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Before going into the details about today’s meeting, let me express my deep sorrow over the attack in Heidelberg this afternoon. My feelings and my thoughts are with the families of the victims, with the people of Heidelberg and with Germany.
On the Foreign Affairs Council today, we had important topics and we have been joined by two important guests. First, the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, for our discussion on Syria, and the United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, for the discussion on Russia and European Security.
Let me start with this last point right away, because certainly it has been the most important point on the agenda. The most important take-away is that we have reconfirmed our strong unity and our united approach on the challenges to European security. Our unity is our strength, and there is no doubt in the Council about this. In this regard, we agreed Council Conclusions that you have already seen – and they are, more or less, the ones we agreed on the informal meeting at Brest.
The Russian military build-up in and around Ukraine and Russia’s attempts to re-create dividing lines on our continent, undermine the core foundations and principles on which European security is built and bring back dark memories of spheres of influence, which do not belong to the 21st century. We reaffirmed our full and unquestionable support to Ukraine and that any military aggression against Ukraine will have serious consequences and massive cost for the perpetrator.
We have had a long exchange with Secretary Blinken and it was particularly useful to further assess the way ahead – jointly, the United States and the European Union – and we will continue our very strong and close coordination with our partners as we have been doing during this process. The European Union has not been absent in the talks with Russia, because before and after each meeting we have been coordinating, discussing, informing together the United States and the European Union. And I, personally, had phone calls and collective calls with the United States and NATO in order to be completely aware of what was going on.
There are three main elements that will guide our way ahead.
First, our collective diplomatic efforts to convince Russia to take the path of dialogue will continue, even though the Russian rhetoric does not inspire a lot of confidence.
From this point of view, Ministers have tasked me to continue coordinating the European Union position with all our key partners, notably the United States, NATO and the OSCE Chairmanship-in-office to ensure the effectiveness of our efforts. And we call on Russia to continue engaging constructively in established mechanisms, such as the OSCE and the NATO – Russia Council. We must also continue to support the efforts to reactivate the Normandy 4 process and the work of the Trilateral Contact Group on the implementation of the Minsk Agreements.
We will also continue engaging with our international partners to explain what is happening in Europe and the Russian threats, and to try to clarify the disinformation that Russia is wide spreading about these facts. We need to step up our strategic communication and push back disinformation. I invite you to have a look at the EUvsDisinfo(link is external) publications in the network, where we debunk some dangerous narratives that are being spread. Today we have put on this webpage an explanation about the seven myths that Russia is wide spreading(link is external) about what is happening on the Eastern border of Europe.
Secondly, should diplomacy fail – we are going to do our best for diplomacy to work – we are very well advanced in preparations of responses to a potential Russian aggression. And, certainly, it will be a quick and determined action with strong unity – not only within the European Union, but also internationally.
Thirdly, we must step up our efforts to enhance Ukraine’s and other partners’ resilience. There are concrete actions that we can take and that we are taking. The President of the Commission [Ursula von der Leyen] announced today a financial assistance package made of emergency loans and grants to support Ukraine in the medium and long term. Doubling our grants, our support and providing an emergency financial support of €1.2 billion. That is a very important amount of money that Vice-President [of the European Commission, Valdis] Dombrovskis and my colleague Commissioner [for Neighbourhood and Enlargement] Olivér [Várhelyi] will visit Ukraine to announce and to share this news with the Ukrainian authorities.
We are also looking out to support Ukraine in another key areas.
On Cyber and hybrid threats, our swift condemnation of the cyber-attack and our readiness to assist Ukraine 10 days ago – when we were in Brest – is a clear proof of our readiness, our capacity and will to act. We will be ready to respond to further attacks of this type. We will continue to build-up the resilience on countering foreign information manipulation. We are ready to mobilise a mission to support Ukraine in fighting against cyber attacks with resources provided by Member States and coordinated by the European Union, if needed.
On security and defence, I have already mentioned the €31 million that we have granted in order to increase the resistance capacity of the Ukrainian army. We are intensifying our work on the idea of a European Union [Military Training] Assistance Mission in Ukraine to reform military education. I hope that the decision will be taken soon. On our side, we will continue accelerating the preparatory work to deploy such a mission if Member States agree on that.
Finally, we must also keep close contact with other partners, notably Georgia and Moldova and continue to pass the message that enhancing internal resilience – based on strong democratic institutions – is important to strengthen their capacity to face external threats. For that we encourage Ukraine to continue working on the reforms ongoing.
Last but not least, let me underline again that we are united in our position. Our unity is our most important strength.
We talked about Syria, Libya, Mali, Burkina Faso. Let me say something about Mali and Burkina Faso, let me switch to French, this is something in what France is strongly engaged.
Comme je l’ai déjà dit au Gymnich à Brest, les décisions prises par les autorités maliennes de proposer une [prolongation de la] Transition de 4 ans, ainsi que le déploiement avéré, vérifié, du Groupe Wagner, ne sont pas acceptables pour nous.
La CEDEAO a adopté des sanctions économiques et financières. Nous travaillons sur cette ligne. On va tenir une réunion le 26 janvier prochain, avec les ministres des affaires étrangères du G5-Sahel. J’espère avoir l’occasion de discuter avec eux, et en particulier avec le ministre du Mali. Aucune décision sera prise avant que cette réunion n’ai lieu. J’espère que cette occasion de nous rencontrer va me donner l’opportunité de faire passer des messages et de consolider notre approche.
Sur le Burkina Faso, nous suivons avec beaucoup d’inquiétude l’évolution de la situation au Burkina Faso. Les dernières nouvelles sont très préoccupantes en faisant état de détention du président [Christian] Kaboré, et de l’occupation de la radiotélévision nationale par des éléments de l’armée. Hier, j’ai parlé avec la ministre des Affaires étrangères de Burkina Faso [Rosine Coulibaly]. Et le président du Conseil européen [Charles Michel] a parlé avec le président du Burkina Faso, la situation semblait sous contrôle. Mais pendant la journée d’aujourd’hui, les nouvelles se sont empirées, elles sont mauvaises, et nous savons maintenant que le président Kaboré est sous le contrôle de l’armée. Nous appelons au respect de l’ordre constitutionnel et à la libération du Président Kaboré.
Sur la Syrie, on a discuté de la procédure que le l’Envoyé Spécial des Nations unies voudrait suivre des « steps-for-steps ». Tous les États membres étaient d’accord que tant qu’il n’y aura pas d’engagement politique du régime d’Assad, il n’y aura pas, aucune reconnaissance, aucune communication, aucun travail ne sera fait ensemble [avec le régime d’Assad], à part l’aide humanitaire au peuple de Syrie qui va être augmenté selon les plans que nous a présenté l’Envoyé Spécial des Nations unies.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-216841