My Noble Friend the Minister of State for Defence (The Rt Hon Earl Howe) and I attended the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) on 19 November. It was chaired by the High Representative and Vice President of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HRVP), Federica Mogherini. The meeting was held in Brussels.
The Council discussed Iran and confirmed their ongoing full support for the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) given that Iran continues to implement the Agreement and notwithstanding the reintroduction of US sanctions on 5 November 2018. Ministers expressed solidarity with those Member States where Iran had carried out unacceptable activities and confirmed their readiness to consider a targeted appropriate response. Ministers also touched briefly on the outcome of the international conference for Libya hosted by the Italian Government in Palermo on 12-13 November and the situation in Gaza, following the latest escalation of violence.
The Council discussed Central Asia (Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) ahead of the 14th EU-Central Asia ministerial meeting that will take place on 23 November in Brussels. Ministers noted recent significant changes in the region and the new momentum in bilateral and regional cooperation. They expressed a strong interest in stepping up EU engagement in Central Asia on reform and economic development, as well as the promotion of sustainable connectivity and regional conditions for peace and stability in Afghanistan. Adoption of a new EU Strategy on Central Asia is expected in 2019.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
The Council discussed Bosnia and Herzegovina following elections on 7 October. Ministers underlined the importance of forming Governments at all levels as soon as possible to enable political leaders to focus on the reform agenda that was essential in responding to citizens’ aspirations. Ministers also agreed that electoral law reform should be undertaken.
The Council exchanged views on Yemen, in particular with regard the EU’s political and humanitarian support. Ministers confirmed their strong support for the United Nations (UN) -led process and the UN Special Envoy (UNSE) Martin Griffiths. Ministers agreed to send a clear message to all those involved in the conflict to consolidate de-escalation efforts, cease hostilities and engage in political talks led by Martin Griffiths.
The Council discussed the latest developments in Ukraine, in particular the situation in the Azov Sea and the "elections" in the so-called "Luhansk People's Republic" and "Donetsk People's Republic" on 11 November 2018. Ministers confirmed their commitment to Ukraine's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, recalled that the EU did not recognise the "elections" of 11 November 2018 and confirmed their readiness to consider appropriate targeted measures in response. They also agreed that full implementation of the Minsk agreements remained essential and highlighted the EU's continued humanitarian engagement in Eastern Ukraine. Ministers touched on the EU's support for the reform process in Ukraine; the EU and Ukraine will have the opportunity to review progress on reforms, bilateral and global cooperation, at the Association Council meeting scheduled for 17 December 2018.
Security and defence
The Council discussed a range of security and defence issues. Ministers welcomed the second tranche of projects under Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) and stressed the importance of agreeing arrangements for third country access by the end of the year. The Council welcomed the establishment of a civilian Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) Compact, to improve civilian responses to security threats. It agreed to strengthen the role of the Military Planning and Conduct Capability, and to conduct a Coordinated Annual Review on Defence as a standing activity to provide an overview of defence spending, national investment and defence research efforts. The Council also adopted a ‘partial general approach’ on the European Defence Fund.
Ministers discussed EU-NATO cooperation in the presence of the NATO Secretary-General, including on issues related to hybrid threats and military mobility. The Council underlined the importance of coherence and mutual reinforcement between the EU and NATO. It welcomed the second Joint Declaration on EU-NATO cooperation signed on 10 July 2018.
CSDP operations and missions
The Council had an exchange of views regarding CSDP operations and missions.
The Council agreed a number of measures without discussion:
- The Council adopted conclusions on Ethiopia;
- The Council adopted conclusions on Sudan;
- The Council adopted conclusions on Afghanistan;
- The Council adopted conclusions on Pakistan;
- The Council adopted conclusions on water diplomacy;
- The Council adopted conclusions on the establishment of a Civilian CSDP Compact;
- The Council adopted an updated list of Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) projects;
- The Council adopted its position (partial general approach) on the European Defence Fund (EDF);
- The Council adopted a new EU Strategy against illicit firearms, small arms and light weapons and ammunition;
- The Council adopted an updated version of the EU Cyber Defence Policy Framework;
- The Council extended the mandate of EUTM Somalia;
- The Council approved annexes for the military requirements within and beyond the EU;
- The Council took note of the report submitted by the Head of the European Defence Agency (EDA);
- The Council adopted the guidelines for the EDA’s work in 2019;
- The Council took note of the Single Progress Report on the Development of EU military capabilities in the period from November 2016 to June 2018;
- The Council adopted a decision to promote capacity building in the member states of the League of Arab States;
- The Council adopted a decision concerning support of SEESAC for the implementation of the Regional Roadmap on combating illicit arms trafficking in the Western Balkans;
- The Council approved the Commission’s conclusion of the EURATOM/KEDO Agreement;
- The Council approved the Commission’s conclusion of the EURATOM/KEDO Agreement (retroactivity).
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: