Syria dominates agenda at December's EU Foreign Affairs Council

HR/VP Federica Mogherini at Foreign Affairs Council HR/VP Federica Mogherini at Foreign Affairs Council

The monthly Foreign Affairs Council was dominated by the ongoing crisis in Syria and Iraq and the threat of ISIL. The meeting, which is chaired by Federica Mogherini, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, brings together Foreign Ministers from all 28 EU countries.

The Foreign Ministers pledged to support the work of UN envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura to foster local cease fires and said the EU would engage in wide ranging diplomatic effort and continue the humanitarian aid it already provides in large quantities. The discussions held on 15 December will feed into the preparation of an EU comprehensive regional strategy.

The day also saw another important diplomatic development, the first meeting of the EU and Ukraine in an Association Council under the new Association Agreement. They reconfirmed the common objective to build a democratic, stable and prosperous country.

Syria and Iraq – diplomatic & humanitarian support

In the meeting, Ministers discussed the crisis in Syria with UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura. In a statement afterwards they said that the EU is fully committed to support his efforts to achieve a strategic de-escalation of violence as a basis for a broader political process. It went on to say that the EU stands ready to concretely support the development of his proposal to build on local freezes of hostility in Aleppo and elsewhere. On the situation in Iraq Federica Mogherini said that "all the EU member states and the European Union as such are, in one way or another, involved in the fight against Da'esh. All of us are very much working on the support of the Iraqi government."

Speaking after the Council Federica Mogherini, said "we have agreed to have a focused diplomatic effort in the region. This means, as mentioned in the conclusions that the EU is ready to engage with all regional and international actors with influence over the Syrian parties. This means explicitly that we will work with all the actors that have a say, that have a role, that can be part of the solution to the Syrian crisis, namely big Gulf countries, starting with Saudi Arabia but also Iran and Russia."

She went on to say the second track was a humanitarian one. She spoke of her visit to refugee camps in Syria and Turkey last week: "I met refugees and also humanitarian aid workers that are doing an excellent and very difficult job. The amount of funds of support that the European Union has allocated so far on the crisis in Syria is 3 billion euro both in Syria and in the neighbouring countries" she told journalists at the press conference afterwards.

She also said the EU has launched a trust fund for Syria which will make it easier to use funds in a quicker and more flexible way.

Bosnia and Herzegovina – a fresh start?

The Council agreed a renewed approach to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), without changing the EU accession conditions, including the implementation of the Sejdic-Finci ruling. Ministers asked the High Representative and Commissioner Johannes Hahn to engage with the BiH leadership to secure its irrevocable written commitment to undertake reforms for EU accession. Once this commitment has been agreed by the BiH presidency, signed by the BiH political leaders and endorsed by the BiH parliament, the Council will decide on the entry into force of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement.

The High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini added: "Yes, there can be a new start for the EU and Bosnia and Herzegovina. We are ready to engage. We are ready to reciprocate in the moment when this commitment will be adopted by the parliament. This could be a turning point in the way of Bosnia and Herzegovina towards the European Union."

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