The ministers of foreign affairs of the NATO states met in Brussels on 6 and 7 December, with a focus on getting NATO into better shape to meet the altered global security situation. In this context, agreement was reached on improving cooperation between NATO and the EU.
Cooperation between NATO and the EU
What with the war in Syria, the conflicts in Ukraine, Libya, Yemen, Iraq and Afghanistan, and the new divisive forces tearing at the European Union, the global security situation has changed. This will have consequences for international alliances. In addition, it is not yet clear what impact the outcome of the US presidential elections will have on foreign and security policy. “At a time when the security situation is in flux we are well advised – both in NATO and the European Union – to pool our resources,” Foreign Minister Steinmeier said in advance of the meeting.
He was glad that the vital search for synergies had been successful: the foreign ministers adopted an action plan containing 40 measures to advance cooperation between NATO and the EU. In the future, for example, cooperation on naval missions will be enhanced and joint defence efforts against cyber attacks will be expanded.
Deterrence and détente
The conflict in Ukraine was again also a key issue on the agenda. Steinmeier noted that at present no major progress could be expected in implementing the Minsk agreements. Nevertheless, he reported that important issues had been discussed both at the NATO Foreign Ministers meeting and at the Normandy format meeting last week, including access by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to prisons and an exchange of prisoners. The latter is due to happen by the end of the year.
According to Steinmeier, the principal aim is to find ways of preventing things from escalating out of control. In this connection he stressed the vital nature of defence and détente, NATO’s two pillars. The two approaches went hand in hand, he said, as a matter both of NATO’s philosophy and of foreign policy action. With regard to Russia, therefore, the NATO‑Russia Council should continue to be used as a forum for exchange.
Onward to the OSCE Ministerial Council
After the meeting, Steinmeier travelled to Hamburg, where the OSCE Ministerial Council – the climax of Germany’s OSCE Chairmanship – will take place from 8 to 9 December.