Two weeks after EU sanctions were adopted in connection to the Navalny case, the Council decided to impose restrictive measures on eleven individuals and four entities responsible for serious human rights violations and abuses in China, North Korea, Libya, South Sudan, Eritrea and Russia.
“The sanctions target very serious human rights violations and abuses, independently of the place where they are being committed. All European Union restrictive measures comply with international law and are subject to highest standards of the rule of law.”
Josep Borrell, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
The Council also decided to sanction eleven individuals responsible for the military coup staged in Myanmar/Burma on 1 February 2021, and the subsequent military and police repression against peaceful demonstrators.
The Council assessed EU-Turkey relations in view of a joint report of the High Representative and the Commission prepared ahead of the video conference of the members of the European Council on 25-26 March.
Ministers generally considered the report as a good basis for discussions in the European Council.
In summarising the discussion, the High Representative underlined that since the December 2020 European Council conclusions, there had been positive signals from the Turkish leadership. Although steps were taken in the direction of de-escalation in the East Mediterranean, the process remained fragile and de-escalation efforts needed to be sustained.
Ministers agreed that it is important to keep the momentum and consolidate it, but also to keep all options on the table in case developments so require.
The Council then exchanged views on the Southern Neighbourhood.
The debate highlighted the need for a stronger, closer and more effective partnership, and for the EU to work together with its partners to solve common problems such as: COVID, conflicts, migration, climate change, and terrorism.
Ministers focused particularly on how to implement the joint communication on a Renewed Partnership for the Southern Neighbourhood of 9 February 2021, and make it operational. In their interventions they touched on various aspects such as: promoting reforms, working with civil society, using the potential of the green and digital transitions, etc.
Council conclusions on the Southern Neighbourhood will be adopted at the next Foreign Affairs Council.
Video Conference with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet
Ministers had an opportunity to exchange views with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on the state of human rights around the world, and recent development in this regard.
The video conference also launched the Strategic Dialogue between the EU and the High Commissioner, which is a new initiative set out in the strategy on strengthening the EU’s contribution to rules-based multilateralism.
The Council took stock of the situation in Myanmar, which continues to deteriorate following the military coup on 1 February 2021. In briefing ministers, High Representative Borrell stressed that the EU would continue with its diplomatic efforts to help defuse the situation, and work towards restoring democracy and the legitimate civilian government.
Ministers were then updated about the Western Balkans and, in particular, recent and upcoming events such as the Stabilisation and Association Councils and the recent visit to the region by the EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue and other Western Balkans regional issues, Miroslav Lajčák.
The Council also had a brief discussion on Russia, during which ministers confirmed that the five guiding principles remained very relevant, and that within those principles, the EU will push back, constrain, or engage with Russia as the situation merits it. EU leaders will have a discussion on the relationship with Russia at their video conference on 25-26 March.
The High Representative briefed ministers about the EU-Georgia Association Council held on 16 March, and about the EU’s mediation efforts over the past weeks to overcome the political crisis in the country. The High Representative reiterated the need for all leaders of Georgia’s political parties to put the interests of the Georgian people first, to make the necessary compromises, and to turn their attention to other urgent issues like the coronavirus pandemic, economic recovery, and Georgia’s national security.
Venezuela was also discussed in light of recent events such as the expulsion of the Head of the EU Delegation to Venezuela from the country, and the EU’s declaration of the Venezuelan ambassador to the EU as persona non grata. The debate highlighted that the stabilisation and re-democratisation of the country is possible, but it requires consistent effort.
Finally, the High Representative briefed ministers about the situation in Ethiopia and the daily reports of human rights violations of massive scale coming from the country. The EU will continue to increase pressure for humanitarian access to be allowed, independent investigations on human rights abuses to be launched, and Eritrean troops to be withdrawn. The High Representative stressed that the EU stands ready to activate all its foreign policy tools against those responsible for human rights violations, and that he had mandated the Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto to go back to the region for a second mission.
The Council adopted a decision establishing the European Peace Facility.
Meeting n°378, Brussel, 22 March 2021
- Outcome of the Council meeting
- Items approved by written procedure between 23 February and 22 March 2021
- List of participants
- EU imposes further sanctions over serious violations of human rights around the world – 22 March 2021, 12:50
- Myanmar/Burma: EU sanctions 11 people over the recent military coup and ensuing repression – 22 March 2021, 12:45
- EU sets up the European Peace Facility – 22 March 2021, 11:25
- Cybersecurity: Council adopts conclusions on the EU’s cybersecurity strategy – 22 March 2021, 10:30
- Media advisory – Foreign Affairs Council of 22 March 2021 – 19 March 2021, 11:00
- Media advisory – Press briefing ahead of Foreign Affairs Council of 22 March 2021 – 16 March 2021, 10:41