I attended the Foreign Affairs Council on 28 May. The Council was chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HRVP), Federica Mogherini. The meeting was held in Brussels.
Foreign Affairs Council
The HRVP updated Ministers on EU activity on DPRK, Yemen, the Somalia Partnership Forum with Sweden on 25-26 June and the recent AU-EU College meeting. Ministers were briefed on the outcome of the MH17 investigation.
The Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) discussed Iran. Ministers underlined the importance of preserving the JCPoA and welcomed the steps already taken by the European Commission to protect European companies that have engaged with Iran following the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions. The FAC commended all efforts, notably those of the HRVP and the E3 Foreign Ministers (France, Germany and the UK) to ensure that Iran continues implementing the Agreement. Ministers also discussed the EU's concerns around Iran's ballistic missiles programme, its role in regional conflicts, and the human rights situation. Ministers stressed the need to continue engaging with the US, a long-standing partner and ally, on all issues, including Iran.
Ministers exchanged views on Venezuela, following the recent elections and adopted conclusions setting out the EU’s concerns.
Over lunch, Ministers discussed the situation in Gaza and the US Embassy in Israel's move to Jerusalem. Ministers agreed on the need to act immediately to avoid further loss of life, including by improving humanitarian access. They also stressed the importance of a political process, and re-confirmed the united EU position on the need to find a two-state solution, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states.
Democratic Republic of Congo
The Council discussed the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Ministers stressed the importance of a credible, legitimate, consensual and inclusive electoral process leading to elections in December 2018. Ministers agreed that a smooth handover of power was crucial and cooperation with the region was critical. Ministers also expressed their concern over the dire humanitarian situation, in the light of the recent Ebola outbreak.
Post Cotonou agreement
Ministers reviewed work on the Council decision authorising the Commission to open negotiations on the future partnership between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries (post-Cotonou Agreement). The Council asked EU Ambassadors to continue work on finalising and adopting the negotiating mandate under the leadership of the Bulgarian Presidency.
Under any other business, Ministers were updated on the International Partnership Against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons meeting in Paris. Ministers supported the UK proposal for an extraordinary meeting of the Conference of State Parties.
Members agreed a number of measures without discussion:
- The Council approved an extension of EU restrictive measures against the Syrian Regime until 1 June 2019;
- The Council adopted conclusions on enhanced EU security cooperation in and with Asia;
- The Council adopted conclusions on strengthening civilian Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP);
- The Council adopted the EU’s annual report on human rights and democracy 2017 and the European Court of Auditors report on election observation missions;
- The Council agreed to opening a European Union delegation to Panama;
- The Council adopted conclusions on an EU position on combating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons (SALW).
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: