Foreign ministers will on Monday (17 October) flesh out a roadmap for the European Union’s Global Strategy, adopted last June against the background of big tensions over the Syrian war.
Ministers will tackle the roadmap on Monday morning, before they discuss Syria over lunch. In the afternoon, the focus will be on the external aspects of the migration crisis.
A diplomat said that the Global Strategy for the European Union adopted at the June summit was a “good document”, but added that the obvious question was “what does it mean in practice”. The roadmap will be the Strategy’s implementation plan, especially on security and defence, but also building resilience in the EU’s neighbourhood, a more integrated approach to conflicts, a mainstreaming of human rights, peace and security across all of the EU’s engagements.
Each of those areas will have their own timeline. Every member state has reportedly responded to a questionnaire, and EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini’s services have tried to make sense of the replies.
What level of ambition?
What is not yet agreed is the level of ambition, a diplomat said. An agreement is still necessary on issues like the level of autonomy the Union should enjoy, what about permanent structures of cooperation it should use, whether it should receive more common funding and how this menu will be brought together.
Despite the Brexit referendum, the UK is reportedly playing an active role, the main concern of London being that NATO should not be duplicated or undermined.
The aim is that the roadmap be discussed at the joint meeting of foreign and defence ministers in November and be adopted at the EU summit in December.
On Monday, ministers are not going to begin preparations for the discussion on the way forward with Russia, which is expected to take place at the summit a few days later, on 20-21 October, a diplomat explained. The EU summit hasn’t had an opportunity to hold a strategic discussion on Russia for a long time. This is a chance to have a more reflective conversation.
At the summit, a discussion on the Commission’s ‘Five principles‘ of EU-Russia relations, published in March 2016, is expected to be held. The Russian ‘Valdai Club’ has recently presented its alternative to the Commission’s ‘Five principles’.
Mild conclusions on Syria
On Syria, the discussion is expected to focus heavily on the “catastrophic humanitarian situation”, to condemn the action of the Syrian and Russian forces, and to highlight the EU’s humanitarian initiative.
New sanctions on Russia are not anticipated. Neither will the conclusions say that Russia will be referred to the International Criminal Court. Several diplomats highlighted that sanctions can only be agreed by unanimity.
“We are saving our space for diplomacy,” said a diplomat, conveying the message that the EU wanted to carve itself a role in the resolution of the Syrian conflict, and perhaps expand the present framework to a larger regional scene. “The added value of the EU is that we can talk to anyone,” she added.
The conclusions of the ministerial meeting are expected to emphasise the sense of urgency in restarting the political process. Regarding accountability, the confirmed use of chemical weapons, on top of violations of international humanitarian law and war crimes, is expected to be mentioned. The conclusions should not shy away from saying that the Syrian regime and Russia stand behind the recent attacks which led to many civilian deaths, a diplomat said.
Mogherini is very keen on the EU playing a bigger role in restarting the political process, in particular to move it away from an exclusive US-Russia bilateral discussion and bring a regional dimension, diplomats repeated.