The EU's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini debated Syria, the refugee crisis, Libya and the UK referendum with members of the European parliament and of national parliaments at the EP's Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday 23 February.
Mogherini began her remarks by stressing that, in turbulent times, there are also positive international developments and the EU has played a key role in them – namely the peace process in Colombia, Bosnia’s application for EU membership and global agreements like the Paris climate change deal and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
On Syria, the High Representative laid out the three tracks agreed recently by the international community in Munich – namely humanitarian assistance, an agreement on cessation of hostilities and talks on a political solution.
On the humanitarian level, Mogherini said 114 humanitarian aid trucks had reached 83,000 people which meant "lives saved”. The High Representative told MEPs and MPs that the EU and its member states had pledged two thirds of all humanitarian aid. The humanitarian aid helped create "windows of trust" and has the potential to facilitate mediation among the Syrian parties, Mogherini said. “The European Union’s major role on humanitarian aid gives us a major political role.”
On the modalities of the cessation of hostilities, Mogherini said that the US-Russia agreement on Monday was an important step. The International Syria Support Group had tasked Washington and Moscow to carry on military-to-military talks and find concrete ways to end the combat. The European Union’s military staff took part in the consultations.
On the political process, she said it was important to keep to agreements: the political transition should include revising the Syrian Constitution and elections to be held within 18 months, in which Syrians outside the country would also be able to vote.
“After five years of war we are moving in the right direction,” Mogherini said, recalling that the current political process had started right after the EU-facilitated deal on Iran’s nuclear programme.
On the refugee crisis, Mogherini said it has taken European leaders a while to see that national solutions were not working and to seek European solutions. "One life lost is one too many, but we are having success saving lives in the Mediterranean, we are not seeing the numbers dying that we saw previously," Mogherini said as she mentioned the naval operation “Sophia.”
On Libya, Mogherini said these are “crucial hours and days: we have a clear challenge to security which is a not just a Libya issue but also one for Europe, Tunisia, Egypt, Niger and Chad”. Asked about the next phases of the EU’s naval operation, Mogherini restated that the mission’s mandate does not foresee “boots on the ground” in Libya.
A number of British MEPs and MPs asked questions about the referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership of the EU. Mogherini stressed that the British contribution to the European Union’s foreign policy is “vital,” and that she coordinates policies with the British government “on a daily basis.” At the same time, she highlighted the European Union’s added value for the UK’s foreign policy: at a recent London conference of Syria donors, the UK put forward a proposal of an EU compact for supporting Jordan. The British proposal would be impossible to achieve without the European Union, she concluded.