On Thursday, 14 May, the EU Foreign Ministers held a virtual conference at the initiative of Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez to exchange views on the process of deepening and further strengthening EU relations with the Southern Neighborhood countries, and in view of the relevant discussion to be held at the forthcoming EU Foreign Affairs Council on Friday, 15 May.
The conference was attended by the Foreign Ministers of Spain, Austria, Denmark, Greece, Croatia, Cyprus, Malta, the Netherlands, Hungary, Poland, Portugal, France, Germany, Italy and Sweden.
During the video conference, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus Nikos Christodoulides highlighted in his speech the importance of the EU adopting a strategic and targeted approach that took into account the basic parameters of the relations with the countries of the Southern Neighborhood, both in terms of development co-operation, as well as on issues related to political dialogue.
He noted that the goal should be to ensure security and stability in the region, which would pave the way for specific social issues such as poverty, unemployment, and the provision of incentives and prospects for the younger generation to be addressed. The Minister stressed the need for the EU to adopt a comprehensive approach to addressing the new reality that had sunk in following the coronavirus pandemic, with particular reference to relations with Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan.
According to Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, during the conference the Foreign Ministers agreed on the need to strengthen cooperation with their partners in North Africa and the Middle East, in order to combat the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on security and social stability.
In this context, the importance of the EU’s contribution to improving socio-economic conditions, health systems and the protection of vulnerable social groups in these countries was also emphasized.
Furthermore, reference was made to the need for a comprehensive, effective EU response in the midst of the pandemic to the misinformation campaign deriving from third-party countries, which aims to undermine the confidence of our citizens in the European edifice.
They also discussed the possibilities of deepening cooperation and coordination with the countries of North Africa and the Middle East on the best possible management of migration routes, the effective treatment of illegal immigration and the parameters that cause the phenomenon as a whole, as well as on the important issue of returns. As always, the protection of human rights guided the conversations.
In addition, there was an exchange of views on the issue of EU energy security and interconnectedness, the provision of alternative energy routes, including the related opportunities opening up in the Eastern Mediterranean, but also on the importance and prospects of Renewable Energy Sources in an effort for the Mediterranean region to be protected from the effects of climate change.
According to a written statement, Nikos Dendias underlined the positive prospects offered by the exchanges of experiences and best practices on the issue of environmental protection, in the context of the tripartite cooperation patterns that Greece and Cyprus maintain with their partners in the region.
Finally, there was an agreement at the proposal of the Spanish Foreign Minister for a meeting between EU Member-States of the Southern Neighborhood to be scheduled, as soon as the conditions allow it, as well as for the Foreign Ministers to keep in touch with each other in order to coordinate and promote specific actions within the EU. /ibna