Videoconference of Eastern Partnership Foreign Affairs Ministers: Remarks by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell at the press conference
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Thank you to everybody who is following this press conference.
I have to say that today we have had another good example of how the Eastern Partnership remains at the heart of our foreign policy. This is one of the most important aspects of the external relations of the European Union.
It was an important meeting. 33 Foreign Ministers had the opportunity to demonstrate our unity and our commitment that we – the European Union - have with our Eastern neighbours and also to push for the future of this Partnership beyond 2020.
We discussed the response to coronavirus pandemic in our neighbourhood and prepared the next videoconference of the Leaders of the European Union and Eastern Partnership countries, which will take place on the 18th of June.
I think that today we have delivered a clear message to our Eastern Partners: even in difficult times and mainly because times are difficult, you can count on us. We are standing by you and we support you.
At the same time, we have to look jointly to the future and reflect on how to best shape this relationship and working on the upcoming deliverables of our future policy.
We have a vision for the next years, which has been endorsed by our [EU] Member [States] in the Council Conclusions in May. We had very good feedback from our partners. I think there is an increasing interest in the areas [we have chosen] for our further cooperation.
The European Union has been side by the side with our Eastern partners and we are ready to be with you in every step of the way towards complete recovery.
Commissioner [Olivér] Várhelyi, in charge of our neighbourhood, which covers quite an important part of our borders, will give you more details about the €900 million that we have mobilised in an ambitious support package to the six Eastern Partner countries, as part of “Team Europe”, which is the way we call our efforts of working together - European Institutions and Member States.
Before asking Olivér [Várhelyi] to give you more details about where this €900 million is going to be spent, let me stress that I am strongly convinced that the Eastern Partnership is a success story and we want this success story to continue for the benefit of all our citizens. It has been 11 years of this successful policy, but there is still a lot to do and still a lot more that we can achieve together.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-192061
Q. I would like to get your reaction to the US decision to place sanctions on members of the International Criminal Court and the other measures the US is announcing against the ICC. Could you give us some thoughts on that?
Some thoughts? Look I learned this very bad news when I was finishing the meeting of the Council. So my answer has to be cautious because I do not know exactly the extent of this decision. I cannot react on the spot to everything.
I have seen the announcement that President [of the United States of America, Donald] Trump signed an executive order to authorize US sanctions against International Criminal Court employees involved in any investigation into whether American force’s activities involved war crimes in Afghanistan. But I do not know the details exactly and I would like to react once I get more information.
For sure, this is a matter of serious concern as you can understand because we, as the European Union, are steadfast supporters of the International Criminal Court. For sure, I can reiterate our support to this institution. The Court has been playing a key role in providing international justice and addressing the gravest international crimes. It is a key factor in bringing justice and peace, it must be respected and supported by all nations. We will analyse the decision in order to assess its full implications and the Foreign Affairs Council will have their say about it. From my point of view, immediately after learning, I just want to reaffirm our support to the Court.
Q. On this videoconference of the leaders on June 18, do you plan or prepare adoption of the conclusions, of the communiqué of this Leader’s videoconference? What about the physical Summit? Do you still plan to conduct a physical Summit later when the epidemiologic situation allows it?
When is it going to be possible to hold a physical Summit? I would like to know when it is going to be possible; everybody would like to know when it is going to meet physically, because it brings a much livelier environment. Leaders can share and talk with each other and not just sit and participate in a more -let us say- constrained and rigid format. But unhappily I am not able to tell you when it is going to be possible. As soon as possible.
Q. More than a million Ukrainians work in European Union countries, like Poland, Italy and the Czech Republic. Many of them have problems with obtaining legal permits to work in these countries, especially in the agricultural sector. I wonder whether these problems could be solved on the European Union level so Ukrainians would not have problems with getting legal employment in EU countries.
Well, this is something that has to be solved at the level of each country.
Q. What is your overall assessment of the progress made by Georgia, which, as European leaders have said, is the front-runner of the Eastern Partnership, and I would like to know more about future steps as we want sectoral integration; and what plans you have for Georgia? On external borders, as we know from July the EU will gradually open borders for third countries. I would like to know if Georgia is in the list? Because many partners from the European Union say that the Georgian government managed better than others to contain the spread of the virus.
As I said the other day, and as you mentioned, from the 1st of July we are trying to gradually open the borders. Once again, this is a Member State competence. We [as the Commission] can give guidelines, we will try to coordinate because it is useless if someone opens and the other closes or remain closed. But here in Brussels the only thing we can do is to give guidelines and to try to coordinate.
Every country will have to decide what is the health situation they are facing at that moment. From here to the 1st of July many things can happen. The prospects are good but they can change and we have to remain vigilant. So I cannot tell you the answer that each country will give about this issue 20 days from now. Nobody knows.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-192065