…and NATO Foreign Ministers’ Meetings
Foreign Affairs Council: EU for Syria, the situation in Libya, the situation in Yemen, EU and the League of Arab States, conclusions on the promotion and protection of the rights of the child, EU and the League of Arab States, The new partnership agreement is expected to be adopted at the London Somalia Conference on 11 May 2017.
Syria Conference: Bringing together ministerial representatives from 70 delegations, including from the EU and the region but also the wider international community, the United Nations, major donors and civil society, humanitarian and development organisations, the conference will address the situation in Syria and the impact of the crisis in the region.
NATO: First, fair burden-sharing to keep the transatlantic bond strong. The Alliance have started to increase defence spending, but needs to keep up the momentum and meet the pledge the allies have all made.
Foreign Affairs Council
The Council, chaired by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, will start with a discussion on Syria. The discussion will take place on the eve of the Brussels Conference on Supporting the future of Syria and the region (4-5 April 2017), which will be co-chaired by the EU together with Germany, Kuwait, Norway, Qatar, the United Kingdom and the United Nations.
Ministers will discuss the EU strategy for Syria, on the basis of the joint communication by the European Commission and the High Representative of 14 March 2017. The Council is expected to adopt conclusions on Syria.
The Council will also discuss the situation in Libya, following the last discussion at the Foreign Affairs Council meeting in February. The High Representative will debrief ministers on the Quartet meeting on Libya, in which she participated together with the UN, the African Union and the League of Arab States on 18 March 2017.
The Council will discuss the situation in Yemen and is expected to adopt conclusions. Ministers will address the humanitarian situation in the country, which continues to deteriorate.
Over lunch, EU ministers will have an exchange of views with the Secretary General of the League of Arab States, Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, touching on cooperation between the EU and the League of Arab States and on key regional issues.
Following the conclusion of the electoral process and the formation of the new government, the Council is expected to adopt without debate conclusions on Somalia, which will also feed into EU and the League of Arab States The Council is also expected to adopt conclusions on the promotion and protection of the rights of the child.
The Council will discuss Syria and is expected to adopt conclusions . The discussion will take place on the eve of the Brussels conference on Supporting the future of Syria and the region (4-5 April 2017), which will be co-chaired by the EU together with Germany, Kuwait, Norway, Qatar, the United Kingdom and the United Nations. Ministers will discuss the EU strategy for Syria, on the basis of the joint communication of the European Commission and the High Representative of 14 March 2017.
The joint communication proposes ways in which the EU can play a greater role in contributing to a lasting political solution in Syria under the existing UN-agreed framework. It also looks at how the EU can continue its assistance to over 13 million people in need in Syria, help build resilience and stability in the country, and support post-agreement reconstruction and the voluntary, dignified and safe return of refugees and internally displaced persons once a credible political transition is underway.
The Council is expected to confirm EU’s commitment to reconfirm its support to Syria’s neighbouring countries, in particular Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, as well as Iraq and Egypt, which have demonstrated their commitment and resilience in hosting millions of Syrian refugees over the past few years. The Council will give policy guidelines for the EU approach at the Brussels conference on Supporting the future of Syria and the region. The conference, hosted by the EU, will assess where the international community stands collectively in fulfilling commitments made at the London Conference and agree on additional efforts needed to meet the needs of those affected by the crisis.
13.5 million Syrians are now in need of humanitarian assistance inside Syria, including 6.3 million internally displaced persons. 1.5 million are living under siege conditions, and a further 4.9 million Syrian refugees are being hosted by Syria’s neighbours and the wider region. The EU and the member states have so far mobilised more than € 9.4 billion in humanitarian aid and in support of stabilisation in response to the crisis in Syria. In February 2016, at the London conference on Syria, they pledged more than €3 billion for 2016-2017.
The Council will discuss the situation in Libya, following the last discussion at the Foreign Affairs Council meeting in February. In its conclusions of 6 February, the Council reaffirmed the importance of Libya regaining its stability through an inclusive political settlement under the framework of the Libyan political agreement. It underlined the important role that regional actors and organisations could play in this regard.
The High Representative subsequently participated in the first Quartet meeting on Libya on 18 March 2017 in Cairo. The Quartet was created when the United Nations, the African Union and the League of Arab States invited the EU to join their common work to accompany the process of the political transition in Libya in respect of full Libyan ownership.
Ministers may also touch upon the state of play of EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia, the EU naval operation to disrupt the business model of human smugglers and traffickers in the Southern Central Mediterranean. As part of its supporting tasks, the EU operation has trained 93 Libyan coastguards under a first training package and so far another 32 under a second training package, in an effort to help the Libyan coast guards to perform their duties.
In line with the Malta declaration, the EU is currently implementing a package of support measures for Libya as part of the overall effort to address irregular migration along the Central Mediterranean Route. For this effort the EU announced additional funding to the amount of €200 million. In parallel, the EU is implementing programmes worth €120 million, for projects covering the health sector, governance, security, civil society, protection of people, youth and education.
The Council will discuss the situation in Yemen and adopt conclusions.
The conflict in Yemen has entered in its second year. It has led to the deaths of over 10 000 civilians, forced millions to leave their homes and severely aggravated an already dire humanitarian situation. 17 million Yemenis are depending on external aid for their survival, and 7.3 million are at serious risk of famine. It is estimated that over 2.2 million children are acutely malnourished. More than 600 health facilities and 1 600 schools have been damaged during the conflict.
The Council is expected to reaffirm its serious concern over the situation in the country. Continuing escalations in the conflict and the absence of dialogue among the parties, as well as the further deteriorating humanitarian situation and the significant obstacles to the delivery of humanitarian assistance are worrying developments.
In the discussion, ministers may touch upon the different aspects of the crisis:
☞ the consequences of the war in Yemen for the region’s stability, as the war has created conditions in which criminal and terrorist organisations such as al-Qaeda, Da’esh and others can thrive;
☞ the importance of a political solution and a negotiation process involving all the parties concerned, as there can be no military solution to the conflict. The EU has repeatedly called on all parties to endorse efforts by the UN Special Envoy to restart the negotiations, and insists on the importance of an extended cessation of hostilities to create the conditions for talks to resume;
☞ the humanitarian aspects, including observance of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, the imperative of removing obstacles and bureaucratic hurdles preventing the delivery of life-saving assistance and the importance of guaranteeing the safety of relief workers and humanitarian personnel.
The Council is expected to express its readiness to increase its efforts to support the United Nations actions in the search for a political settlement of this crisis and to step up humanitarian assistance to the population across the country according to the rising needs.
League of Arab States
Over lunch, EU ministers will discuss key issues for the region with the Secretary General of the League of Arab States, Ahmed Aboul-Gheit. They will discuss key issues for the region including the situation in Syria and Libya and the Middle East peace process.
The Council is due to adopt conclusions on Somalia welcoming the recent conclusion of the electoral process, the election of President Mohamed Abdullahi Mahamed Farmaajo and the formation of the new government, as well as the many new members of Parliament and increased representation of women. The Council is set to recognise the crucial challenges facing the new leadership, notably the unfolding humanitarian crisis, and to restate the EU’s long-term commitment to the country. A new partnership agreement between Somalia and the international community is essential in bringing together security, political and development objectives for the next four years. The new partnership agreement is expected to be adopted at the London Somalia Conference on 11 May 2017. The Council conclusions will serve as policy guidelines for the EU at this conference.
The Council is expected to adopt conclusions on the promotion and protection of the rights of the child. These conclusions follow the ‘Guidelines for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of the Child (2017) – Leave No Child Behind’ adopted by the Council on 6 March 2017. With these guidelines, the EU reaffirmed its commitment to comprehensively protect and promote the rights of the child in its external human rights policy.
In line with the guidelines, the conclusions focus on promoting gender equality, ensuring the empowerment of girls, mainstreaming the rights of the child in all sectors and in all programming, and encouraging partner countries to adopt a national strategy on the rights of the child. The Council is due to reaffirm the EU’s support for the work of relevant international and regional actors in the field of children’s rights, in particular within the United Nations framework. The Council will also reaffirm the EU’s active engagement in the processes protecting the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all refugee and migrant children.
Supporting the future of Syria and the region – Brussels conference, 04-05/04/2017
The European Union, Germany, Kuwait, Norway, Qatar, the United Kingdom and the United Nations will co-chair the Brussels Conference on Supporting the future of Syria and the region, on 5 April 2017. Parallel thematic sessions will take place on 4 April.
Bringing together ministerial representatives from 70 delegations, including from the EU and the region but also the wider international community, the United Nations, major donors and civil society, humanitarian and development organisations, the conference will address the situation in Syria and the impact of the crisis in the region.
The conference will seek to:
☂ assess where the international community stands collectively in fulfilling commitments made at the London conference in February 2016 and agree on additional efforts
☂ reconfirm existing pledges and identify additional support to Syrians inside Syria and in the neighbouring countries, as well as to the respective host communities
☂ support a lasting political resolution to the Syrian conflict through an inclusive and Syrian-led political transition process under the UN auspice
☂ The conference will also consider the prospects for post-agreement assistance once a genuinely inclusive political transition is firmly underway.
Supporting the future of Syria and the region
The Brussels Conference on “Supporting the future of Syria and the region” will address three aspects. It will:
☀ assess where the international community stands collectively in fulfilling commitments made at the Supporting Syria and the region conference in London in February 2016, agree on additional efforts required to meet the growing needs of those affected by the crisis, as well as take stock of agreed reform and their continuation in the neighbouring countries,
☀ reconfirm existing pledges and encourage additional support to people in need inside Syria and in neighbouring countries, as well as to the respective host communities, for both development assistance and in response to the UN-coordinated appeals,
☀ highlight the efforts of the international community to support a successful outcome of the intra-Syrian talks under the auspices of the United Nations, in Geneva, seeking a political agreement to end the conflict based on UNSC Resolution 2254 and the 2012 Geneva communiqué, as the only way to bring an end to the Syrian people’s suffering.
The conference is expected to reconfirm the international community’s commitment to continuing to deliver assistance to Syrians in need, as well as their host communities, and will consider the prospects for post-agreement assistance, once a genuinely inclusive political transition is firmly under way.
The conference will also address the need for sustained, neutral and impartial life-saving humanitarian assistance and protection to all people in need in Syria and the region as well as the implementation of resilience and stabilisation in the region and in Syria. It will reiterate and reinforce the international community’s support to the neighbouring countries to face the economic and social consequences of the crisis.
The conference is also intended to boost international support for the ongoing talks which aims to lead to a sustainable, inclusive and Syrian-led political transition process, and also taking into account processes such as the regional initiative launched by the EU High Representative, in full coordination with the UN, to further contribute towards an agreement in the intra-Syrian peace process.
The Brussels Conference on Supporting the future of Syria and the region builds on the three Kuwait Conferences of 2013-15, the Berlin conference of 28 October 2014, and the London Conference of 4 February 2016, where the international community reaffirmed its solidarity with millions of vulnerable people living in Syria and Syrians in the region, as well as with the host communities who have welcomed them.
The Brussels Conference on Supporting the future of Syria and the region builds on the London Conference on Supporting Syria and the region of 4 February 2016. One year ago, the international community convened in London under the leadership of the United Kingdom, Germany, Kuwait, Norway and the United Nations, reaffirming its solidarity with millions of vulnerable people living in Syria and Syrian refugees and affected host communities in the region, and building on the commitments made at the three previous pledging conferences in Kuwait from 2013-15.
At the London Conference, the donor community pledged significant financial support for humanitarian assistance and protection in Syria, as well as civilian stabilisation measures to strengthen resilience in host communities. It also reiterated that there can only be a political solution to the crisis, within the existing agreed UN framework and based on the Geneva Communiqué and UN Security Council Resolution 2254.
The London Conference concluded with commitments from both the international community and Syria’s neighbours to meet the immediate and longer-term needs of those affected by the crisis, including further support for education and livelihood opportunities for Syrian refugees and host communities in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. [ For more information see:]
NATO Foreign Ministers’ Meetings: Stoltenberg’s Remarks
31 Mar. 2017 – Brussels, Today we will prepare the ground for the meeting of NATO leaders here in Brussels in May.
Our transatlantic bond has been rock-solid for almost seventy years. It is vital for Europe, and vital for North America and it is especially important now, in times of serious challenges. When our Heads of State and Government meet in eight weeks, their agenda will include two key points.
First, fair burden-sharing to keep the transatlantic bond strong. We have started to increase defence spending, but we need to keep up the momentum and meet the pledge we have all made. This is about more funding, but it is not just about cash. It is also about investing in the capabilities we need and committing forces to NATO deployments. So it is about cash, capabilities, and commitments.
The second major topic will be stepping up NATO’s efforts to project stability and fight terrorism. We have made significant contributions for many years – from Afghanistan to the Balkans. But NATO has untapped potential to do more. In Iraq, we are already building the capacity of local forces. Including with life-saving training to counter improvised explosive devices and I hope we will be able to expand our support to new areas. As part of our broad international effort, NATO can and must make a real difference.
Over lunch, we will turn to NATO’s relations with Russia. Our key partners – the European Union, Finland and Sweden – will join our talks. We have a united position on Russia: strong defence and deterrence combined with dialogue and we are delivering on both.
We will close the ministerial meeting with a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission. A strong sign of our continued commitment to Ukraine. Our support is both political and practical.
Q ☛ : Mr Secretary General, do you think Americans are pushing too much on defence spending? Do they need to listen to the European explanations about capabilities being just as important? And secondly, do you think Mr Tillerson ruffled feathers here with the scheduling snafu? Are there doubts about the value he places on the Alliance?
A ☝ : We have to remember that defence spending, increased defence spending, is something 28 Allies agreed together in 2014. We were together – the US, Canada and all the NATO Allies from Europe – sitting around the same table, and we decided to stop the cuts in defence spending, gradually increase and then move towards 2% within a decade. So increased defence spending is not about pleasing the United States. It is about investing more in European security because it is important for Europe. Europe is close to the turmoil, the violence we see in North Africa, in the Middle East, Iraq, Syria. And Europe is close to a more assertive Russia, willing to use force against a neighbour, in Ukraine. So investing in defence is in the interest of Europe, and therefore all European Allies agreed when we decided in 2014 to invest more in our collective security. Then on the rescheduling, I would just say that Foreign Ministers are busy people. And it happens that planned dates don’t work. And I’m happy that we were able to reschedule the meeting, and to have a meeting today, to actually advance the meeting. And I think that the fact that we were able to reschedule the meeting on such a short notice illustrates the flexibility of the Alliance. But perhaps more importantly, it illustrates the commitment of all Allies to NATO and the transatlantic bond. And it is important that we meet, especially now when we see greater security challenges and we need to strengthen the transatlantic bond. I’m looking forward to welcoming Secretary Tillerson here at the Foreign Ministerial meeting later today, as I was able to welcome Vice President Pence to NATO some weeks ago, and also Secretary Mattis to the defence ministerial meeting. So we see a strong US commitments to NATO, to the transatlantic bond. Not only in words, but also in deeds – by participating in NATO meetings but more importantly by deploying more US forces in Europe.
Q ☛ : Can you speed up the 2% of spending on defence of the GDP?
A ☝ : We have already turned a corner when it comes to defence spending. Because we have to remember that we decided in 2014 was not to spend 2% of GDP on defence next year. We decided to stop the cuts, to gradually increase and then to move towards spending 2% of GDP on defence within a decade. Some Allies already do that. But the good news is for instance that this year, Romania has declared that already in 2017 they will meet the 2% target, adding to those countries which already meet the target. Then next year, Lithuania and Latvia have declared that they will meet the 2% target. And we have seen a significant increase in European spending since we made the decision in the autumn of 2014. In 2015, the cuts stopped. And in 2016, we saw a significant increase in defence spending by 3.8% or 10 billion US dollars in real terms. So we have started to move in the right direction. We still have a long way to go. But I welcome the fact that when we made the decision, we saw that European Allies and Canada started to move in the right direction by stopping the cuts and starting to increase defence spending.
Q ☛ : One of the options would be to have national plans where countries will have a bit more pressure, because they’ll have to explain every year how they make progress. Is this something that can be decided today?
A ☝ : I expect national plans to be an important topic to be discussed today. Because the idea of developing national plans for all NATO Allies is something we’ve started to look into among Allies. And the plan is to make decisions when Heads of State and Government meet in May. But because this meeting is an important building block or preparation for the meeting in May, I expect national plans for how to meet the defence investment pledge that will be an important topic today. The idea of national plans is to outline how we will implement what we decided on defence spending back in 2014. But it’s more than defence spending. It’s about investing more in defence, – defence spending – but it’s also about capabilities. Outlining how we will fill the capability gaps, deliver the capabilities we need, and how NATO Allies can deliver or commit forces to NATO missions and operations. So the idea is to have national plans that cover spending, capabilities and commitments to NATO operations and missions. Exactly how that will be done, exactly how we will develop these plans, it’s a bit too early. But we are now looking into it, there’s an ongoing discussion. And I think it’s also obvious that the design of the plans has to be a bit different from country to country. But the most important thing is to have a document which illustrates and outlines how we will implement what we agreed on defence spending and capabilities and force commitments in 2014.
Q ☛ : The new US administration’s also looking for more action on counterterrorism work from NATO. NATO’s deploying troops to the Baltics and Poland as deterrence. Why can’t NATO send out troops to combat terrorists, because that’s a concern that a lot of citizens have.
A ☝ : NATO already plays a key role in the fight against terrorism. We have to remember that our biggest military operation ever, our presence in Afghanistan, is about fighting terrorism. It’s about preventing Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for international terrorism. And we are there to help and support the Afghan forces in fighting many different terrorist groups and fighting the Taliban. We provide support to the US-led Coalition fighting ISIL in Iraq and Syria. We train Iraqi officers. We are also providing direct support with our AWACS surveillance planes to the air operations of the Coalition. And we work with different countries like Jordan and Tunisia and other countries to help to build their capacity to fight terrorism themselves. And then I’d like to add that NATO’s presence also in the Balkans is related to fighting terrorism. Because a stable Balkans is important to address the threats coming from foreign fighters. I recently visited Bosnia Herzegovina and Kosovo, and I’m encouraged to see how focused they are on countering the threat of foreign fighters. Then we are looking into what more we can do. And I expect that to be an important issue to be discussed today, but also an issue to be discussed at the meeting in May when President Trump and other Heads of State and Government will meet here in Brussels at the NATO headquarters. Let me add one more thing – and that is that I think an important lesson learned from Kosovo, from Bosnia Herzegovina and from Afghanistan, is that in the long run, it is much better to fight terrorism and project stability by training local forces, building local security institutions, instead of NATO deploying large numbers of our own combat troops in combat operations. That’s exactly what we do in Afghanistan – we have ended our combat operation, but we build local capacity by training the Afghan forces so they can fight the Taliban themselves. And that’s also what we do in Iraq by training local forces there. [For more information: Meetings Page]