Good evening. We had a very fruitful, good meeting with the Foreign Ministers and all the twenty eight Member States on the EU-US relations, not an extraordinary meeting, simply an informal dinner before we start tomorrow morning early with our own formal agenda.
I can say there is unity among all the twenty eight on the need first of all, to continue working on the strength of the transatlantic relation. The European Union and the United States are partners and will continue to be partners for what concerns us in the European Union, based on our own values, principles, interests. Secondly, we discussed also the need to strengthen the European unity around some key issues that will be even more crucial in the months to come.
First of all, the need to work on the multilateral system: for us it is extremely important to work on the climate change agreement implementation, on non-proliferation and the protection of the Iranian nuclear deal, but also on trade and all the crises we have around us on which, during these last eight years, we worked very well together with the United States; and we are looking forward to a very strong partnership with the next administration.
We have decided together to engage with the incoming administration even from these very first weeks of transition. Obviously we will continue to work day and night with the current administration but also preparing the ground for the change in administration from January, and I will be glad to not only visit Washington soon but also invite the future Secretary of State to one of our next Foreign Affairs Council.
As I said, unity, consensus around the table on the need to develop these two tracks: investing in the EU-US strong partnership, protecting and preserving it, but also strengthening the European policies and actions in an independent manner, based on our consolidated policies and positions. As you know very well, tomorrow with the Foreign and also Defence Ministers we will be deciding on security and defence from the European prospective, in cooperation with NATO – this is obviously one thing that was on the table before the US elections and has even more reasons to stay on our table today. Thank you.
Q. On the absence of some Foreign Ministers including Boris Johnson, Foreign Minister of the UK.
A. All 28 Member States were represented around the table, a couple of Ministers were not present, one or two could not make it for agenda reasons, for instance the French Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault called me this morning to excuse his absence, he is receiving Antonio Guterres early tomorrow morning in Paris and obviously this is also a very important thing to do now from the European perspective: to guarantee that the EU-UN relationship, partnership, common work is even intensified so we agreed that it was much better for him to stay in Paris and meet the future Secretary General of the United Nations.
A couple of Ministers were not coming for political reasons, one in particular, you know that well. But I can also share with you that some in Europe are surprised not when that country is absent, but nowadays that it is still present around the table of the 28. So, I guess it is only normal for a country that has decided to leave the European Union not to be so interested in our discussions on the future of our relations with the United States.
Q. On possible worries regarding the changes that will probably come with the new administration.
A. The key word here is “probably”. We have shared ideas, but we all agreed on the fact that we will need to see which are going to be the policies of the next administration. We see that they are still, let say, to be defined, obviously we will see what will be the foreign policy agenda of the next administration. For the moment it is not a “wait and see” attitude we can afford having because the world goes on, Europe goes on, crises go on but also opportunities we can take go on and so we need to continue working and it is not up to us but it is going to be up to the next US administration to define their own positions. We have clear in mind what our positions are, both in terms of EU’s interests and in terms of EU’s principles; among these interests is for sure the need to work with the Americans, but, again, it will be up to them to determine their own foreign policy agenda.
Q. Do comments by Donald Trump on European defence give your defence agenda a push forward and what are your worries over Iran deal?
A. On defence, you know that my proposals were put on the table in the summer already. I see the need for the Europeans to strengthen their defence and security agenda and cooperation, regardless of the changes in the administration in the United States. It is indeed very timely that we discuss these decisions and take these decisions already tomorrow, but again this would have been true with any kind of administration I believe. It could be, we will see what kind of determination the next administration will take on defence, more relevant in the future. In any case, this is something that is in our interest to do.
And on Iran, let me tell you very clearly that this is not a bilateral agreement, it is a multilateral agreement, endorsed by the UN Security Council resolution. So it is in our European interest, but also in the UN interest and duty to guarantee that the agreement is implemented in full. For the whole duration of the agreement, which is 10 years. I have personally a specific role to guarantee that this is done by all sides, and for sure this is in European interest. So we will take that as one of the keys elements that will not change.
As I said, there are some key issues on which the European interest is very clear, common, there is no doubt about that: the climate change agreement is one of those, the implementation of the Iranian deal on nuclear and in general our non-proliferation work for our own security, it is very important, but also our common work on migration. We have just started in the UN framework in September at the General Assembly a Global Compact, to share responsibility globally, on managing the migratory and refugees flows. We, as Europeans, believe that we need to share responsibility around the world on this.
This will be a clear basis for the EU’s engagement with all our partners. Obviously the United States are, for us, a key indispensable partner but again, we will not determine ourselves the agenda of the United States in the next administration. We will have to see what the next President will determine as his own foreign and security agenda. Our own agenda is clear. Thank you.
Q. On the relations with Russia and on the proposal of Italy to have a “Schengen for defence”.
A. On defence, we talk more tomorrow also because we will meet again tomorrow a couple of times.
On Russia. You know, the European Union has a very principled position on the illegal annexation of Crimea and the situation in Ukraine. This is not going to change, regardless of possible shifts in others’ policies. But on the other side, we talk with Russia and we work with Russia on many different things, including for instance the Iran Deal where we worked wonderfully well together, or the Middle East Peace Process or Libya, counter-terrorism, to some extent on Syria where we have worked together in the International Support Group for Syria, even if our positions are very different on some issues but on some other coincide.
So, I would invite you to avoid any black and white representations of our relationship with Russia. On one side, there is dialogue and engagement – what we call constructive but also selective engagement on some issues; on the other side there is a strong principled position especially on Ukraine and on the other conflicts that we have to our East; and our attention to our Eastern partners is going to stay and stay strong. We will talk about that with the Ministers tomorrow on our official agenda and this is not going to change in the European Union.
Thank you, I will see you tomorrow.