Foreign Affairs Minister Bogdan Aurescu, participated, on Monday, in the meeting of the heads of diplomacy of the EU member states – the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC), which took place in Brussels, in a context in which he highlighted that the EU’s support for Ukraine must continue at all levels.
According to the a Foreign Affairs Ministry (MAE), the agenda of the meeting included in-depth discussions on countering the impact of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, with the participation through video conference of the Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dmytro Kuleba, the latest developments in the Western Balkans, as well as in the Great Lakes region of Africa. At the same time, the European ministers discussed the EU border monitoring mission between Armenia and Azerbaijan becoming operational and tackled the results of the EU-CELAC ministerial meeting (the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) held in Buenos Aires, on 27 October, the results of the COP27 meeting (Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC) held in Egypt, between 6-18 November, as well as the developments from Lebanon and Iran.
On the sidelines of the FAC meeting, the Romanian Minister of Foreign Affairs participated, alongside his counterparts of the EU member states, in an informal breakfast with leader of the Belarusian opposition Svetlana Tihanovskaya. On this occasion, Minister Bogdan Aurescu signaled the concern of the Romanian side regarding the deterioration of the internal situation in Belarus and condemned the decision of the authorities in Minsk to support the aggression of the Russian forces against Ukraine, a neighboring, sovereign and independent state. In this regard, he showed that Romania supports the adoption of new sanctions against Belarus.
Within the talks, the Romanian official reiterated that Romania maintains an active role in supporting the civil society of Belarus, the independent media and the Belarusian political opposition and presented the concrete support provided by Romania to the benefit of the Belarusian people. He mentioned, among other things, Romania’s contribution of 200,000 EUR to the “European Endowment for Democracy” instrument, in the 2021-2022 period, in support of civil society in Belarus and the freedom of the press, to which is added an amount of 70,000 EUR for this year. Aurescu called for the unity of the Belarusian opposition in exile, as the main factor in supporting and promoting the democratic aspirations of the Belarusian citizens in the country.
The Foreign Affairs Minister underscored the importance of revitalizing the Eastern Partnership/EaP format, as a very relevant instrument at the regional level. He highlighted that Romania intends to organise, on the sidelines of the FAC meeting in December, together with the Czech Republic (which holds the Presidency of the Council of the EU), Poland and Sweden (as initiator states of the EaP), a working meeting with the participation of the other European Foreign Ministers, in order to discuss the future of the EaP, as well as its adaptation to the new geopolitical realities. Minister Aurescu highlighted the fact that the EaP can be a very useful tool for supporting the Belarusian civil society.
In her turn, Svetlana Tihanovskaya thanked Romania for the political and diplomatic support, as well as for the concrete assistance provided.
On the sidelines of the FAC meeting, Minister Aurescu also participated, on Sunday, in a working meeting with several European counterparts (Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Sweden), hosted by Poland, regarding Ukraine’s accession to the EU. On this occasion, the Romanian official reiterated Romania’s firm support for the European integration of Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova, as well as for Georgia’s European prospects. He underscored the importance of continuing substantial support, both from the EU and from the member states, at political and financial level, for the efforts of the two states in effectively implement the necessary reforms to advance the accession process. He also highlighted the need for close coordination between like-minded states in order to keep the topic a priority on the EU agenda.
Within the talks regarding Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, Minister Bogdan Aurescu welcomed the participation of his Ukrainian counterpart in the discussions and appreciated the usefulness of the constant exchange of opinions regarding the developments in Ukraine. The Romanian official highlighted the need for continued EU support for Ukraine at all levels – political, financial, military, economic – welcoming the launch and rapid putting into operation of the EU military assistance mission for the training of the Ukrainian army (European Union Assistance Mission Ukraine -EUMAM) and the adoption of assistance measures to support this countries within the European Peace Facility.
Regarding the multidimensional support that Romania has been offering to Ukraine, Aurescu informed that more than 6.5 million tonnes of Ukrainian grain were exported with Romania’s support, including under the Solidarity Lanes project of the EU, and mentioned the prime ministers of the two countries opening last week a new Romanian-Ukrainian border crossing point – the first one opened by Ukraine with an EU state after the outbreak of the war, which will contribute to the expansion of EU connectivity with Ukraine.
Aurescu reiterated the need to maintain political pressure on Russia, including by strengthening the regime of restrictive measures against Russia and the rapid adoption of a new package of sanctions, as well as by continuing coordination at the EU level for the international isolation of Russia, mentioning the steps taken by Romania with third countries. He also voiced support for the identification of the most effective and viable legal channels, based on the instruments of international law, for holding Russia and those guilty of the crime of aggression against Ukraine accountable.
During the discussions, the Romanian official presented the analysis of the Romanian side of the implications of the Russian military aggression in Ukraine and brought back to the attention of European officials the impact of the situation on Moldova. He highlighted the need to increase EU support, including financial support for Moldova in support of its management of the multiple challenges it faces, especially in the field of energy security. Aurescu presented Romania’s efforts to supply electricity to Moldova. He welcomed the financial support package announced by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, to the amount of EUR 250 million, on the European official’s visit to Chisinau on November 10, as well as the visit of the President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola on November 11, as strong political signals of support from the EU for Moldova’s state officials.
Aurescu also highlighted the role of the third meeting of the Support Platform for Moldova, a format created and launched this year at his initiative and that of his German and French counterparts, a meeting he will co-chair in Paris, on 21 November, together with the foreign ministers of Germany and France. He called on the member states to participate in this meeting and support the efforts to aid Moldova on its European journey, as well as to combat the effects of the war against Ukraine on the energy security of Moldova. Also, the Romanian minister asked for the situation in Moldova to be discussed at a future FAC meeting, preferably in December.
The discussion on the Western Balkans took place amid preparations for the EU-Western Balkans Summit, which will take place in Tirana on December 6. The foreign ministers reviewed the situation in the countries of the region, faced with hybrid threats, including unprecedented cyber-attacks, prolonged political, energy and economic crises. Aurescu welcomed the prospect of granting a consistent package of assistance in the field of energy to the countries in the region. Support for the European perspective of the Western Balkans was reiterated, taking into account the importance of the region to the European continent.
Aurescu voiced his support for advancing the expansion process, based on own merits and the revised methodology regarding expansion. He welcomed the European Commission’s proposal to grant candidate status to Bosnia and Herzegovina, if the eight steps mentioned in the Commission’s communication are taken. He emphasised the need for all partners in the region to align with the decisions made by the EU under the European Security and Defense Policy. He also highlighted the importance of de-escalating the situation in the northern parts of the province of Kosovo.
Aurescu also welcomed the EU Monitoring Capacity mission in Armenia being put into operation, an expression of the political commitment of the EU for peace and security in the region. He mentioned Romania’s contribution of four monitors, which is more than 10% of the mission’s total staff, and said that this mission was the result of his proposal after the June 2021 tour with his Austrian and Lithuanian colleagues in the South Caucasus in coordination and with the mandate of High Representative Josep Borrell.
The European ministers also adopted new restrictive measures against Iran in the field of human rights as the EU’s response to the repression of protests in the country. Conclusions of the EU Council regarding the Priorities of cooperation with the Council of Europe for 2023-2024 were also adopted.