ForMin Aurescu at Foreign Affairs Council: Developments in the EU-Russia relationship and the approach to the Western Balkans on the agenda

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bogdan Aurescu, participated, on Monday, in the meeting of the heads of diplomacies in the EU member states, which took place in Brussels, among the discussed points being the developments in the EU-Russia relationship and the approach to the Western Balkans.

According to a Foreign Ministry (MAE) release, issues such as the situation in Georgia, but also in Venezuela, Myanmar, Ethiopia were also discussed.

As to the EU’s relationship with Russia, the Romanian Foreign Minister expressed “satisfaction” for the rapid implementation of the decisions of the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) meeting of February 22, respectively the adoption, at the beginning of March, of “new restrictive measures under the new EU Global Sanctions Regime on human rights violations and the synchronization of Union action with that of the United States”.

He welcomed the recent visits of the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, to the countries of the Eastern Neighborhood (Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia), appreciating that this was an important political message for the partners.

The quoted source mentions that, in the perspective of the discussions on the occasion of the European Council on March 25 to 26, Minister Aurescu mentioned the need for a “strategic approach”, and several parameters may be taken into account.

First of all, the release states, it is necessary to apply in a balanced and systemic way the five guiding principles on the EU-Russia relationship, adopted in 2016, “a selective engagement with Russia can be considered on the basis of a unitary and cohesive approach of the member states, only when the EU has well-defined specific interests and Russia demonstrates a willingness to engage constructively.”

“Secondly, there is a need for a stronger EU political commitment to the Eastern Partnership countries, especially the associate countries. Thirdly, there is a need for very good preparation for the Eastern Partnership Summit in the second half of the year. Fourthly, the Romanian official stressed the need for coordination with the United States and other EU strategic partners, such as the United Kingdom and NATO. Fifthly, the need to increase support for civil society both in Russia and in the Eastern Partnership countries, and highlighted the importance of increasing the EU’s role in resolving protracted conflicts in the Eastern Neighborhood, which affect European and regional security, with a relevant role to play in the agenda of the Gymnich-type meeting of the European foreign ministers, in May, at the initiative of the Romanian foreign minister”, MAE indicates.

With regard to Georgia, Aurescu expressed the Romanian side’s “concern” about internal developments and stressed the importance of continuing the EU’s mediation efforts.

Regarding developments in the Western Balkans, the minister reiterated the idea of holding a comprehensive debate on the region at a forthcoming FAC meeting and called for a renewed commitment to maintaining the pro-European orientation of the states in the region, as well as for the policy of EU enlargement.

Following the debates, it was decided to include a debate on the Western Balkans on the agenda of the FAC meeting in April.

In the context of the talks on Myanmar, the Romanian dignitary “strongly” condemned the continuation of violence against peaceful demonstrators and welcomed the decision to extend the criteria for the adoption of sanctions, which could thus target actions to undermine democracy and economic entities linked to the perpetrators of military coup.

According to the release, the discussion on the Southern Neighborhood took place in the context of the joint communication of the European Commission and the EEAS on “A New Agenda for the Mediterranean” and the conclusions of the February 2021 European Council.

Minister Aurescu reiterated the relevance of resuming EU-Israel Association Council meetings and welcomed the mention of agreements to normalize Israel’s relations with a number of Arab states, which are likely to increase stability and confidence at the regional level.

The Romanian official also mentioned the importance of managing the causes of illegal migration and addressing issues related to security and stabilization of conflict-affected regions. He also welcomed the idea of developing an Economic and Investment Plan for the region and stressed the importance of supporting young people.

The discussion on Turkey took place in preparation for the March 25-26 European Council meeting, and the Foreign Minister pointed out that, although the EU-Turkey relationship has gone through a difficult period, the approach agreed at the December 2020 European Council has paid off.

“He expressed full solidarity with Greece and Cyprus and stressed the importance of carefully calibrating the Union’s approach, in line with its interests, in order to maintain Ankara on a positive path in its relations with the EU and the member states. (…) He stressed that the dialogue is a key element – including on issues such as the withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention (…) and that reflection is needed on the possibility of resuming the EU-Turkey high-level dialogues, while maintaining Turkey’s constructive approach,” the release reads.

Last but not least, in an informal dialogue with Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, in videoconference format, Minister Aurescu welcomed the US decision to resume the commitment to the Human Rights Council and its activity, as well as the fact that the EU and the US synchronized their action on the occasion of the recent adoption of sanctions in the case of Navalny.

“He also pointed out the worrying human rights situation in the EU’s neighborhood and, in this context, appreciated that the EU-US joint action will bring results. He reaffirmed Romania’s commitment and active involvement for multilateralism, respectively in the activity of the Human Rights Council, including whether our country will be elected as a member of the Council for the period 2023-2025. (…) He welcomed the completion of the first package of sanctions under the new EU Global Human Rights Regime. measures target 11 people and four entities in six states – China, North Korea, Libya, South Sudan, Eritrea and Russia – as a result of very serious human rights abuses and violations,” the release also reads.


Photo: www.mae.ro

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