Mogherini’s First EU Foreign Affairs Council: focus on Ukraine and Middle East

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By Giulia Tercovich

On 1 November 2014 the new EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Commission Vice President (HR/VP), Federica Mogherini started her mandate. The former Italian Foreign Minister, replaced Catherine Ashton, the first HR/VP after the Lisbon Treaty.

On Monday 17 November, HR/VP Mogherini chaired her first Foreign Affairs Council. Issues discussed included Bosnia and Herzegovina and the ideas presented by Germany and the UK, the Ebola crisis, with a briefing from the EU Ebola Coordinator Stylianides and the difficult situation in Libya, but Ukraine and the Middle East Peace Process have been the main focuses of this meeting among the 28 Foreign Affairs Ministers.

The discussion among Ministers on Ukraine followed three main tracks: the commitment of Kiev on internal reforms, the economic pressure of sanctions and the dialogue with Russia. In the adopted conclusions, the Council welcomes the parliamentary election in Ukraine (26 October) and reiterates that the vote in Donetsk and Lugansk is illegal, illegitimate and contrary to the Minsk Protocol. The EEAS and the Commission will prepare a list of names that could be subject to an asset freeze and travel ban by the end of November.

The EU continues to support the OSCE and the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in implementing the Minsk Protocol and the Minsk Memorandum, but underlines the need for intensification of talks among all parties in the framework of the Trilateral Contact Group. Ministers expressed concern on the humanitarian impact of the conflict, underlining that this cannot be exploited for military or political ends. Therefore, the Council encourages the Ukrainian authorities to adapt the legal and administrative framework in order to easing the delivery of international assistance, via the appropriate channel.

Ministers calls on Ukraine to accelerate the implementation of reforms under the Association Agreement and reiterate their support to the implementation of the comprehensive reform package and the rebuild of Ukraine’s economy, including the implementation of an energy sector reform.

As a clear message on the EU support on reforms, HR/VP Mogherini and the Foreign Affairs Minister of Ukraine Klimkin, signed the Status of Mission Agreement of the EU Advisory Mission for Civilian Security Sector Reform Ukraine (EUAM Ukraine). The Head of Mission Mizsei and his team are working since July 2014, but EUBAM Ukraine will officially start on 1 December with a two year mandate and a budget of EUR 13.1 million for the first year.

Middle East
During her first week HR/VP Mogherini travelled to the Middle East. During her visit she stressed the need to make rapid progress on a two state solution. This first visit of Federica Mogherini as High Representative/Vice president to the region is a signal of the priority given to the Middle East by the EU and the High Representative’s determination to play a role in the stabilization, reconstruction and revival of the peace process.

High Representative Mogherini briefed the ministers about her recent trip to Middle East, the meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman as well as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and her contacts with U.S. Secretary of State Kerry. Ministers exchanged views on the situation in the region and focus on what can be done to re-launch the peace process, as well as the EU’s role. During the final press conference HR/VP Mogherini also mentioned that the possibility of having a regional framework will be explored, in particular with Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Council conclusions on the Middle East Peace Process (MEPP) express the concern on the growing tensions and violence, appeals for full respect of the Holy Sites and deplores recent expropriations, new settlements, plans to displace Bedouins, the demolition of EU and Member States funded projects and the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip. Ministers also encourage the Palestinian Authority to assume its government function in the Gaza Strip.

Ministers stress the urgency of opening all crossing points, implementing the temporary mechanism for monitoring and verification of reconstruction materials. Conclusions also stress the importance of allowing Gaza to trade normally and on a permanent basis.

Ministers underline the need for a comprehensive peace and underline that the Middle East Peace Process is a priority for the EU, that recall for a two state solution. Council conclusions welcome Kerry’s effort, but also call all parties and major stakeholders (including the Quartet, the League of Arab States and UNSC) to take the necessary steps to bring the parties back to the table. Most importantly, the conclusions state the willingness and the interest of the EU to play a major role and the readiness to the rapid reactivation and possible extension of the two EU missions (EUBAM Rafah and EUPOL COPPS).
On the EU common position of the EU member states and probably in response to the official recognition of Palestine by Sweden in October, Mogherini said “What we need is not just recognition. We need the building of a Palestinian state that can live next to the Israeli one in peace and security”.

On the same day the Israeli newspaper Haaretz obtained, and partially published, an internal EU document on proposed sanctions against Israel and measures against European companies that work in settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. HR/VP Mogherini said that the internal working paper is “hypothetical” and that was not discussed by ministers.

The next Foreign Affairs Council will take place on Monday 15 December 2014.

Giulia TercovichGiulia is an Erasmus Mundus Fellow, GEM PhD School in Globalization, the EU and Multilateralism, University of Warwick (UK) and Université Libre de Bruxelles (Belgium). Giulia focuses on EU as a Global Actor, EU Crisis Response and Civil Protection, EU Conflict Prevention and Crisis Management, CFSP/CSDP, EEAS, Comprehensive Approach, Global Governance and inter-regionalism.

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