On Wednesday (12 October), Foreign Minister Frank‑Walter Steinmeier travelled to Rome for a meeting with his Italian and French counterparts Paolo Gentiloni and Jean‑Marc Ayrault. Their talks focused on the European Union’s Common Security and Defence Policy, although the war in Syria and the situation in Libya were also on the agenda.
Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP)
Whether in the context of crises in Europe’s neighbourhood or the Brexit decision, in view of the large number of crises and conflicts throughout the world, the European Union’s Common Security and Defence Policy is more important today than ever before – which is why it was at the heart of the discussions between Foreign Minister Steinmeier and his two colleagues from Italy and France.
Since 1999 the European Union Member States have worked together within an official framework to promote security in Europe. That year, the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) was officially established in Cologne. The CSDP is part of the European Union’s common foreign and security policy but also has its own regulations and institutions. Before his trip to Rome, Steinmeier had already announced his intention to discuss the future development of European security policy with his two colleagues.
The last two years have shown all too clearly that, given the crises erupting on Europe’s doorstep and in the world, we can no longer afford to sit back and hope everything will pass. We can only create security in Europe and arm ourselves against crises by striding forth together also in the sphere of European security and defence policy.
The key focus in this area is on crisis prevention, crisis management and post‑conflict peacebuilding. Experts from the police, the military and civil society are active in more than 30 operations and helping to foster peace and stability, for example by building up rule‑of‑law structures, ensuring that ceasefires are respected and providing training for police forces and military personnel.
Speaking on Wednesday evening after the talks in Rome, Steinmeier said: “I believe we still have a long way to go before we have exhausted the potential for common European security.” He went on to say that what Europe’s citizens were demanding was concrete answers “in the areas in which we have not been able to provide answers in the past few years”. He explained that migration was one such area, but they also included economic growth, investment and unemployment. Steinmeier stated that in light of the terrorist attacks that were now also encroaching on Europe, the issue of security was high on the agenda – and that the ministers had therefore discussed proposals on how Europe could become more effective in safeguarding internal security and stabilising the immediate neighbourhood.
Syria: our moral credibility is at stake
The CSDP was not, however, the only item on the agenda in Rome. Steinmeier, Gentiloni and Ayrault also discussed ways to improve the situation in Syria. After the meeting, Steinmeier stressed that Syria was still the most urgent international conflict. He declared that since efforts to bring about a ceasefire had so far been unsuccessful, it was now all the more important first to improve the access of the population to humanitarian assistance, particularly in Aleppo. Steinmeier concluded by saying that in view of the suffering of the people, there was not just a political responsibility to bring about an end to the war. “Our moral credibility is also at stake.”
Other topics covered during the meeting of the German, French and Italian Foreign Ministers included the current situation in Libya and the issue of migration.