the EU are meeting in Luxembourg today for a Foreign Affairs Council. They have a full agenda: Heiko Maas and his colleagues will discuss the EU’s relations with both the Gulf region and the countries of the Eastern Partnership. They will also address the difficult political and humanitarian situation in Ethiopia, as well as the situation in Nicaragua, where elections are only a few weeks away. Last but not least, their talks will focus on current developments, such as the situation in Afghanistan, Tunisia and the countries of the Western Balkans.
Before the Council meeting, Foreign Minister Maas will attend a working breakfast with Libya’s Foreign Minister Najla el-Mangoush that is being hosted by Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias. The German Government, together with its international partners, is urging that foreign troops and mercenaries be withdrawn from Libya and that democratic institutions be built up following the elections that are scheduled for December. At the Foreign Affairs Council, Heiko Maas will meet also his new Dutch colleague for the first time, as the two Ministers have their first direct exchange in the margins of the meeting. Ben Knapen took up his duties in the Foreign Ministry in The Hague on 24 September.
Relations between the EU and the Gulf region
How can the EU and the countries in the Gulf region work together more closely in future? During their discussions today, EU Foreign Ministers will look at what topics and spheres should be prioritised for closer cooperation with these countries. One focus will be the creation of a sound regional security architecture, which will also require swift progress in negotiations on the nuclear agreement with Iran. Moreover, Ministers will discuss maritime security, trade and the fight against climate change as possible spheres for closer cooperation between the EU and the countries in the Gulf region. In this connection, the EU also always strongly prioritises the protection of human rights.
Strengthening the Eastern Partnership
Moreover, the agenda includes another region in the European neighbourhood: in the context of the Eastern Partnership, the EU has for many years been cooperating with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine – Belarus has withdrawn from the programme at its own request. At today’s Foreign Affairs Council, Ministers will discuss how the EU can provide further support to the countries of the Eastern Partnership. The aim is to help them address the economic challenges they are facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, the EU has clear expectations of countries in Eastern Europe with regard to the rule of law and good governance. Another common aim is to strengthen these countries’ ability to withstand foreign influence, including from Russia.
Discussion of the situation in Ethiopia and Nicaragua
EU Foreign Ministers will also address the deteriorating situation in Ethiopia. Now that a new government has been formed there, it is important that the United Nations and humanitarian actors regain unhindered and secure access to the country, so that they can provide humanitarian assistance.
Elections are scheduled to be held in Nicaragua on 7 November. In the run-up to the vote, there have already been acts of intimidation and arrests of members of the political opposition, journalists and civil society activists. EU Foreign Ministers will hold discussions on the difficult circumstances ahead of the planned elections, as well as examine possible joint action.