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EU Foreign Affairs Council on EU-Western Balkans relations and the situation in the Sahel

On behalf of the Foreign Minister Anže Logar, State Secretary Stanislav Raščan today attended the regular meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels, chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell. The meeting focused on EU-Western Balkans relations and the situation in the Sahel.

The ministers started the day with an informal breakfast with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Dmytro Kuleba. In the light of the upcoming Eastern Partnership ministerial meeting, the debate concentrated on the latest developments in the region. 

The discussion on the Western Balkans was directed towards strengthening political cooperation between the EU and the Western Balkans, the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the normalisation of relations between Serbia and Kosovo. The ministers agreed that the Western Balkan countries are important EU partners in terms of common security and stability, and that the prosperity, sustainable development and resilience of the region are of strategic importance for both the Western Balkans and the EU as a whole.

State Secretary Raščan highlighted Slovenia’s efforts as the country currently holding the Presidency of the EU Council in making progress on EU enlargement with the opening of negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania. As he pointed out, EU enlargement is a geopolitical issue and a test of the credibility of the EU as a whole. He went on to stress the importance of delivering on the commitments made in the Brdo Declaration, which would send a clear signal to the countries of the region about the EU’s will and commitment. He also expressed concern at the deepening of the political and institutional crisis in Bosnia and Herzegovina and ensured Slovenia’s full support for the efforts of EU Special Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina Johann Sattler to bring about the necessary reforms and progress towards the EU. Regarding the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue, State Secretary Raščan stressed that it should proceed regardless of political developments in both countries and expressed Slovenia’s support for the work of the EU Special Representative for Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue and other Western Balkan regional issues Miroslav Lajčák.

In the second part of the meeting, the ministers discussed the Sahel, which is facing several crises, focusing on the alarming security situation in the region, especially in Mali, where the humanitarian crisis has been deepening due to the arrival of the Wagner paramilitary group. High Representative Borrell presented, inter alia, proposals for increased political engagement and support of the Union in the light of the changing security situation in the region. The ministers also discussed possible ways and tools that might be employed to help stabilise the situation in the Sahel.

State Secretary Raščan underlined the importance of the EU’s continued presence in the Sahel, especially in Mali. The EU should make every effort to ensure that Mali remain on its path of transition, not moving away towards third parties.

The ministers also exchanged views on the alarming situation at the Belarusian border, where migrants are increasingly trying to enter Poland. They took a political decision to adopt an additional package of restrictive measures. High Representative Borrell also briefed the ministers on the achievements of COP26, the situation in Ethiopia, Sudan and Varosha and his recent visit to Latin America.

In the margins of the Council, a joint meeting of foreign ministers of EU member states and Eastern Partnership countries was held to discuss preparations for the Eastern Partnership Summit scheduled for 15 December in Brussels. The meeting provided an opportunity to exchange views and present opinions on the future of Eastern Partnership policy beyond 2020. State Secretary Raščan stressed the importance of Partnership as a transformative force bringing stability, well-being and commitment to the respect for fundamental democratic values in the region. He highlighted Slovenia’s support for efforts to bring the Eastern Partnership countries closer to European standards and norms, urging them to exploit the existing potential for a comprehensive socio-economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

On the margins of the meetings, State Secretary Raščan signed the EU-Armenia Common Aviation Area Agreement on behalf of the EU.

A joint evening meeting of ministers of foreign affairs and defence was held to discuss the Strategic Compass. The final document, drawn up based on contributions from member states, will serve as a basis for developing the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) guidelines over the next decade in the areas of crisis management, resilience, capability development and partnerships.