Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian testified at a hearing of the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs yesterday as part of the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union and in the wake of the Foreign Affairs Council meeting held on January 24.
In addition to reiterating that European sovereignty is the French presidency's main theme, the minister also presented the presidency's priorities with respect to the Common European Security Policy and the Common Security and Defense Policy. Reaffirming sovereignty in these areas is all the more necessary now that international relations are witnessing a reemergence of power dynamics and global challenges requiring the EU to be able to act strongly to defend its interests and promote its values.
The minister also addressed major ongoing crises in which European interests are at stake.
In light of the rising tensions on the EU's eastern borders, he reiterated the conclusions of the Foreign Affairs Council meeting, which highlighted the indivisibility of European security, the unity and solidarity of EU member states, and their determination to strengthen their deterrent posture with massive consequences and heavy costs in the event of an attack on Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty. Alongside our partners, particularly the United States and NATO, Europeans will continue to contribute actively and substantively to all discussion processes under way in which our security interests are at stake. The European Council also called on Russia to participate constructively in the dialogue within established international fora. To that end, the minister confirmed that a Normandy format meeting of diplomatic advisors will be held on January 26. He stated that he would travel to Ukraine with his German counterpart in the coming days.
As for the Sahel, the minister noted that the Europeans remained determined to continue the fight against terrorism. In light of rash actions by the Malian junta, the EU Council confirmed its support for ECOWAS's decisions, initiating an effort to swiftly adopt targeted sanctions against certain individuals responsible for blocking the political transition. He reviewed the new situation characterized by both the breakdown of the political framework established for the purpose of carrying out the transition in Mali and the deployment of Russian Wagner Group mercenaries now under way in several parts of the country, as well as measures taken by the Malian authorities to hinder actions by the international community. The minister noted that any decisions on consequences should be taken collectively by all concerned Europeans and Africans. He also strongly condemned the coup d'état against President Kabore in Burkina Faso.
Lastly, the minister reaffirmed that the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union would endeavor to strengthen its partnerships with the African Union at the EU-AU summit on February 17-18, and with the countries of the Indo-Pacific as part of the implementation of the EU Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific and the ministerial forum dedicated to that region, to be held on February 22 in Paris. He concluded by stressing the importance for the EU and its member states to rethink relations with the countries of the Western Balkans, which clearly have a future within the EU, and with whom concrete cooperation must be developed to promote regional integration. That will be the focus of the conference hosted by the French presidency in the second half of its six-month term.