EU Defence Ministers address crises and priorities for EU defence policy

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On 9-10 September EU Defence Ministers had an informal meeting in Milan, Italy, to discuss the security context, the ongoing military operations of the EU and the follow-up to the European Council on security and defence of December 2013.

The meeting was chaired by Italian Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti, on behalf of High Representative Catherine Ashton, who was on an official visit to Canada. The EEAS was represented by its Deputy Secretary General, Maciej Popowski. Parts of the meeting were attended by UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous and NATO's Assistant Secretary General Heinrich Brauss.

Ministers primarily discussed the overall security context – in the aftermath of the NATO Summit in Cardiff – with a focus on the main crises that the EU is facing in its neighbourhood. They addressed notably the situation in Iraq and Syria, and the complex terrorist threat posed by ISIL –including the issue of European foreign fighters – for the wider region and for Europe. They also reiterated the EU's determination to support and take an active role in the fight against ISIL. On Ukraine, Ministers underlined their unanimous backing for the EU's actions in support of Ukraine's sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and independence and towards a sustainable political solution. They welcomed the deployment of the EU's civilian advisory mission (EUAM Ukraine) which will support the Ukrainian authorities in civilian security sector reform.

Against this background, the discussion followed on the progress achieved in implementing the Conclusions of the European Council on security and defence of December 2013, on the basis of two documents:
- the Implementation Roadmap adopted by the European Commission on 24 June and focusing on market, research and industry, which was presented by European Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship Ferdinando Nelli Feroci;
- and the Progress Report of the High Representative/Head of the Agency pdf - 110 KB [110 KB] , presented by Maciej Popowski.

The meeting was also an opportunity to mark the 10th anniversary of the European Defence Agency and to address the political orientations on the Agency's Strategic outlook, in preparation of the latter's Steering Board in November.

A specific session was dedicated to the EU Battlegroups. Against the background of a security context demonstrating the importance of military rapid response, this led to fruitful political discussion addressing the underlying political obstacles that have prevented the use of Battlegroups up to now.

Finally, Ministers discussed the 5 ongoing CSDP military operations (EUNAVFOR Atalanta, EUFOR RCA, EUFOR Althea, EUTM Mali, EUTM Somalia) and the civilian yet defence-oriented mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, EUSEC RDC, in the presence of their respective Commanders. Member States supported the work of EU missions on the ground which lie at the heart of the EU's security and defence policy and discussed future perspectives.

EU Defence Ministers will meet next mid-November in Brussels.