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Source: European Union External Action

Strasbourg, 14 January 2020

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I am also pleased that you recognise that we need to be more assertive. These days we have the proof that we need to be more assertive, with respect to Libya, and with respect to almost everywhere, [in view of the] the problems we are facing. We need to be more assertive in protecting our vital interests. We live in a world of power politics and we need a truly integrated foreign policy that combines the power of Member States with the coordinated mobilisation of all European Union instruments. As your report states, we need to strengthen the links between internal and external policies. This has been said many times. It is good to repeat it. Iwould be much better to implement it. 

I welcome the emphasis you put on the importance for securing adequate financial resources for external action under the next Multiannual Financial FrameworkSoon we will see whether it is possible or not. In particular, we need to preserve the envelopes for the neighbourhood and sub-Saharan Africa in the new proposed instrument. Yesterday, I was with the President of the French Republic [Emmanuel Macron] and with the Presidents of the five Sahel countries [Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger] and the issue of the resources that we need in order to help them to face their security problems – which are our security problems -, was on the table. I wonder if the answer we are going to be able to give to them the next day is good enough. 

Partnership. You rightly point out that, for everything we want to do, we need partners. We want to be multilateral and one cannot be multilateral alone. To dance a tango we need two, to be multilateral we need several. We need to link up with likeminded allies, with regional blocs like the African Union or ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] and, above all, the UN. Take for instance, climate change. The European Council asked me during the last meeting to develop a strong climate diplomacy to ensure that our climate ambitions can be shared in partnerships with other states in the world. Otherwise, our efforts will be completely useless. We must engage with others in order to ensure that they are on board in our climate action in order for it to be really successful. 

Credibility. it is clear that we will lose credibility as a geopolitical power if we cannot deliver stability and security in our immediate vicinity. If we are not able to solve or to help to solve the problems of Libya or of the Western Balkans, it is going to be quite difficult to convince anyone that we are a geopolitical power. It is clear that we must step up our support for Ukrainian sovereignty and resilience. I have not been able to travel to Kosovo because Kosovars do not have a government. Even if they do not have it by the end of the next month, I will have to travel to Kosovo and Serbia in order to reiterate our commitment to the European perspective for the entire region. 

We have some complicated relations with some of our other neighbours. Recent activities by Turkey have affected the security and the interests of our Member States and the wider region, and are a real concern to us. The Central Mediterranean is suffering an extraordinary change from a geopolitical point of view. Some actors like Russia and Turkey were not showing up there 6 months ago. Now, they are taking the lead to try to solve this problem. 

You are right. We have to pay special attention to the Southern neighbourhood (Libya, Iran and Iraq) which are leading the debate today. We have been at the forefront of efforts aimed at de-escalation. But, at the end, who is sitting at the table with Sarraj [Fayez Al-Sarraj, Chairman of the Presidential Council of Libya and Prime Minister of the Government of National Accord] and Haftar [Khalifa Haftar, Commander of the Libyan National Army] to try to reach an agreement on the ceasefire, it is not the European Union, but Russia and Turkey. 

Africa. Let us talk a lot about Africa. A continent of both promises and challenges. The Council mandated the High Representative and the European Commission to present by the June [European Council] meeting a comprehensive Action Plan for Africa. Believe me, there is not that much time from now until June to build this comprehensive Action Plan with Africa, because we cannot do it alone. We cannot have a plan for Africa without the Africans. Starting in the Sahel, President Macron [Emmanuel Macron, President of the Republic of France] yesterday held a very interesting meeting asking the G5 Sahel countries [Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger] to talk about what we can do together. We will do the same thing in our College to College meeting with the African Union in Addis Ababa next February. 

Latin America is burning. From Chile to Mexico, there are great difficulties and we should work to strengthen our cooperation. 

To pursue our interests in Asia, which remains stable and prosperous, maybe the most stable and prosperous region in the world today. Tomorrow I will be travelling to New Delhi to attend the Raisina Dialogue and to strengthen our strategic partnership with India. We will also do that soon with China to prepare the Summit [EU-China Summit 2020].

About the CSDP [Common Security and Defence Policy] report, which addresses the impressive development of the Union’s Common Security and Defence Policy and the challenges that lie ahead. Here the urgency is clear: in a geopolitical world, the European Union has no choice but to strengthen its capacities to protect itself and become a more credible security provider. 

The beating heart of CSDP [Common Security and Defence Policy] are today the 17 missions and operations deployed in different regions beyond our borders. I have to salute the enthusiasm and devotion of the thousands men and women who are serving under the European Union’s flag in sometimes dangerous circumstances. 

In your report, you point out rightly that we need to address persistent structural issues that are affecting our missions. We need to make sure that CSDP missions become more robust, both in terms of human resources and of their mandates. 

I welcome the political support for the creation of the proposed off-budget European Peace Facility, designed to help our partners to take care of their own security by building their own capabilities. This is important, once again, for example in the Sahel countries. 

Taking a greater role in the world requires developing what is called strategic autonomy. Some words that are sometimes conflictual and not everybody understands them ithe same way. This is a sensitive term, but in this context it essentially means that we have to strengthen our capacity to act with partners where possible, and alone if necessary. As your report highlights, this does not mean that the European Union is forsaking its partnerships. On the contrary, it will make the European Union itself a stronger global partner. It will also benefit NATO, because a stronger European Union and a stronger NATO go hand in hand. 

Let me highlight the importance of the Permanent Structured Cooperation [PESCO] and the European Defence Fund. You, the Parliament [European Parliament], will have to decide the amount of resources devoted to this Defence Fund as much as to the Peace Facility, which will be the cornerstone of our future CSDP [Common Security and Defence Policy] projects.

Many things can be said about what we are trying to do. Your report covers them very well. I can say that I agree a lot with everything you present in this reportI just want to stress the importance of the new frontiers of Artificial Intelligence, which will have geopolitical implications by empowering both competing states and hostile non-state actors. We need to remain in the lead: both in the global discussions on norms and rules as well as in the development and application of alltechnologies to promote our own security. I am sure that Europeans are not aware of how important this issue is. Which are going to be the consequences of the development of Artificial Intelligence technologies for our security in the future to come? Not a distant future, the next 5 years will be decisive for that. 

Space and maritime are other strategic sectors where we need to ensure a coordinated use of different European Union internal and external policies and instruments. Here I would like to highlight, as your report does, that the European Union Satellite Centre will require relevant structural funding, especially from the European Union budget, to maintain its contribution to our actions. It is becoming quite impossible to believe that we can develop actions all over the world if we are not able to observe how the world is. We have a Satellite Centre that cannot be lacking resources in order to fulfil its mission. 

In conclusion, the stakes are high and the challenges formidable. We need to keep the momentum on strengthening our Common Security and Defence Policy. There are some problems in our immediate neighbourhood and in the immediate future that will test the capacity and the willingnessof the European Union Member States to play this role. Let me put the example of Libya. Just imagine that there is a ceasefire and that in Berlin we get an agreement in order to build a political solution. Let us imagine. But any ceasefire without a strong monitoring procedure may only last a couple of weeks. Are we going to be ready to do so? That is a question that we will have to answer in the next future. 

Thank you M President. 

Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-182648

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