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  • Report – Annual Report on the implementation of the Common Security and Defence Policy – A8-0351/2017 – Committee on Foreign Affairs

    on the Annual report on the implementation of the Common Security and Defence Policy

    (2017/2123(INI))

    The European Parliament,

    –  having regard to the Treaty of Lisbon,

    –  having regard to the European Council conclusions of 20 December 2013, 26 June 2015, 15 December 2016, and 22 Jun 2017,

    –  having regard to the Annual Report from the Council to the European Parliament on the common foreign and security policy,

    –  having regard to the Annual Report on the implementation of the common foreign and security policy (2017/2121(INI)),

    –  having regard to its resolution of 13 September 2017 on arms export: implementation of Common Position 2008/944/CFSP(1),

    –  having regard to the Council conclusions on the Common Security and Defence Policy of 25 November 2013, 18 November 2014, 18 May 2015, 27 June 2016, 14 November 2016 and 18 May 2017, and the Council conclusions on the EU Global Strategy of 17 July 2017,

    –  having regard to the 19th Franco-German Ministerial Council meeting in Paris on 13 July 2017,

    –  having regard to the informal meeting of defence ministers and the informal meeting of foreign affairs ministers (Gymnich) in Tallinn on 6-9 September 2017,

    –  having regard to the meeting of EU Ministers of Defence on 30 November 2011,

    –  having regard to its resolution of 12 September 2013 on ‘EU’s military structures: state of play and future prospects’(2),

      having regard to its resolution of 22 November 2016 on the European Defence Union(3),

    –  having regard to its resolution of 23 November 2016 on the implementation of the Common Security and Defence Policy(4),

      having regard to its resolution of 16 March 2017 on ‘Constitutional, legal and institutional implications of a common security and defence policy: possibilities offered by the Lisbon Treaty’(5),

      having regard to its resolution of 5 July 2017 on the mandate for the trilogue on the 2018 draft budget(6),

    –  having regard to the document entitled ‘Shared Vision, Common Action: A Stronger Europe – A Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy’, presented by the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR) on 28 June 2016,

    –  having regard to the document entitled ‘Implementation Plan on Security and Defence’, presented by the VP/HR on 14 November 2016,

    –  having regard to the communication from the Commission of 30 November 2016 to the European Parliament, the European Council, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on the European Defence Action Plan (COM(2016)0950),

    –  having regard to the joint declaration of 8 July 2016 by the Presidents of the European Council and the Commission and the Secretary-General of NATO, the common set of proposals endorsed by NATO and EU Councils on 6 December 2016 and the Progress report on the implementation thereof adopted on 14 June 2017,

    –  having regard to the Bratislava Declaration of 16 September 2016,

    –  having regard to the new defence package presented by the Commission on 7 June 2017 in the press release ‘A Europe that defends: Commission opens debate on moving towards a Security and Defence Union’,

    –  having regard to the Reflection Paper on the Future of European Defence of 7 June 2017,

    –  having regard to Eurobarometer 85.1 of June 2016, according to which half of EU citizens surveyed consider EU action insufficient and two thirds of them would like to see greater EU engagement through Member States’ commitment in matters of security and defence policy,

    –  having regard to the crisis management concept of the Council for a new civilian CSDP mission in Iraq of 17 July 2017 and to the Council Decision (CFSP) 2017/1425 of 4 August 2017 on a European Union stabilisation action in the Malian regions of Mopti and Segou,

    –  having regard to the EU Policy on Training for CSDP adopted by the Foreign Affairs Council on 3 April 2017,

    –  having regard to the Council Decision of 23 October 2017 on the position to be adopted, on behalf of the European Union, within the EEA Joint Committee concerning an amendment to Protocol 31 to the EEA Agreement (Union’s Preparatory Action on Defence Research);

    –  having regard to Rule 52 of its Rules of Procedure,

    –  having regard to the report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs (A8-0351/2017),

    The Union’s strategic environment

    1.  Underlines that the rules-based international order and the values defended by Western democracies, and the peace, prosperity and freedoms which this post-World War II order guarantees and which correspond to the foundations on which the European Union is built, are facing an unprecedented number of conventional and hybrid challenges, as societal, economic, technological and geopolitical trends point to the growing vulnerability of the world’s population to shocks and stresses – such as interstate conflicts, natural disasters, extreme weather events, water crises, state collapse and cyber-attacks – that need a united and coordinated response; recalls that security is a key concern for European citizens; states that the Union’s external action is to be guided by the values and principles enshrined in Article 21 TEU;

    2.  Stresses that no single Member State can alone tackle any of the complex security challenges we are facing today, and in order for the EU to be able to respond to this internal and external challenges it needs to step up its efforts towards concrete strong cooperation in the context of CFSP/CSDP, be an effective global player, which implies speaking with one voice and acting together, and focus its resources on strategic priorities; takes the view that it is necessary to tackle the root causes of instability, which are poverty and raising inequality, bad governance, state collapse and climate change;

    3.   Deplores the fact that transnational terrorist and criminal organisations are increasing in strength and number, potentially facilitated by the defeat of ISIS/Da’esh and the fact that its fighters are fleeing, while instability simultaneously spreads in the southern regions and in the Middle East, as fragile and disintegrating states such as Libya give up on large ungoverned spaces vulnerable to outside forces; expresses its continued concern over the transnational dimension of the terrorist threat in the Sahel region; deeply deplores that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s ongoing nuclear and ballistic missile-related activities have generated increased tension in the region and beyond, posing a clear threat to international peace and security;

    4.   Stresses that to the east, Russia’s war against Ukraine is still ongoing, the Minsk agreements – without which there can be no solution to the conflict – have not been implemented and the illegal annexation and militarisation of Crimea, and the imposition of anti-access and area denial systems, continue; is deeply concerned that Russia’s excessive exercises and military activities without international observation, hybrid tactics, including cyber-terrorism, fake news and disinformation campaigns, economic and energy blackmail are destabilising the Eastern Partnership countries and the Western Balkans, as well as are being targeted at Western democracies and increasing tensions within them; is concerned that the security environment surrounding the EU will remain highly volatile for years to come; reiterates the strategic importance of the Western Balkans for the security and stability of the EU and the need to focus and strengthen the EU’s political engagement towards the region, including by strengthening the mandate of our Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions; is firmly convinced that in order toovercome the EU’s vulnerability there is a need for more integration as well as coordination;

    5.  Deplores the terrorist threat that is quickly expanding both within Europe and beyond its borders; considers that an incomplete answer on the military level will inevitably lead to ever-growing internal security threats; urgently calls for an European anti-jihadist pact that can tackle these threats in an effective manner;

    6.  Believes that terrorism represents today one of the key challenges to the security of EU citizens, requiring swift, firm and coordinated action, both at internal and external level, in order to prevent further terrorist attacks and to fight its root causes; points out, in particular, the need to prevent radicalisation, to block any source of financial resources to terrorist organisations, to tackle terrorist propaganda and block the use of the internet and social networks for this purpose, including through an automated removal service, and to improve intelligence sharing between Member States, as well as with third countries, NATO and other relevant partner organisations; believes that the mandate of our CSDP missions should include the fight against terrorism in order to contribute more consequently to deradicalisation programmes, notably EULEX in Kosovo and EUFOR ALTHEA in Bosnia Herzegovina, countries that are confronted with an important number of fighters returning from abroad;

    7.  Is deeply concerned about the increasingly deadly terrorist threat in the Sahel belt as well as its extension to Central Africa, and the instability in the East (Syria, Iraq, Palestine); calls on the VP/HR to ensure that an executive mandate is granted to the CSDP missions and to intervene in a decisive and determined manner;

    8.  Believes that, under the current EU enlargement policy, a credible accession process grounded on extensive and fair conditionality remains an important tool for promoting security by enhancing the resilience of countries in the south-eastern Europe;

    9.   Believes that in a challenging security environment, and at a moment when the EU and NATO are endeavouring to broaden and deepen their cooperation, through Brexit the EU will lose part of its military capability and will possibly no longer be able to benefit from the UK’s expertise, and vice versa; notes that Brexit gives new momentum to initiatives that have long been blocked, and could open the door to new proposals; stresses the importance of continuing close defence cooperation between the EU and the post-Brexit UK, including in, but not limited to, the areas of intelligence sharing and counterterrorism; considers that, if it so requests, the UK should also be able to participate in CSDP missions as part of a new EU-UK defence cooperation relationship;

    10.   Welcomes the renewed US commitment to European security; stresses that the EU stands firmly committed to the transatlantic community of common values and interests; is at the same time convinced that an accountable and self-confident CFSP is needed and that, in this context, the EU must become a self-assured foreign-policy actor;

    Institutional framework

    11.   Believes strongly that, whenever necessary, the EU should take decisive action to determine its future, as internal and external security are becoming increasingly intertwined, and as this has a direct impact on all European citizens; warns that the lack of a common approach could lead to uncoordinated and fragmented action, allows multiple duplications and inefficiency and, as a result, would make the Union and its Member States vulnerable; is therefore of the opinion that the EU should be able to act effectively along the entire spectrum of internal-external security instruments, up to the level of Article 42(7) TEU; stresses that the framing of a common Union defence policy referred to in Article 42(2) TEU has the objective of establishing a common defence and endowing the Union with strategic autonomy to enable it to promote peace and security in Europe and in the world; emphasises the practical and financial benefits of further integrating European defence capabilities;

    12.   Underlines that the EU needs to apply the entire tool-box of available policy instruments – from soft to hard power and from short-term measures to long-term policies in the area of classical foreign policy, encompassing not only bilateral and multilateral efforts in diplomacy, development cooperation, civilian and economic instruments, emergency support, crisis prevention and post-conflict strategies, but also peacekeeping and peace-enforcing, also in line with the civilian and military means described in Article 43(1) TEU – in order to cope with the rising challenges; believes that the CSDP should be built on the principle that European security cannot be guaranteed by relying merely on military assets; considers that EU foreign actions should include an assessment of their impact on EU´s people-centred strategic interests of enhancing human security and human rights, strengthening international law and promoting sustainable peace; underlines the need for the EEAS to step up its capacities to better anticipate crises and counter security challenges at the point of their inception; stresses the need for a more coherent and better coordinated interaction between military, civilian, development and humanitarian actors;

    13.  Welcomes the visible progress made in framing a stronger European defence stance since the adoption of the EU Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy (EUGS) in June 2016; welcomes, in particular, the launching of a European Defence Fund (EDF), the proposed scaling-up of the Preparatory Action on Defence Research and the legislative proposal for a European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP); calls on the Member States to increase their future financial contributions to the EU budget in order to cover all additional costs incurred by the EU in connection with the EDF;

    14.   Welcomes EFTA’s adhesion to the preparatory action on defence research, and welcomes in particular the Norwegian contribution of EUR 585 000 for 2017; expresses its wish that Norway may continue to participate in Union-funded programmes that have defence implications or are in the defence remit;

    15.   Calls on the Commission and the VP/HR, to keep Parliament immediately and fully informed at all stages about any conclusion of, or amendment to, international agreements that have defence implications or are in the defence remit; considers that any third-country financial contribution has important budgetary implications for the Union, as a third country could affect the Union’s financial interests in a manner well beyond the size of its contribution by withholding necessary export licenses; stresses that where third parties contribute to Union-funded programmes that have defence implications or are in the defence remit, Parliament expects the Commission and the VP/HR to assess the impact of such participation as regards the Unions’ strategic policies and interests before making a proposal, and to inform Parliament about this assessment;

    16.   Highlights the facts that the Commission and an increasing number of Member States have committed themselves to launching the European Defence Union (EDU) and that there is a strong support for this among European citizens; stresses that this corresponds to a demand from EU citizens and from Parliament, notably through numerous appeals expressed in its previous resolutions; highlights the greater efficiency, and the elimination of duplication and reduction of costs, that will result from stronger European defence integration; stresses, however, that the launch of a real EDU requires continued political will and determination; urges the Member States to commit themselves to a common and autonomous European defence, and to aim to ensure that their national defence budgets amount to at least 2 % of their respective GDPs within a decade;

    17.  Is convinced that the only way to increase the Union’s ability to fulfil its military tasks is to increase efficiency significantly with regard to all aspects of the processes that generate military capabilities; recalls that the EU-28 spends 40 % of its GDP total on defence, but only manage to generate 15 % of the capabilities that the USA gets out of the same processes, which points to a very serious efficiency problem;

    18.   Calls on the VP/HR and the Commission to act on Parliament’s calls for an EU Security and Defence White Book in the context of preparing the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), as requested in Parliament’s resolutions of 22 November 2016, 23 November 2016 and 16 March 2017; considers that building the EDU, linking the its strategic orientation with EU contributions to capability development and shaping the European institutional framework for defence, are elements that need to be underpinned by an interinstitutional agreement; stresses that with a comprehensive and trustworthy effort on the part of all stakeholders it is possible to increase the scope and efficiency of defence spending; calls for a powerful role in this process to be defined for neutral countries such as Austria and Sweden, without calling into question the neutrality of individual Member States;

    19.  Stresses that, in addition to a description of the strategic environment and the strategic ambitions, the EU Security and Defence White Book should identify, for the next MFF, the required and available capabilities, as well as any capability shortfalls, in the form of the EU Capability Development Plan (CDP), and should be complemented by a broad outline of the intended Member State and Union actions under the MFF and in the longer term; 

    20.  Welcomes the newly demonstrated political will to make CSDP more effective; supports any attempt to unleash the full potential of the Lisbon Treaty by making cooperation between Member Stakes work, and to make the operationally relevant capabilities for fulfilling Article 43(1) TEU tasks available, by:

    a) urgently installing the start-up fund as foreseen by the Treaty in order to allow fast deployment of operations;

    b) establishing permanent structured cooperation (PESCO) on those military aspects that are necessary to implement CSDP tasks such as permanently pooled military units;

    c) reforming the intergovernmental joint financing mechanism Athena in order to operationalise solidarity between those Member States that can only contribute financially and those that can only contribute with troops to a CSDP operation;

    d) making pooling and sharing of capabilities the rule and not the exception, and moving towards the implementation of a majority of the 300 proposals presented by the 28 Chiefs of Defence in 2011;

    e) pooling national resources with regard to research, development, procurement, maintenance and training;

    f) coordinating national defence planning (Coordinated Annual Review on Defence, CARD) as currently planned;

    g) initiating common rules for military certification and a common policy on security of supply;

    h) enforcing, on the part of the Commission, internal market rules in line with the 2009 Defence Procurement Directive with regard to national defence procurement projects;

    21.  Welcomes the Commission’s intention to propose a specific programme for defence research, with a dedicated budget and own rules, under the next MFF; stresses that Member States should make additional resources available to that programme, without interfering with existing framework programmes funding research, technological development and innovation, as requested in Parliament’s resolution of 5 July 2017; renews its previous calls on the Commission to provide for Union participation in defence research and development programmes undertaken by Member States, or jointly with industry where appropriate, as referred to in Articles 185 and 187 TFEU;

    22.   Welcomes the Commission’s proposal for a EDIDP; underlines that any Union action to support, coordinate or supplement the actions of the Member States in the defence remit should have the objective of contributing to the progressive framing of a common defence policy, as referred to, inter alia, in Article 2(4) TFEU, and therefore of covering common development, standardisation, certification and maintenance, leading to cooperative programmes and a higher degree of interoperability; calls on the Commission to promote the new EDIDP as widely as possible, and, in particular, to encourage SMEs to participate in joint, cross-border projects;

    23.  Considers that exports by Member States of weapons, ammunitions and defence-related goods and services form an integral part of EU foreign, security and defence policy;

    24.  Urges the Council to take concrete steps towards the harmonisation and standardisation of the European armed forces, in accordance with Article 42(2) TEU, in order to facilitate the cooperation of armed forces personnel under the umbrella of a new EDU, as a step towards the progressive framing of a common EU defence policy;

    25.  Stresses that the use of all possibilities provided for in the Treaty would improve the competitiveness and functioning of the defence industry within the single market by further stimulating defence cooperation through positive incentives, targeting projects that Member States are not able to undertake, reducing unnecessary duplication and promoting a more efficient use of public money; is of the opinion that the outputs of such strategic cooperative programmes have great potential as dual-use technologies and, as such, bring extra added value to Member States; emphasises the importance of developing European capabilities and an integrated defence market;

    26.  Calls for the establishment of precise and binding guidelines to provide a well-defined framework for future activation and implementation of Article 42(7) TEU;

    27.  Calls on the Commission, the Council and the VP/HR to engage, together with Parliament, in an interinstitutional dialogue on the progressive framing of a common defence policy; stresses that, under the next MFF, a fully-fledged EU defence budget should be established for all the internal aspects of CSDP and that a doctrine for its implementation should be developed within the remit of the Lisbon Treaty; underlines the need for a revision of the Athena mechanism in order to widen the range of operations considered as a common cost and incentivise participation in CSDP missions and operations;

    28.  Points out that this new defence budget will have to be financed through new resources in the next MFF;

    29.  Believes that decision-making on CSDP issues could be more democratic and transparent; proposes, therefore, to turn its Subcommittee on Security and Defence (SEDE) into a fully fledged parliamentary committee, enabling it to gain greater powers of scrutiny and accountability over the CSDP and to play a prominent role in its implementation, in particular by scrutinising legal acts pertaining to security and defence;

    30.  Regrets the lack of cooperation and information-sharing among security and intelligence services in Europe; believes that more cooperation between intelligence services could help counter terrorism; calls, in this regard, for the establishment of a fully fledged European intelligence system;

    Permanent Structured Cooperation

    31.   Welcomes the willingness of Member States to make binding commitments within the CSDP framework, thereby implementing an ambitious and inclusive Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), and calls for its swift establishment by the Council; underlines that the desired inclusiveness of participation must not compromise either full commitment to the CSDP or a high level of ambition among participating Member States; points to the necessity to set clear participation criteria, leaving other Member States the option to join at a later stage; believes that activities within PESCO should always be in full alignment with CSDP;

    32.  Stresses that PESCO should develop within the EU framework and that it should benefit from effective Union support, in full respect of Member States’ competences in defence; renews its call for appropriate PESCO funding to be provided from the Union budget; considers that participation in all Union agencies and bodies falling under the CSDP, including the European Security and Defence College (ESDC), should be made a requirement under PESCO; renews its call for the EU Battlegroup System to be considered as a common cost under the revised Athena mechanism;

    33.  Stresses that it is necessary to ease the administrative procedures that are unnecessarily slowing down the generation of forces for CSDP missions and the cross-border movement of rapid response forces inside the EU; calls on the Member States to establish an EU-wide system for the coordination of rapid movement of defence force personnel, equipment and supplies for the purposes of CSDP, where the solidarity clause is invoked and where all Member States have an obligation to provide aid and assistance by all the means in their power, in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter;

    34.  Demands the establishment of a fully fledged EU civilian-military strategic headquarters under PESCO – to be composed of the existing Military Planning and Conduct Capability (MPCC), the Civilian Planning and Conduct Capability (CPCC), and the Crisis Management and Planning Directorate (CMPD) – providing a platform for integrated operational support throughout the entire planning cycle, from the initial political concept to detailed plans;

    35.  Encourages the Member States participating in PESCO to set up a permanent ‘European Integrated Force’, composed of divisions of their national armies, and to make it available to the Union for the implementation of the CSDP as foreseen by Article 42(3) TEU;

    36.  Considers that a common cyber defence policy should be one of the first building blocks of the European Defence Union; encourages the VP/HR to develop proposals for establishing, within the framework of PESCO, an EU cyber defence unit;

    Defence Directorate-General

    37.  Calls for the evaluation, in close coordination with the VP/HR, of the opportunity to establish a Directorate-General for Defence within the Commission (DG Defence), which would drive the Union’s actions to support, coordinate or supplement the actions of the Member States aimed at the progressive framing of a common defence policy, as foreseen by Article 2 TFEU;

    38.   Considers that the proposed DG Defence should have the responsibility to ensure open borders for the free movement of troops and equipment, as a necessary prerequisite for ensuring the degree of strategic autonomy, inter-operability, security of supply, standardisation and military certification arrangements required for: EU contributions to programmes under the CSDP and PESCO; EU-funded defence research; the EU’s strategic autonomy; the competitiveness of Europe’s defence industry, including SMEs and mid-cap companies forming the European defence supply chain; and the interinstitutional arrangements in the defence remit, including the EU Security and Defence White Book; stresses that the proposed DG Defence should contribute to better coordination of tasks among the various actors with a view to achieving greater policy coherence and consistency;

    39.   Underlines that the proposed DG Defence should work in liaison with the European Defence Agency (EDA); considers that the EDA should be the implementing agency for Union actions under the European Capabilities and Armaments policy, where this is foreseen by the Lisbon Treaty; renews its call on the Council to ensure that the administrative and operational expenditure of the EDA is funded from the Union budget; notes that EDA’s increasing new roles and responsibilities should be followed by an increase of its budget, stressing at the same time that the possible establishment of a DG Defence, and renewed efforts to make CSDP more effective, should not lead to resources being diverted to the growth of bureaucratic structures and to duplicating structures;

    Coordinated strategic and annual defence reviews

    40.  Welcomes the strategic review of the EU’s Capability Development Plan (CDP) due to be completed in spring 2018; underlines that the CDP will serve to foster collaboration among Member States in efforts to fill capability gaps in the context of the EDA;

    41.  Welcomes the establishment of the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD) process; considers that CARD should contribute to the standardisation and harmonisation of the investments and capabilities of national armed forces in an effective manner, ensuring the Union’s strategic and operational autonomy and coherence, and allowing Member States to invest more efficiently together in defence; welcomes the proposal to launch a trial run in 2017;

    42.  Encourages Member States to explore the possibility of joint procurement of defence resources;

    43.  Emphasises that CARD should be based on the EU Security and Defence White Book and the CDP, and should address the full spectrum of CSDP-related capabilities, in particular those of the Member States participating in PESCO; considers that CARD should deliver a set of concrete proposals to fill gaps and identify where Union action would be appropriate, to be taken into account in EU budget planning for the following year; underlines the need for the Commission and the EDA to work together in designing the annual work programmes under the capability and research windows of the proposed EDF; points out that the EDA should have a distinct role not only in designing the programme, but also in the management of projects financed from the capability window;

    44.  Stresses the need for close coordination of all CSDP-related activities, in particular CARD, PESCO and the EDF;

    45.  Considers that the Commission should take up the results of CARD and initiate an interinstitutional agreement that establishes the scope and funding of subsequent Union actions; considers that, drawing on the interinstitutional agreement, the Council and the Commission should take the necessary decisions in their respective remits to authorise such actions; calls for interparliamentary cooperation on defence to review CARD, and for the subsequent development of defence capabilities on a regular basis;

    CSDP missions and operations

    46.   Thanks the more than six thousand women and men who have given good and loyal service in the Union’s civilian and military missions on three continents; values these missions as Europe’s common contribution to peace and stability in the world; regrets, however, that the efficiency of these missions can still be jeopardised by structural weaknesses, uneven contributions from Member States and unsuitability to the operational environment, deploring in particular the limitations in the CSDP missions mandate; stresses, in this context, the need for real effectiveness that can only be achieved with the provision of proper military equipment, and urges the Council and the VP/HR to make use of the possibilities provided for in Article 41.2 TEU to this end; welcomes the increase in Member States’ defence spending in support of our service members; takes the view that this trend needs to be sustained, strengthened and coordinated at EU level; calls for effective measures to be taken to ensure that lessons learned and experience gained as regards the human dimension of CSDP missions are assessed and taken into account when future CSDP missions are designed;

    47.  Welcomes the presentation of the first annual report on the CSDP by the VP/HR; believes, however, that this report should not be of quantitative nature only, describing achievements with statistical data and detailed information, but also focus in the future on evaluating the political impact of CSDP activities in improving the security of our citizens;

    48.  Calls on the VP/HR, the Commission and Member States to orient CSDP missions and operations more toward the priorities of the EU Global Strategy as well as the local and regional realities;

    49.  Believes in the need to contribute further to crisis management and prevention and, specifically, to provide assistance to the reconstruction and stabilisation of Iraq; welcomes the recent decision by the Council to launch a new civilian CSDP mission in support of security sector reform in Iraq, and expects that the EU takes over the international lead in this area, including in counter-terrorism and civilian reconstruction; calls on the EU to ensure that this time there will be better coordination among participating Member States, and with regional as well as local actors;

    50.  Welcomes the activities of EU NAVFOR Med and asks the VP/HR and the Member States to increase the support for local security actors on the southern shore of the Mediterranean;

    51.  Expects from the VP/HR and the Council that EUBAM Libya will be relaunched at the occasion of the renewal of the mandate reaching out to local security actors on Libya’s southern borders; calls on the VP/HR and the Member States to come up with fresh ideas on how to tackle the security concerns in the Sahel zone by linking it to EUBAM Libya within its comprehensive and integrated approach and in support of the German-French initiative; welcomes the Council decision of 4 August 2017 on a European Union stabilisation action for Mali in the Mopti and Segou regions; calls, in this regard, on the VP/HR to inform Parliament how this measure interacts with CSDP missions and operations in the region;

    52.  Welcomes the success of Operation EUFOR ALTHEA in Bosnia and Herzegovina in achieving a military end state; is, however, concerned that the political end state has not yet been achieved;

    53.   Welcomes the recent establishment of a nucleus for a permanent EU operational headquarters, the Military Planning and Conduct Capability (MPCC), as demanded by Parliament in its resolution of 12 September 2013, as it is a precondition for effective planning, command and control of common operations; calls on the Member States to staff it with adequate personnel so that it becomes fully functional, and to task it to plan and command executive military CSDP operations such as EUFOR ALTHEA;

    54.  Considers that, as a consequence of the UK’s announcement of withdrawal from the Union, the command option of EU NAVFOR Somalia / Operation Atalanta needs to be reviewed; stresses the success of the operation, thanks to which not a single vessel has been boarded by pirates since 2014; welcomes the extension of the operation until 2018;

    55.  Notes that only 75 % of the positions in civilian CSDP missions are filled; regrets, in this regard, that the EU staff regulations, which would provide better conditions and protection to mission staff, do not apply to personnel employed by the missions even though they are funded from the Union budget; is convinced that this impedes the effectiveness of the missions; urges the Member States to ensure that all vacant posts in all missions are swiftly filled;

    56.  Welcomes the adoption of the EU Policy on Training for CSDP and the important role the European Security and Defence College (ESDC) plays as central training institution embedded within the CSDP structures; calls on the Member States to provide adequate financial, personnel and infrastructural resources for the ESDC;

    57.  Regrets that Member States are failing to deploy in a swift manner the staff necessary for the preparatory and set-up stages of civilian CSDP missions; welcomes, in this context, the proposal developed jointly by the EEAS and Commission services for a multi-layered approach in order to speed up the deployment of civilian CSDP missions;

    58.  Encourages further efforts to speed up the provision of financing for civilian and civil-military missions and to simplify decision-making procedures and implementation; believes, in this context, that the Commission should introduce, by delegated acts in accordance with Article 210 of the Financial Regulation, specific procurement rules to the crisis management measures under the CSDP in order to facilitate the rapid and flexible conduct of operations;

    59.  Welcomes the establishment of the Mission Support Platform (MSP) in 2016; regrets the limited size and scope of the MSP, and reiterates its call for further progress towards a shared services centre that would allow further efficiency gains by providing a central coordination point for all mission support services;

    60.  Urges the EEAS and the Council to step up their ongoing efforts to improve cyber security, in particular for CSDP missions, inter alia by taking measures at EU and Member State levels to mitigate threats to the CSDP, for instance by building up resilience through education, training and exercises, and by streamlining the EU cyber-defence education and training landscape;

    61.  Believes that the EU and its Member States face an unprecedented threat in the form of state-sponsored cyber attacks as well as cyber crime and terrorism; believes that the nature of cyber attacks makes them a threat that needs an EU-level response; encourages the Member States to provide mutual assistance in the event of a cyber attack against any one of them;

    62.  Calls on the Member States to apply full burden sharing to military CSDP missions by progressive enlargement of common funding toward full common funding, which should enable and encourage more Member States to contribute their capabilities and forces, or just funds; underlines the importance of reviewing the Athena mechanism in this regard and of covering all costs related to the financing of military CSDP operations;

    63.  Urges the Council to act in accordance with Article 41(3) TEU and to adopt without delay the decision of establishing a start-up fund for the urgent financing of the initial phases of military operations for the tasks referred to in Article 42(1) and Article 43 TEU; urges the Council to resolve current problems with financing hybrid missions; calls for more flexibility in the EU’s financial rules in order to support its ability to respond to crises and for the implementation of existing Lisbon Treaty provisions;

    EU-NATO cooperation

    64.  Believes that, in the current context, the strategic partnership between the EU and NATO is fundamental to addressing the security challenges facing the Union and its neighbourhood; considers that the EU-NATO Joint Declaration and the subsequent implementation actions have the potential to move cooperation and complementarity to a higher level and to mark a new and substantive phase of the strategic partnership; welcomes the common set of 42 proposals, of which as many as 10 seek to increase resilience against hybrid threats, aimed at strengthening both cooperation and coordination between the two organisations; notes that this work will be taken forward in the spirit of full openness and transparency, in full respect of the decision-making autonomy and procedures of both organisations, and will be based on the principles of inclusiveness and reciprocity without prejudice to the specific character of the security and defence policy of any Member State; praises the cooperation being undertaken in combating cyber threats, developing strategic communications and coordinating maritime activities and joint exercises, and points to the excellent cooperation and complementarity of the EU’s Operation Sophia and NATO’s Operation Sea Guardian; welcomes as well the publication in June 2017 of the two organisations’ first joint implementation report and the progress made in implementing the common set of proposals, and calls for continued progress; stresses the EU’s full commitment to the transatlantic community of common values and interests;

    65.  Notes that a stronger EU and a stronger NATO are mutually reinforcing; considers that Member States need to increase their efforts to act both within an EDU and as autonomous regional security providers, and in a complementary role within NATO, where appropriate; notes that, as set out in EUGS, the EU must contribute to: (a) responding to external conflicts and crises; (b) building the capabilities of partners; and (c) protecting the Union and its citizens; welcomes the set of initiatives that are underway to implement EUGS in the field of security and defence, to develop stronger relations between the EU and NATO, and to enable EU Member States to engage in defence research and develop defence capabilities together; is of the opinion that the security and protection of Europe will increasingly depend on both organisations acting within their remits; calls for efforts to improve cooperation in countering hybrid threats, including through the European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats, and in the exchange of information and intelligence;

    66.  Stresses the importance of cooperation and integration in cyber security, not only between Member States, key partners and NATO, but also between different actors within society;

    CSDP partnerships

    67.  Stresses that partnerships and cooperation with countries that share EU’s values contribute to the effectiveness and the impact of the CSDP; welcomes, in this regard, the contributions of Albania, Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Georgia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, New Zeeland, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and the United States;

    68.  Welcomes the signature of the EU-US Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) of 7 December 2016; calls on the VP/HR to inform Parliament about how this agreement has improved the conditions for, and protection of, CSDP mission staff;

    69.  Invites the VP/HR and the Member States to establish EU military attachés in EU delegations contributing to the implementation of the strategic objectives of the Union;

    70.  Welcomes the proposal of the Commission to review the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP) in order to support actions carried out under the Capacity Building in Support of Security and Development (CBSD) initiative, which will enable the EU to fund capacity building and resilience and help strengthen the capabilities of partner countries; encourages the EEAS and the Commission to implement the CBSD initiative without delay, to improve the effectiveness and sustainability of CSDP missions and to provide a more flexible and integrated EU approach that takes advantage of civil-military synergies;

    °

    °  °

    71.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the European Council, the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Secretary-General of NATO, the EU agencies in the space, security and defence fields, and the governments and national parliaments of the Member States.

    (1)

    Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0344.

    (2)

    Texts adopted, P7_TA(2013)0381.

    (3)

    Texts adopted, P8_TA (2016)0435.

    (4)

    Texts adopted, P8_TA (2016)0440.

    (5)

    Texts adopted, P8_TA (2017)0092.

    (6)

    Texts adopted, P8_TA (2017)0302.

    Read more
  • Report – Annual Report on the implementation of the Common Security and Defence Policy – A8-0351/2017 – Committee on Foreign Affairs

    on the Annual report on the implementation of the Common Security and Defence Policy

    (2017/2123(INI))

    The European Parliament,

    –  having regard to the Treaty of Lisbon,

    –  having regard to the European Council conclusions of 20 December 2013, 26 June 2015, 15 December 2016, and 22 Jun 2017,

    –  having regard to the Annual Report from the Council to the European Parliament on the common foreign and security policy,

    –  having regard to the Annual Report on the implementation of the common foreign and security policy (2017/2121(INI)),

    –  having regard to its resolution of 13 September 2017 on arms export: implementation of Common Position 2008/944/CFSP(1),

    –  having regard to the Council conclusions on the Common Security and Defence Policy of 25 November 2013, 18 November 2014, 18 May 2015, 27 June 2016, 14 November 2016 and 18 May 2017, and the Council conclusions on the EU Global Strategy of 17 July 2017,

    –  having regard to the 19th Franco-German Ministerial Council meeting in Paris on 13 July 2017,

    –  having regard to the informal meeting of defence ministers and the informal meeting of foreign affairs ministers (Gymnich) in Tallinn on 6-9 September 2017,

    –  having regard to the meeting of EU Ministers of Defence on 30 November 2011,

    –  having regard to its resolution of 12 September 2013 on ‘EU’s military structures: state of play and future prospects’(2),

      having regard to its resolution of 22 November 2016 on the European Defence Union(3),

    –  having regard to its resolution of 23 November 2016 on the implementation of the Common Security and Defence Policy(4),

      having regard to its resolution of 16 March 2017 on ‘Constitutional, legal and institutional implications of a common security and defence policy: possibilities offered by the Lisbon Treaty’(5),

      having regard to its resolution of 5 July 2017 on the mandate for the trilogue on the 2018 draft budget(6),

    –  having regard to the document entitled ‘Shared Vision, Common Action: A Stronger Europe – A Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy’, presented by the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR) on 28 June 2016,

    –  having regard to the document entitled ‘Implementation Plan on Security and Defence’, presented by the VP/HR on 14 November 2016,

    –  having regard to the communication from the Commission of 30 November 2016 to the European Parliament, the European Council, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on the European Defence Action Plan (COM(2016)0950),

    –  having regard to the joint declaration of 8 July 2016 by the Presidents of the European Council and the Commission and the Secretary-General of NATO, the common set of proposals endorsed by NATO and EU Councils on 6 December 2016 and the Progress report on the implementation thereof adopted on 14 June 2017,

    –  having regard to the Bratislava Declaration of 16 September 2016,

    –  having regard to the new defence package presented by the Commission on 7 June 2017 in the press release ‘A Europe that defends: Commission opens debate on moving towards a Security and Defence Union’,

    –  having regard to the Reflection Paper on the Future of European Defence of 7 June 2017,

    –  having regard to Eurobarometer 85.1 of June 2016, according to which half of EU citizens surveyed consider EU action insufficient and two thirds of them would like to see greater EU engagement through Member States’ commitment in matters of security and defence policy,

    –  having regard to the crisis management concept of the Council for a new civilian CSDP mission in Iraq of 17 July 2017 and to the Council Decision (CFSP) 2017/1425 of 4 August 2017 on a European Union stabilisation action in the Malian regions of Mopti and Segou,

    –  having regard to the EU Policy on Training for CSDP adopted by the Foreign Affairs Council on 3 April 2017,

    –  having regard to the Council Decision of 23 October 2017 on the position to be adopted, on behalf of the European Union, within the EEA Joint Committee concerning an amendment to Protocol 31 to the EEA Agreement (Union’s Preparatory Action on Defence Research);

    –  having regard to Rule 52 of its Rules of Procedure,

    –  having regard to the report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs (A8-0351/2017),

    The Union’s strategic environment

    1.  Underlines that the rules-based international order and the values defended by Western democracies, and the peace, prosperity and freedoms which this post-World War II order guarantees and which correspond to the foundations on which the European Union is built, are facing an unprecedented number of conventional and hybrid challenges, as societal, economic, technological and geopolitical trends point to the growing vulnerability of the world’s population to shocks and stresses – such as interstate conflicts, natural disasters, extreme weather events, water crises, state collapse and cyber-attacks – that need a united and coordinated response; recalls that security is a key concern for European citizens; states that the Union’s external action is to be guided by the values and principles enshrined in Article 21 TEU;

    2.  Stresses that no single Member State can alone tackle any of the complex security challenges we are facing today, and in order for the EU to be able to respond to this internal and external challenges it needs to step up its efforts towards concrete strong cooperation in the context of CFSP/CSDP, be an effective global player, which implies speaking with one voice and acting together, and focus its resources on strategic priorities; takes the view that it is necessary to tackle the root causes of instability, which are poverty and raising inequality, bad governance, state collapse and climate change;

    3.   Deplores the fact that transnational terrorist and criminal organisations are increasing in strength and number, potentially facilitated by the defeat of ISIS/Da’esh and the fact that its fighters are fleeing, while instability simultaneously spreads in the southern regions and in the Middle East, as fragile and disintegrating states such as Libya give up on large ungoverned spaces vulnerable to outside forces; expresses its continued concern over the transnational dimension of the terrorist threat in the Sahel region; deeply deplores that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s ongoing nuclear and ballistic missile-related activities have generated increased tension in the region and beyond, posing a clear threat to international peace and security;

    4.   Stresses that to the east, Russia’s war against Ukraine is still ongoing, the Minsk agreements – without which there can be no solution to the conflict – have not been implemented and the illegal annexation and militarisation of Crimea, and the imposition of anti-access and area denial systems, continue; is deeply concerned that Russia’s excessive exercises and military activities without international observation, hybrid tactics, including cyber-terrorism, fake news and disinformation campaigns, economic and energy blackmail are destabilising the Eastern Partnership countries and the Western Balkans, as well as are being targeted at Western democracies and increasing tensions within them; is concerned that the security environment surrounding the EU will remain highly volatile for years to come; reiterates the strategic importance of the Western Balkans for the security and stability of the EU and the need to focus and strengthen the EU’s political engagement towards the region, including by strengthening the mandate of our Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions; is firmly convinced that in order toovercome the EU’s vulnerability there is a need for more integration as well as coordination;

    5.  Deplores the terrorist threat that is quickly expanding both within Europe and beyond its borders; considers that an incomplete answer on the military level will inevitably lead to ever-growing internal security threats; urgently calls for an European anti-jihadist pact that can tackle these threats in an effective manner;

    6.  Believes that terrorism represents today one of the key challenges to the security of EU citizens, requiring swift, firm and coordinated action, both at internal and external level, in order to prevent further terrorist attacks and to fight its root causes; points out, in particular, the need to prevent radicalisation, to block any source of financial resources to terrorist organisations, to tackle terrorist propaganda and block the use of the internet and social networks for this purpose, including through an automated removal service, and to improve intelligence sharing between Member States, as well as with third countries, NATO and other relevant partner organisations; believes that the mandate of our CSDP missions should include the fight against terrorism in order to contribute more consequently to deradicalisation programmes, notably EULEX in Kosovo and EUFOR ALTHEA in Bosnia Herzegovina, countries that are confronted with an important number of fighters returning from abroad;

    7.  Is deeply concerned about the increasingly deadly terrorist threat in the Sahel belt as well as its extension to Central Africa, and the instability in the East (Syria, Iraq, Palestine); calls on the VP/HR to ensure that an executive mandate is granted to the CSDP missions and to intervene in a decisive and determined manner;

    8.  Believes that, under the current EU enlargement policy, a credible accession process grounded on extensive and fair conditionality remains an important tool for promoting security by enhancing the resilience of countries in the south-eastern Europe;

    9.   Believes that in a challenging security environment, and at a moment when the EU and NATO are endeavouring to broaden and deepen their cooperation, through Brexit the EU will lose part of its military capability and will possibly no longer be able to benefit from the UK’s expertise, and vice versa; notes that Brexit gives new momentum to initiatives that have long been blocked, and could open the door to new proposals; stresses the importance of continuing close defence cooperation between the EU and the post-Brexit UK, including in, but not limited to, the areas of intelligence sharing and counterterrorism; considers that, if it so requests, the UK should also be able to participate in CSDP missions as part of a new EU-UK defence cooperation relationship;

    10.   Welcomes the renewed US commitment to European security; stresses that the EU stands firmly committed to the transatlantic community of common values and interests; is at the same time convinced that an accountable and self-confident CFSP is needed and that, in this context, the EU must become a self-assured foreign-policy actor;

    Institutional framework

    11.   Believes strongly that, whenever necessary, the EU should take decisive action to determine its future, as internal and external security are becoming increasingly intertwined, and as this has a direct impact on all European citizens; warns that the lack of a common approach could lead to uncoordinated and fragmented action, allows multiple duplications and inefficiency and, as a result, would make the Union and its Member States vulnerable; is therefore of the opinion that the EU should be able to act effectively along the entire spectrum of internal-external security instruments, up to the level of Article 42(7) TEU; stresses that the framing of a common Union defence policy referred to in Article 42(2) TEU has the objective of establishing a common defence and endowing the Union with strategic autonomy to enable it to promote peace and security in Europe and in the world; emphasises the practical and financial benefits of further integrating European defence capabilities;

    12.   Underlines that the EU needs to apply the entire tool-box of available policy instruments – from soft to hard power and from short-term measures to long-term policies in the area of classical foreign policy, encompassing not only bilateral and multilateral efforts in diplomacy, development cooperation, civilian and economic instruments, emergency support, crisis prevention and post-conflict strategies, but also peacekeeping and peace-enforcing, also in line with the civilian and military means described in Article 43(1) TEU – in order to cope with the rising challenges; believes that the CSDP should be built on the principle that European security cannot be guaranteed by relying merely on military assets; considers that EU foreign actions should include an assessment of their impact on EU´s people-centred strategic interests of enhancing human security and human rights, strengthening international law and promoting sustainable peace; underlines the need for the EEAS to step up its capacities to better anticipate crises and counter security challenges at the point of their inception; stresses the need for a more coherent and better coordinated interaction between military, civilian, development and humanitarian actors;

    13.  Welcomes the visible progress made in framing a stronger European defence stance since the adoption of the EU Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy (EUGS) in June 2016; welcomes, in particular, the launching of a European Defence Fund (EDF), the proposed scaling-up of the Preparatory Action on Defence Research and the legislative proposal for a European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP); calls on the Member States to increase their future financial contributions to the EU budget in order to cover all additional costs incurred by the EU in connection with the EDF;

    14.   Welcomes EFTA’s adhesion to the preparatory action on defence research, and welcomes in particular the Norwegian contribution of EUR 585 000 for 2017; expresses its wish that Norway may continue to participate in Union-funded programmes that have defence implications or are in the defence remit;

    15.   Calls on the Commission and the VP/HR, to keep Parliament immediately and fully informed at all stages about any conclusion of, or amendment to, international agreements that have defence implications or are in the defence remit; considers that any third-country financial contribution has important budgetary implications for the Union, as a third country could affect the Union’s financial interests in a manner well beyond the size of its contribution by withholding necessary export licenses; stresses that where third parties contribute to Union-funded programmes that have defence implications or are in the defence remit, Parliament expects the Commission and the VP/HR to assess the impact of such participation as regards the Unions’ strategic policies and interests before making a proposal, and to inform Parliament about this assessment;

    16.   Highlights the facts that the Commission and an increasing number of Member States have committed themselves to launching the European Defence Union (EDU) and that there is a strong support for this among European citizens; stresses that this corresponds to a demand from EU citizens and from Parliament, notably through numerous appeals expressed in its previous resolutions; highlights the greater efficiency, and the elimination of duplication and reduction of costs, that will result from stronger European defence integration; stresses, however, that the launch of a real EDU requires continued political will and determination; urges the Member States to commit themselves to a common and autonomous European defence, and to aim to ensure that their national defence budgets amount to at least 2 % of their respective GDPs within a decade;

    17.  Is convinced that the only way to increase the Union’s ability to fulfil its military tasks is to increase efficiency significantly with regard to all aspects of the processes that generate military capabilities; recalls that the EU-28 spends 40 % of its GDP total on defence, but only manage to generate 15 % of the capabilities that the USA gets out of the same processes, which points to a very serious efficiency problem;

    18.   Calls on the VP/HR and the Commission to act on Parliament’s calls for an EU Security and Defence White Book in the context of preparing the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), as requested in Parliament’s resolutions of 22 November 2016, 23 November 2016 and 16 March 2017; considers that building the EDU, linking the its strategic orientation with EU contributions to capability development and shaping the European institutional framework for defence, are elements that need to be underpinned by an interinstitutional agreement; stresses that with a comprehensive and trustworthy effort on the part of all stakeholders it is possible to increase the scope and efficiency of defence spending; calls for a powerful role in this process to be defined for neutral countries such as Austria and Sweden, without calling into question the neutrality of individual Member States;

    19.  Stresses that, in addition to a description of the strategic environment and the strategic ambitions, the EU Security and Defence White Book should identify, for the next MFF, the required and available capabilities, as well as any capability shortfalls, in the form of the EU Capability Development Plan (CDP), and should be complemented by a broad outline of the intended Member State and Union actions under the MFF and in the longer term; 

    20.  Welcomes the newly demonstrated political will to make CSDP more effective; supports any attempt to unleash the full potential of the Lisbon Treaty by making cooperation between Member Stakes work, and to make the operationally relevant capabilities for fulfilling Article 43(1) TEU tasks available, by:

    a) urgently installing the start-up fund as foreseen by the Treaty in order to allow fast deployment of operations;

    b) establishing permanent structured cooperation (PESCO) on those military aspects that are necessary to implement CSDP tasks such as permanently pooled military units;

    c) reforming the intergovernmental joint financing mechanism Athena in order to operationalise solidarity between those Member States that can only contribute financially and those that can only contribute with troops to a CSDP operation;

    d) making pooling and sharing of capabilities the rule and not the exception, and moving towards the implementation of a majority of the 300 proposals presented by the 28 Chiefs of Defence in 2011;

    e) pooling national resources with regard to research, development, procurement, maintenance and training;

    f) coordinating national defence planning (Coordinated Annual Review on Defence, CARD) as currently planned;

    g) initiating common rules for military certification and a common policy on security of supply;

    h) enforcing, on the part of the Commission, internal market rules in line with the 2009 Defence Procurement Directive with regard to national defence procurement projects;

    21.  Welcomes the Commission’s intention to propose a specific programme for defence research, with a dedicated budget and own rules, under the next MFF; stresses that Member States should make additional resources available to that programme, without interfering with existing framework programmes funding research, technological development and innovation, as requested in Parliament’s resolution of 5 July 2017; renews its previous calls on the Commission to provide for Union participation in defence research and development programmes undertaken by Member States, or jointly with industry where appropriate, as referred to in Articles 185 and 187 TFEU;

    22.   Welcomes the Commission’s proposal for a EDIDP; underlines that any Union action to support, coordinate or supplement the actions of the Member States in the defence remit should have the objective of contributing to the progressive framing of a common defence policy, as referred to, inter alia, in Article 2(4) TFEU, and therefore of covering common development, standardisation, certification and maintenance, leading to cooperative programmes and a higher degree of interoperability; calls on the Commission to promote the new EDIDP as widely as possible, and, in particular, to encourage SMEs to participate in joint, cross-border projects;

    23.  Considers that exports by Member States of weapons, ammunitions and defence-related goods and services form an integral part of EU foreign, security and defence policy;

    24.  Urges the Council to take concrete steps towards the harmonisation and standardisation of the European armed forces, in accordance with Article 42(2) TEU, in order to facilitate the cooperation of armed forces personnel under the umbrella of a new EDU, as a step towards the progressive framing of a common EU defence policy;

    25.  Stresses that the use of all possibilities provided for in the Treaty would improve the competitiveness and functioning of the defence industry within the single market by further stimulating defence cooperation through positive incentives, targeting projects that Member States are not able to undertake, reducing unnecessary duplication and promoting a more efficient use of public money; is of the opinion that the outputs of such strategic cooperative programmes have great potential as dual-use technologies and, as such, bring extra added value to Member States; emphasises the importance of developing European capabilities and an integrated defence market;

    26.  Calls for the establishment of precise and binding guidelines to provide a well-defined framework for future activation and implementation of Article 42(7) TEU;

    27.  Calls on the Commission, the Council and the VP/HR to engage, together with Parliament, in an interinstitutional dialogue on the progressive framing of a common defence policy; stresses that, under the next MFF, a fully-fledged EU defence budget should be established for all the internal aspects of CSDP and that a doctrine for its implementation should be developed within the remit of the Lisbon Treaty; underlines the need for a revision of the Athena mechanism in order to widen the range of operations considered as a common cost and incentivise participation in CSDP missions and operations;

    28.  Points out that this new defence budget will have to be financed through new resources in the next MFF;

    29.  Believes that decision-making on CSDP issues could be more democratic and transparent; proposes, therefore, to turn its Subcommittee on Security and Defence (SEDE) into a fully fledged parliamentary committee, enabling it to gain greater powers of scrutiny and accountability over the CSDP and to play a prominent role in its implementation, in particular by scrutinising legal acts pertaining to security and defence;

    30.  Regrets the lack of cooperation and information-sharing among security and intelligence services in Europe; believes that more cooperation between intelligence services could help counter terrorism; calls, in this regard, for the establishment of a fully fledged European intelligence system;

    Permanent Structured Cooperation

    31.   Welcomes the willingness of Member States to make binding commitments within the CSDP framework, thereby implementing an ambitious and inclusive Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), and calls for its swift establishment by the Council; underlines that the desired inclusiveness of participation must not compromise either full commitment to the CSDP or a high level of ambition among participating Member States; points to the necessity to set clear participation criteria, leaving other Member States the option to join at a later stage; believes that activities within PESCO should always be in full alignment with CSDP;

    32.  Stresses that PESCO should develop within the EU framework and that it should benefit from effective Union support, in full respect of Member States’ competences in defence; renews its call for appropriate PESCO funding to be provided from the Union budget; considers that participation in all Union agencies and bodies falling under the CSDP, including the European Security and Defence College (ESDC), should be made a requirement under PESCO; renews its call for the EU Battlegroup System to be considered as a common cost under the revised Athena mechanism;

    33.  Stresses that it is necessary to ease the administrative procedures that are unnecessarily slowing down the generation of forces for CSDP missions and the cross-border movement of rapid response forces inside the EU; calls on the Member States to establish an EU-wide system for the coordination of rapid movement of defence force personnel, equipment and supplies for the purposes of CSDP, where the solidarity clause is invoked and where all Member States have an obligation to provide aid and assistance by all the means in their power, in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter;

    34.  Demands the establishment of a fully fledged EU civilian-military strategic headquarters under PESCO – to be composed of the existing Military Planning and Conduct Capability (MPCC), the Civilian Planning and Conduct Capability (CPCC), and the Crisis Management and Planning Directorate (CMPD) – providing a platform for integrated operational support throughout the entire planning cycle, from the initial political concept to detailed plans;

    35.  Encourages the Member States participating in PESCO to set up a permanent ‘European Integrated Force’, composed of divisions of their national armies, and to make it available to the Union for the implementation of the CSDP as foreseen by Article 42(3) TEU;

    36.  Considers that a common cyber defence policy should be one of the first building blocks of the European Defence Union; encourages the VP/HR to develop proposals for establishing, within the framework of PESCO, an EU cyber defence unit;

    Defence Directorate-General

    37.  Calls for the evaluation, in close coordination with the VP/HR, of the opportunity to establish a Directorate-General for Defence within the Commission (DG Defence), which would drive the Union’s actions to support, coordinate or supplement the actions of the Member States aimed at the progressive framing of a common defence policy, as foreseen by Article 2 TFEU;

    38.   Considers that the proposed DG Defence should have the responsibility to ensure open borders for the free movement of troops and equipment, as a necessary prerequisite for ensuring the degree of strategic autonomy, inter-operability, security of supply, standardisation and military certification arrangements required for: EU contributions to programmes under the CSDP and PESCO; EU-funded defence research; the EU’s strategic autonomy; the competitiveness of Europe’s defence industry, including SMEs and mid-cap companies forming the European defence supply chain; and the interinstitutional arrangements in the defence remit, including the EU Security and Defence White Book; stresses that the proposed DG Defence should contribute to better coordination of tasks among the various actors with a view to achieving greater policy coherence and consistency;

    39.   Underlines that the proposed DG Defence should work in liaison with the European Defence Agency (EDA); considers that the EDA should be the implementing agency for Union actions under the European Capabilities and Armaments policy, where this is foreseen by the Lisbon Treaty; renews its call on the Council to ensure that the administrative and operational expenditure of the EDA is funded from the Union budget; notes that EDA’s increasing new roles and responsibilities should be followed by an increase of its budget, stressing at the same time that the possible establishment of a DG Defence, and renewed efforts to make CSDP more effective, should not lead to resources being diverted to the growth of bureaucratic structures and to duplicating structures;

    Coordinated strategic and annual defence reviews

    40.  Welcomes the strategic review of the EU’s Capability Development Plan (CDP) due to be completed in spring 2018; underlines that the CDP will serve to foster collaboration among Member States in efforts to fill capability gaps in the context of the EDA;

    41.  Welcomes the establishment of the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD) process; considers that CARD should contribute to the standardisation and harmonisation of the investments and capabilities of national armed forces in an effective manner, ensuring the Union’s strategic and operational autonomy and coherence, and allowing Member States to invest more efficiently together in defence; welcomes the proposal to launch a trial run in 2017;

    42.  Encourages Member States to explore the possibility of joint procurement of defence resources;

    43.  Emphasises that CARD should be based on the EU Security and Defence White Book and the CDP, and should address the full spectrum of CSDP-related capabilities, in particular those of the Member States participating in PESCO; considers that CARD should deliver a set of concrete proposals to fill gaps and identify where Union action would be appropriate, to be taken into account in EU budget planning for the following year; underlines the need for the Commission and the EDA to work together in designing the annual work programmes under the capability and research windows of the proposed EDF; points out that the EDA should have a distinct role not only in designing the programme, but also in the management of projects financed from the capability window;

    44.  Stresses the need for close coordination of all CSDP-related activities, in particular CARD, PESCO and the EDF;

    45.  Considers that the Commission should take up the results of CARD and initiate an interinstitutional agreement that establishes the scope and funding of subsequent Union actions; considers that, drawing on the interinstitutional agreement, the Council and the Commission should take the necessary decisions in their respective remits to authorise such actions; calls for interparliamentary cooperation on defence to review CARD, and for the subsequent development of defence capabilities on a regular basis;

    CSDP missions and operations

    46.   Thanks the more than six thousand women and men who have given good and loyal service in the Union’s civilian and military missions on three continents; values these missions as Europe’s common contribution to peace and stability in the world; regrets, however, that the efficiency of these missions can still be jeopardised by structural weaknesses, uneven contributions from Member States and unsuitability to the operational environment, deploring in particular the limitations in the CSDP missions mandate; stresses, in this context, the need for real effectiveness that can only be achieved with the provision of proper military equipment, and urges the Council and the VP/HR to make use of the possibilities provided for in Article 41.2 TEU to this end; welcomes the increase in Member States’ defence spending in support of our service members; takes the view that this trend needs to be sustained, strengthened and coordinated at EU level; calls for effective measures to be taken to ensure that lessons learned and experience gained as regards the human dimension of CSDP missions are assessed and taken into account when future CSDP missions are designed;

    47.  Welcomes the presentation of the first annual report on the CSDP by the VP/HR; believes, however, that this report should not be of quantitative nature only, describing achievements with statistical data and detailed information, but also focus in the future on evaluating the political impact of CSDP activities in improving the security of our citizens;

    48.  Calls on the VP/HR, the Commission and Member States to orient CSDP missions and operations more toward the priorities of the EU Global Strategy as well as the local and regional realities;

    49.  Believes in the need to contribute further to crisis management and prevention and, specifically, to provide assistance to the reconstruction and stabilisation of Iraq; welcomes the recent decision by the Council to launch a new civilian CSDP mission in support of security sector reform in Iraq, and expects that the EU takes over the international lead in this area, including in counter-terrorism and civilian reconstruction; calls on the EU to ensure that this time there will be better coordination among participating Member States, and with regional as well as local actors;

    50.  Welcomes the activities of EU NAVFOR Med and asks the VP/HR and the Member States to increase the support for local security actors on the southern shore of the Mediterranean;

    51.  Expects from the VP/HR and the Council that EUBAM Libya will be relaunched at the occasion of the renewal of the mandate reaching out to local security actors on Libya’s southern borders; calls on the VP/HR and the Member States to come up with fresh ideas on how to tackle the security concerns in the Sahel zone by linking it to EUBAM Libya within its comprehensive and integrated approach and in support of the German-French initiative; welcomes the Council decision of 4 August 2017 on a European Union stabilisation action for Mali in the Mopti and Segou regions; calls, in this regard, on the VP/HR to inform Parliament how this measure interacts with CSDP missions and operations in the region;

    52.  Welcomes the success of Operation EUFOR ALTHEA in Bosnia and Herzegovina in achieving a military end state; is, however, concerned that the political end state has not yet been achieved;

    53.   Welcomes the recent establishment of a nucleus for a permanent EU operational headquarters, the Military Planning and Conduct Capability (MPCC), as demanded by Parliament in its resolution of 12 September 2013, as it is a precondition for effective planning, command and control of common operations; calls on the Member States to staff it with adequate personnel so that it becomes fully functional, and to task it to plan and command executive military CSDP operations such as EUFOR ALTHEA;

    54.  Considers that, as a consequence of the UK’s announcement of withdrawal from the Union, the command option of EU NAVFOR Somalia / Operation Atalanta needs to be reviewed; stresses the success of the operation, thanks to which not a single vessel has been boarded by pirates since 2014; welcomes the extension of the operation until 2018;

    55.  Notes that only 75 % of the positions in civilian CSDP missions are filled; regrets, in this regard, that the EU staff regulations, which would provide better conditions and protection to mission staff, do not apply to personnel employed by the missions even though they are funded from the Union budget; is convinced that this impedes the effectiveness of the missions; urges the Member States to ensure that all vacant posts in all missions are swiftly filled;

    56.  Welcomes the adoption of the EU Policy on Training for CSDP and the important role the European Security and Defence College (ESDC) plays as central training institution embedded within the CSDP structures; calls on the Member States to provide adequate financial, personnel and infrastructural resources for the ESDC;

    57.  Regrets that Member States are failing to deploy in a swift manner the staff necessary for the preparatory and set-up stages of civilian CSDP missions; welcomes, in this context, the proposal developed jointly by the EEAS and Commission services for a multi-layered approach in order to speed up the deployment of civilian CSDP missions;

    58.  Encourages further efforts to speed up the provision of financing for civilian and civil-military missions and to simplify decision-making procedures and implementation; believes, in this context, that the Commission should introduce, by delegated acts in accordance with Article 210 of the Financial Regulation, specific procurement rules to the crisis management measures under the CSDP in order to facilitate the rapid and flexible conduct of operations;

    59.  Welcomes the establishment of the Mission Support Platform (MSP) in 2016; regrets the limited size and scope of the MSP, and reiterates its call for further progress towards a shared services centre that would allow further efficiency gains by providing a central coordination point for all mission support services;

    60.  Urges the EEAS and the Council to step up their ongoing efforts to improve cyber security, in particular for CSDP missions, inter alia by taking measures at EU and Member State levels to mitigate threats to the CSDP, for instance by building up resilience through education, training and exercises, and by streamlining the EU cyber-defence education and training landscape;

    61.  Believes that the EU and its Member States face an unprecedented threat in the form of state-sponsored cyber attacks as well as cyber crime and terrorism; believes that the nature of cyber attacks makes them a threat that needs an EU-level response; encourages the Member States to provide mutual assistance in the event of a cyber attack against any one of them;

    62.  Calls on the Member States to apply full burden sharing to military CSDP missions by progressive enlargement of common funding toward full common funding, which should enable and encourage more Member States to contribute their capabilities and forces, or just funds; underlines the importance of reviewing the Athena mechanism in this regard and of covering all costs related to the financing of military CSDP operations;

    63.  Urges the Council to act in accordance with Article 41(3) TEU and to adopt without delay the decision of establishing a start-up fund for the urgent financing of the initial phases of military operations for the tasks referred to in Article 42(1) and Article 43 TEU; urges the Council to resolve current problems with financing hybrid missions; calls for more flexibility in the EU’s financial rules in order to support its ability to respond to crises and for the implementation of existing Lisbon Treaty provisions;

    EU-NATO cooperation

    64.  Believes that, in the current context, the strategic partnership between the EU and NATO is fundamental to addressing the security challenges facing the Union and its neighbourhood; considers that the EU-NATO Joint Declaration and the subsequent implementation actions have the potential to move cooperation and complementarity to a higher level and to mark a new and substantive phase of the strategic partnership; welcomes the common set of 42 proposals, of which as many as 10 seek to increase resilience against hybrid threats, aimed at strengthening both cooperation and coordination between the two organisations; notes that this work will be taken forward in the spirit of full openness and transparency, in full respect of the decision-making autonomy and procedures of both organisations, and will be based on the principles of inclusiveness and reciprocity without prejudice to the specific character of the security and defence policy of any Member State; praises the cooperation being undertaken in combating cyber threats, developing strategic communications and coordinating maritime activities and joint exercises, and points to the excellent cooperation and complementarity of the EU’s Operation Sophia and NATO’s Operation Sea Guardian; welcomes as well the publication in June 2017 of the two organisations’ first joint implementation report and the progress made in implementing the common set of proposals, and calls for continued progress; stresses the EU’s full commitment to the transatlantic community of common values and interests;

    65.  Notes that a stronger EU and a stronger NATO are mutually reinforcing; considers that Member States need to increase their efforts to act both within an EDU and as autonomous regional security providers, and in a complementary role within NATO, where appropriate; notes that, as set out in EUGS, the EU must contribute to: (a) responding to external conflicts and crises; (b) building the capabilities of partners; and (c) protecting the Union and its citizens; welcomes the set of initiatives that are underway to implement EUGS in the field of security and defence, to develop stronger relations between the EU and NATO, and to enable EU Member States to engage in defence research and develop defence capabilities together; is of the opinion that the security and protection of Europe will increasingly depend on both organisations acting within their remits; calls for efforts to improve cooperation in countering hybrid threats, including through the European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats, and in the exchange of information and intelligence;

    66.  Stresses the importance of cooperation and integration in cyber security, not only between Member States, key partners and NATO, but also between different actors within society;

    CSDP partnerships

    67.  Stresses that partnerships and cooperation with countries that share EU’s values contribute to the effectiveness and the impact of the CSDP; welcomes, in this regard, the contributions of Albania, Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Georgia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, New Zeeland, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and the United States;

    68.  Welcomes the signature of the EU-US Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) of 7 December 2016; calls on the VP/HR to inform Parliament about how this agreement has improved the conditions for, and protection of, CSDP mission staff;

    69.  Invites the VP/HR and the Member States to establish EU military attachés in EU delegations contributing to the implementation of the strategic objectives of the Union;

    70.  Welcomes the proposal of the Commission to review the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP) in order to support actions carried out under the Capacity Building in Support of Security and Development (CBSD) initiative, which will enable the EU to fund capacity building and resilience and help strengthen the capabilities of partner countries; encourages the EEAS and the Commission to implement the CBSD initiative without delay, to improve the effectiveness and sustainability of CSDP missions and to provide a more flexible and integrated EU approach that takes advantage of civil-military synergies;

    °

    °  °

    71.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the European Council, the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Secretary-General of NATO, the EU agencies in the space, security and defence fields, and the governments and national parliaments of the Member States.

    (1)

    Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0344.

    (2)

    Texts adopted, P7_TA(2013)0381.

    (3)

    Texts adopted, P8_TA (2016)0435.

    (4)

    Texts adopted, P8_TA (2016)0440.

    (5)

    Texts adopted, P8_TA (2017)0092.

    (6)

    Texts adopted, P8_TA (2017)0302.

    Read more
  • Report – Annual Report on the implementation of the Common Foreign and Security Policy – A8-0350/2017 – Committee on Foreign Affairs

    on the Annual Report on the implementation of the Common Foreign and Security Policy

    (2017/2121(INI))

    The European Parliament,

    –  having regard to the Annual Report from the Council to the European Parliament on the common foreign and security policy,

    –  having regard to Articles 21 and 36 of the Treaty on European Union,

    –  having regard to the Charter of the United Nations,

    –  having regard to the Interinstitutional Agreement of 2 December 2013 between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on budgetary discipline, on cooperation in budgetary matters and on sound financial management,

    –  having regard to the declaration by the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR) on political accountability,

    –  having regard to the 2016 European External Action Service (EEAS) communication on a Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign And Security Policy and the 2017 Commission and EEAS joint communication on a Strategic Approach to Resilience in the EU’s External Action,

    –  having regard to the key principles enshrined in the Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy, particularly those pertaining to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states, and the inviolability of borders, being equally respected by all participating states,

    –  having regard to the joint communication from the Commission and VP/HR of 12 December 2011 entitled ‘Human rights and democracy at the heart of EU external action – towards a more effective approach’ (COM(2011)0886),

    –  having regard to Rule 52 of its Rules of Procedure,

    –  having regard to the report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the opinion of the Committee on Budgets (A8-0350/2017),

    Introduction

    1.  Is convinced that no single Member State alone is able to tackle the challenges we face today; emphasises that common EU action is the most effective way to preserve Europe’s interests, uphold its values, engage in a wider world as a united and influential global actor and protect its citizens and Member States from increased threats to their security, including in a global digital sphere; is concerned about the EU’s security architecture, which remains fragile and fragmented in the face of continued and fresh challenges every day and in which a ‘hybrid peace’ has become an unsatisfactory reality; urges the Member States to take action and fulfil the wishes of those European citizens who have repeatedly stressed that EU foreign and security policy based on fundamental values and human rights is one of the most important and most necessary of all EU policies; considers that it is high time that Member States implement Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) tools, instruments and policies to enable the EU to respond to external conflicts and crises, build partners’ capacities and protect the European Union;

    2.  Recalls the EU’s commitment to develop a Common Foreign and Security Policy guided by the values of democracy, the rule of law, the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and compliance with the UN Charter and international law; considers that, in order to live up to this commitment and to contribute to advancing human rights and democracy in the world, the EU and its Member States need to speak with a united voice and ensure that their message is heard;

    3.  Takes the view that, in order for the EU to succeed in addressing and overcoming the challenges it faces, and in particular security threats, it needs to be an effective, credible and values-based global player, with a capacity for action and effective dialogue with other global players, which implies the EU speaking with one voice, acting together and focusing its resources on strategic priorities;

    4.  Stresses the need for the EU’s external policies to be consistent with each other and with other policies with an external dimension, and to pursue the objectives set out in Article 21 of the Treaty on European Union;

    5.  Believes that the core milestones for the European Union to deliver on the expectations of its citizens are:

    –  coordination of an assessment of profound threats and challenges within the EU and a common approach in how to address them; taking into account in particular the prevention of radicalisation, which can lead to recruitment by terrorist groups,

    –  consolidation and deepening of the European project and its external action by, inter alia, enhancing the EU’s cooperation and capabilities in the field of its common foreign and security policy, including information warfare,

    –  cooperation between Member States, partners, and international organisations and institutions protecting peace within clearly defined and carefully chosen conditions to strengthen the rules-based, global political and economic order, including the protection of human rights, and working together with partners to play a leading role in reconciliation, peacemaking, peacekeeping and, where needed, peace enforcement;

    Coordination of an assessment of profound threats and challenges: facing the current political and security environment

    6.  Emphasises that guaranteeing the security of EU citizens and the integrity of the EU’s territory, stabilising the neighbourhood, especially in the Western Balkans with a focus on more visibility of the EU in this region, promoting reforms to preserve a rules-based, cooperative political and economic international order, tackling the root causes of armed conflicts and enhancing policies of conflict prevention, peaceful conflict resolution and dialogue with pluralist democracies committed to the defence of human rights, are the key conditions for the stability of the EU; calls on more active EU public diplomacy and greater visibility for projects implemented by the EU;

    7.  Is of the view that, in an increasingly conflict-ridden and unstable international environment, only a combination of effective multilateralism, joint soft power and credible hard power can be capable of confronting major security challenges, notably the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the violation of the security order in Europe, terrorism, conflicts in the Eastern and Southern neighbourhood, proxy wars, hybrid and information warfare, including digital aggression, and energy insecurity; highlights that these challenges also include the refugee crises in its humanitarian dimension, challenging aggressive behaviour by North Korea, the violation of international law by Russia and China’s growing military power, for which only a strong diplomatic response will suffice;

    8.  Is of the opinion that a more effective common foreign and security policy depends primarily on the establishment of common strategic priorities and visions; takes the view that it is necessary to tackle the root causes of instability, spread largely because of failed or fragile states, and of forced and irregular migration: poverty, the lack of economic opportunities and access to education, social exclusion, armed conflicts, undemocratic and inefficient governance, corruption, climate change, increasing sectarianism, the threat of radicalisation and the spread of extremist ideologies; recalls the action plan adopted at the Valletta Summit calling for a shared responsibility of countries of origin, transit and destination; emphasises the importance of breaking the economic model of smuggler networks;

    9.  Underlines the need to counter autocratic and nepotistic trends, to intensify support for democratic forces and to fight against Islamist terrorism in the Southern neighbourhood and among the neighbours of our neighbours and partners, and to target those groups which seek to encourage EU citizens to fight for their extremist cause; recalls that the Sahel region and other connected geographical areas are priority regions for ensuring the security of the European Union; reiterates the need for concerted diplomatic efforts on the part of the EU, the US and other international partners, to work with players in the region, such as Turkey, the Gulf states and Iran, on the need for a clear position against religious extremism and terrorism, and to establish a common strategy to address this global challenge in line with the commitment undertaken at UN level to uphold international law and universal values; believes that diplomatic efforts should be accompanied by the wide range of other tools and instruments at the EU’s disposal, including those for the improvement of political, social and economic conditions conducive to the establishment and preservation of peace;

    10.  Believes that tackling violent extremism should go hand in hand with upholding universal human rights; stresses that the EU must counter and condemn state sponsors of radicalisation and terrorism, particularly where such support is given to entities listed by the EU as terror organisations; underlines the importance of strengthening cooperation with our partners experienced in combating terrorism;

    11.  Stresses that a sustainable solution to the Syrian crisis can only be achieved under the existing UN-agreed framework and needs to be based on an inclusive, Syrian-led political settlement involving all relevant stakeholders; continues to urge all members of the UN Security Council to honour their responsibilities with regard to the crisis; supports the call of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Syria on the ceasefire guarantor states to undertake urgent efforts to uphold the ceasefire regime;

    12.  Welcomes the EU strategy on Syria adopted in April 2017, which includes extending sanctions to persons involved in the development and use of chemical weapons; encourages the further extension of sanctions to those responsible for human rights violations; stresses that all those responsible for breaches of international law must be held accountable; reiterates its call for the EU and its Member States to explore with partners the creation of a Syria war crimes tribunal, pending a successful referral to the ICC; stresses the need for the EU to demonstrate full commitment in assisting the reconstruction of Syria after the conflict;

    13.  Calls on all parties involved, within and outside Libya, to support both the Libyan political agreement signed on 17 December 2015 and its resulting Presidential Council, which is the only authority recognised by the international community and the UN; underlines that solving the Libyan crisis is a prerequisite for stability in the Mediterranean; emphasises the importance of the Southern neighbourhood and the need to achieve a euro-Mediterranean space of peace, prosperity, stability and integration; underlines its strong support for the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with an independent, democratic, viable and contiguous Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace and security with the secure State of Israel; stresses the importance of ensuring coherence of EU policy on situations of occupation or annexation of territory;

    14.  Welcomes the continued successful implementation by all parties of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), agreed by the EU3 +3 with Iran; stresses that the continued full implementation of this agreement by all parties is key to global efforts on non-proliferation and conflict resolution in the Middle East; highlights that the JCPOA is a multilateral agreement that was endorsed by a UN Security Council resolution and cannot be changed unilaterally; stresses the security risk posed by Iran’s ballistic missile programme and underlines the need for full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which calls on Iran not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology;

    15.  Notes that the US Treasury Department has officially updated its Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) counter-terrorism list to include the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC);

    16.  Expresses its deep concern about the ongoing humanitarian disaster in Yemen; emphasises once again that there can be no military solution to the prolonged conflict in Yemen and supports efforts undertaken by the EU and UN towards achieving the ceasefire and laying the ground for peace negotiations; takes the view that the EU must act to ensure the continued existence of ethnic-religious minorities in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq and Syria;

    17.  Condemns the repeated use by Russia of its veto powers on the UN Security Council and considers it to undermine international efforts for peace and conflict resolution in Syria and the European Union’s southern neighbourhood more widely;

    18.  Acknowledges that further efforts should be made to make legal migration and mobility possible, including at bilateral level, by fostering well-managed mobility between and within continents, and by encouraging policies that promote regular channels for migration while fighting illegal networks that profit from vulnerable people; underlines the efforts taken by individual Member States in this regard and considers it essential to strengthen the legal and secure access path to Europe; regrets, in this regard, the lack of a genuine, balanced and credible European migration and asylum policy, as demonstrated by the ongoing crisis in the Mediterranean, and calls on the Council and the Member States to act accordingly;

    19.  Strongly believes that a new approach to the EU’s relations with its Eastern neighbours is needed; believes that supporting those countries that wish to have closer ties with the EU must be a top priority for EU foreign policy; believes that the prolongation of sanctions against individuals and entities in Russia is an inevitable outcome of the failure to implement the Minsk agreements and continues to see such implementation by all sides as the basis for a sustainable political solution to the conflict in Eastern Ukraine;

    20.  Emphasises that the possibility of more cooperative relations with Russia is contingent on Russia fully abiding by the European security order and international law; insists that the EU should keep open the option of further gradual sanctions if Russia continues to violate international law; reiterates its commitment to the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and all the other Eastern Partnership countries within their internationally recognised borders; stresses that Russia’s decision of 21 March 2014 to incorporate Crimea into the Russian Federation remains illegal under international law and deplores the subsequent decision by the Russian authorities to forcefully impose Russian passports on all inhabitants of Crimea; calls on the VP/HR and the Council to play a more active and effective role in solving protracted and frozen conflicts;

    21.  Deplores Russia’s multiple violations of international law and its hybrid warfare; recognises, however, the possibility of reasoned and coherent selective engagement and dialogue with Russia in areas of common interest, in order to ensure accountability and respect for international law; stresses the need to maintain and encourage the possibility of future cooperation on resolving global crises where there is a direct or indirect EU interest or an opportunity to promote EU values;

    22.  Believes that normalised relations are a necessity for both the EU and Russia, and that any future EU-Russia strategy should emphasise reinforced commitment and support for the EU’s Eastern Partners; stresses that the EU should keep the door open for deepening the bilateral political and economic relationship with Russia, subject to Russia complying with international law and subscribed agreements, and halting its increasingly assertive attitude towards its neighbours and Europe;

    23.  Reiterates that sovereignty, independence and the peaceful settlement of disputes are key principles of the European security order which apply to all states; condemns unreservedly, therefore, Russian aggression in Ukraine, including the illegal annexation of Crimea and the Russian-sponsored conflict in Eastern Ukraine; calls on the EU, its Member States and the international community to demand that Russia must halt its aggression and release all political prisoners; calls for the international community to play a more active and effective role in the resolution of the conflict and to support all efforts for a lasting peaceful solution which respects the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, in particular by the deployment – with the consent of the Ukrainian authorities – of a peace-building and peace-keeping mission to the whole territory;

    24.  Reiterates the need for a strategic refocus on the Western Balkans, recognising that the EU should follow through with its ambitions in the region, as doing so would give a fresh impetus to a credible EU enlargement policy based on the Copenhagen criteria, and strengthen the rule of law and the resilience of state institutions; believes that the stability of the Western Balkans must continue to be a major priority; calls for more efforts in improving the socio-economic and political conditions of the region; is convinced that European integration and regional reconciliation are the best means to address the dangers stemming from destabilising foreign interference and influences, the funding of large Salafist and Wahhabi networks and the recruitment of foreign fighters, organised crime, major state disputes, disinformation and hybrid threats; stresses the need to remain dedicated to fostering highly effective political societies in the region;

    25.  Reiterates that once all those criteria have been met, the doors of the EU are open for membership; welcomes recent efforts undertaken as part of the Berlin Process and Trieste Summit to give additional impetus to the convergence of Western Balkan countries towards EU membership; reiterates that special attention and support should be given to the implementation of crucial institutional and political reforms in the Western Balkans and calls on the Commission to rethink the possibility for additional allocation of financial resources for the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA), as one of the most important tools for aiding the implementation of those reforms;

    26.  Recalls that the review of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) calls for the involvement of neighbouring third countries; calls for stronger support for the neighbours of our neighbours, on the basis of shared values and interests, in order to tackle global issues and address common challenges; highlights the need to promote the empowerment and protection of women, vulnerable social groups and minorities, in particular in Africa, where close cooperation between European and local SMEs, in partnership with civil society, and where support for building democratic, transparent and effective institutions and the promotion of a rule-based global order, are needed;

    27.  Considers international cooperation and development policies to be fundamental instruments for achieving such objectives and urges a more transparent, improved, efficient and effective allocation and use of EU funding, and greater synergies with other international organisations; emphasises the need to address the major security threats in Africa with a view to eradicating the terrorist threat posed by any terrorist group, to guarantee the prevention of the recruitment of individuals, to combat radical ideologies and to address energy security by means of environmentally friendly and sustainable energy sources while at the same time promoting off-grid solutions;

    28.  Strongly condemns any attempt by incumbent presidents to overstay in power by violating, evading or unlawfully amending electoral laws, and constitutions in particular; condemns, by the same token, any strategy to abolish or circumvent term limits; urges all governments to take measures to ensure the transparency and integrity of the entire electoral process, and to take all necessary measures and precautions to prevent the perpetration of fraud or any illegal practices; expresses its concern, in this regard, about the political crises, and related violence and violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, in particular in countries in the Great Lakes Region; reiterates its belief in strong electoral observation missions, and, where necessary, financial, technical and logistical support as a means of achieving fair, credible and democratic electoral processes;

    29.  Encourages the development of a coherent, robust strategy for the Sahel region aimed at improving governance and the accountability and legitimacy of state and regional institutions, at boosting security, at tackling radicalisation and the trafficking of people, arms and drugs, and at strengthening economic and development policies;

    30.  Reiterates the need for an updated strategy for EU-Asia relations; voices support in this context for stronger cooperation within the framework of the Asia-Europe Meetings, including in terms of its parliamentary dimension; encourages support for closer regional cooperation and trust-building measures in South Asia with a view to reducing tensions between India and Pakistan; recommends continued support for EU peace mediation in the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process; stresses that preserving peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region is of substantial interest to the EU and its Member States; considers it vital and of great urgency to develop an updated EU strategy for the North-East Asia region in the light of the continued military build-up and the aggressive and irresponsible attitude shown by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK); condemns the tests and provocations by the DPRK, and its multiple violations of UN Security Council resolutions and international obligations; urges the EU’s diplomatic power to be used to apply pressure on the DPRK to persuade its leaders to abandon weapons of mass destruction; calls for the mobilisation of all diplomatic tools, including sanctions, in order to prevent an escalation of this crisis; calls for the irreversible denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula by peaceful means and for the full implementation of all relevant UN Security Council resolutions;

    31.  Stresses that preserving peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region is of substantial interest to the EU and its Member States; calls on all the parties concerned to resolve differences through peaceful means and to refrain from taking unilateral action to change the status quo, including in the East and South China Seas and the Taiwan Strait, in order to safeguard regional security; reiterates its commitment to supporting Taiwan’s meaningful participation in international organisations and activities;

    32.  Recalls that Latin America shares with the EU common values, principles and trust in effective multilateralism and believes that the EU-Latin American partnership is important and should be strengthened in order to jointly address major global challenges; expresses its grave concern about the attacks carried out against members of the judiciary and the democratically elected opposition and civil society leaders in Venezuela; emphasises that respect for the rule of law, the fight against corruption, progress towards democracy, and fundamental freedoms and human rights are cornerstones for deeper integration and cooperation with Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC);

    33.  Reiterates its support for the peace process in Colombia, which is critical for the future of Colombians and for stabilisation in the region; demands that all FARC assets, including the treasure obtained from drug smuggling, be used to indemnify victims of the conflict;

    Consolidation and deepening of the European project through enhanced EU capabilities

    34.  Urges the Commission, the EEAS and the Member States to adopt an EU comprehensive approach at every relevant opportunity, and believes that coherent, coordinated action across EU polices, while taking into consideration and implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals, in particular in the areas of humanitarian aid, agriculture, development, trade, energy, climate, science and cyber defence and security, should be applied in the EU’s external action in a consistent and structured manner in order to harness the EU’s collective force; believes that energy security, the respect for human rights and climate diplomacy remain important complementary aspects of the EU’s common foreign and security policy to be addressed as part of the comprehensive approach, and that the Energy Union should be further advanced;

    35.  Recognises that climate change could have a serious effect on regional and global stability, as global warming disputes over territory, food, water and other resources weaken economies, threaten regional security, and act as a source of migratory flows; further encourages the EU and its Member States to consider how national and EU military planning can include climate change adaption strategies and what would be considered an appropriate capability, priority and response;

    36.  Stresses that the future of European defence cooperation is significantly affected by the decision of the United Kingdom to withdraw from the EU, and calls for the continued engagement of the EU and UK as major international partners in order to maintain European security; stresses that the presidential elections in the United States introduced uncertainty into the transatlantic partnership and highlights the need for a counterweight for EU defence and the establishment of strategic autonomy;

    37.  Takes the view, that in order to make the Common Foreign and Security policy more assertive, effective and values-based, the EU should enhance its energy security, by immediately reducing its dependence, at present, on oil and gas supplied by authoritarian regimes, and by stopping it altogether in the medium term;

    38.  Stresses that the current decision-making process for the CFSP, based on unanimity in the Council of the EU, is the main obstacle to effective and timely external EU action; is of the opinion that qualified majority voting should also be applied for the CFSP; takes the view that the EU institutions must improve their ability to anticipate conflicts and crises, including by means of short- and long-term impact assessments of its policies, in order to address the root causes of the problems; believes that the EU needs to be able to react more swiftly and effectively to developing crises and should place greater emphasis on preventing conflicts by primarily using civilian tools at an early stage; calls on the Member States to put into practice Parliament’s recommendations to embrace the principle of Responsibility to Protect; stresses the need to deepen cooperation between the Member States, partner countries and international organisations, and underlines the importance of an effective exchange of information and coordination of preventive actions;

    39.  Calls on the VP/HR, the Commission and the Member States to step up their efforts to increase the EU’s ability to confront hybrid and cyber threats, to further strengthen the capacity of the EU and its partner countries to fight fake news and disinformation, to draw up clear criteria to facilitate the detection of fake news, to allocate more resources and turn the Stratcom task force into a fully-fledged unit within the EEAS; calls, in this regard, for the development of joint, comprehensive risk and vulnerability analysis capacities and methods, and for the EU’s resilience and strategic communication capabilities to be bolstered; stresses the role of independent media – both on- and offline – in promoting cultural diversity and intercultural competences, and the need to strengthen such media as a source of credible information, especially in the EU and its neighbourhood, and underlines that common EU TV and radio stations should be further enhanced; calls on the Commission to coordinate better with the EEAS and Member States on those issues;

    40.  Is of the view that Europe’s power resides in its ability to strengthen a community of values and respect for the diversity of culture that binds together all Europeans; believes, in this context, that the EU plays a major role as a promoter of democracy, freedom, the rule of law, human rights and equal opportunities, and should continue to promote its values outside the EU; recalls that human rights are an integral part of the CFSP and should form a central conditionality of external policies, and furthermore that these policies must be consistent and principled; highlights that cultural diplomacy should become a substantial part of the EU’s external action and urges the Commission to expand the Erasmus+ programme and foster the development of ambitious science diplomacy; calls for closer coordination with ​the ​UNESCO and World Heritage Committee and with non-state actors and civil society organisations as key partners of the EU;

    41.  Points out that it was noted in UN Security Council Resolution 1820(2008) of 19 June 2008 that rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute a war crime, a crime against humanity, or a constitutive act with respect to genocide, and that women must be afforded humanitarian protection in situations of armed conflict;

    42.  Considers that the development of a strong defence industry is strengthening the technological independence of the EU; calls for the industrial and technological resources needed to improve cybersecurity to be developed, including through the promotion of a single market for cybersecurity products; calls for significantly increased financial and human resources to be made available within the EU institutions in order to increase the EU’s cyber security and cyber defence capacity; emphasises the need to mainstream cyber defence into external action and common foreign and security policy, as well as the need for an improved ability to identify cybercrime;

    43.  Notes that information and cyber warfare, targeting EU Member States and other Western countries, is a deliberate attempt to destabilise and discredit political, economic and social structures; recalls that the security of EU Member States which are NATO members is guaranteed under Article 5 of the Alliance; calls for closer coordination on cyber defence between EU Member States, EU institutions, NATO, the United States and other credible partners;

    44.  Stresses the role of independent media in promoting cultural diversity and intercultural competences, and the need to strengthen such media as a source of credible information, especially in the EU and its neighbourhood, and to further strengthen the EU’s capacity to fight fake news and disinformation; highlights in this context the need to develop stronger resilience at EU level against such information spread over the Internet; calls on the Commission to coordinate better with the EEAS on those issues;

    45.  Believes that Europe should further strengthen cooperation on common defence, in order to defend its common values and principles and strategic autonomy; stresses the importance of the link between external and internal security, better use of resources and risk control in the periphery of Europe; recalls that the link between development and security is a key principle underpinning the Union’s approach to external crises and conflicts; calls on the Member States to unleash the Lisbon Treaty’s full potential with regard to the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) and welcomes in this context the Implementation Plan on Security and Defence; encourages a review of the EU’s approach to civilian CSDP missions in order to ensure they are properly devised, implemented and supported; considers that European Defence Agency (EDA) capabilities and permanent structured cooperation (PESCO) and the EU Battlegroups should be used to their full potential; urges the Member States to provide additional funding to that end;

    46.  Believes that the European Union and its Member States must develop effective foreign and security policy, and must work together with NATO and other international partners, the UN, NGOs, human rights defenders, and others on issues of shared concern and in order to promote peace, prosperity and stability around the world; highlights the importance of raising awareness and political commitment for an urgent implementation of an ambitious, effective and structured CSDP; urges the Council, the Commission and the Member States to address the EU’s communication problems by making EU external action more accountable and visible; calls on the Member States and the EU institutions to deliver on defence following the EU Global Strategy and the Commission’s plans to improve EU defence research and capability development;

    47.  Calls on the Commission to fully reflect the growing security challenges in its proposal for the next multiannual financial framework (MFF); considers that both the size and the flexibility of the CFSP budget must match EU citizens’ expectations about the EU’s role as a security provider; insists on the need for a global vision for EU policy and instruments in the field of security, including fruitful coordination with the proposed European Defence Fund; calls on the Member States to aim for the target of spending 2 % of GDP on defence, and to spend 20 % of their defence budgets on equipment identified as necessary by the EDA; points out, in addition, that any new policy must be backed by funding from new sources; notes that various Member States have difficulty in maintaining a very broad range of fully operational defensive capabilities, mostly because of financial constraints; calls for more cooperation and coordination, therefore, about which capabilities should be maintained, so that Member States can specialise in certain capabilities and spend their resources more efficiently; believes that interoperability is key if Member States’ forces are to be more compatible and integrated; recalls that CFSP appropriations represented 3.6 % of the Heading 4 commitments in 2016 and 0.2 % of the whole EU budget; regrets that the size and under-implementation of and systematic transfers from the CFSP chapter reveal a persistent lack of ambition for the EU to act as a global player;

    48.  Notes that deadlocks within the UN Security Council are impeding action by the international community and preventing crisis resolution; calls once again on the Member States to support reforms in the composition and functioning of the Security Council;

    Cooperation within coalitions and with institutions delivering security

    49.  Underlines that it is in the EU’s strategic interest to preserve and deepen its transatlantic relations based on respect for common values, international law and multilateralism; calls for the EU to continue to develop its strategic autonomy and create its own capabilities to better address regional and international conflicts that have an impact on the EU; believes that the EU and US should focus on adapting transatlantic structures to today’s challenges, such as defending human rights, tackling climate change, combating international terrorism and corruption, the prevention of radicalisation, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and countering third-party countries’ efforts to destabilise the EU and NATO; further stresses the importance of continued and reinforced cooperation between the EU and US bilaterally and through NATO on common issues; recalls that the EU and the US are each other’s most important partners and that unilateral moves serve only to weaken the transatlantic partnership; believes that Europe must further enhance a virtuous alliance between the private and public sectors and should reinforce the strategic relationship with the US; calls on the Council and the EEAS to consistently raise the issue of US extraterritorial sanctions in their dialogue with the US Government;

    50.  Strongly supports the 2016 Warsaw Summit Declaration, particularly on EU-NATO cooperation, and welcomes decisions on closer cooperation between NATO and the EU in numerous areas as well as the placement of US, Canadian and other multinational forces at the Eastern flank of the EU;

    51.  Calls for increased intelligence sharing between Member States, increased interinstitutional intelligence sharing, and coordination between the EU, Member States and NATO, and insists that they must continue to cooperate as closely as possible in a complementary manner while fully respecting European core values and norms; acknowledges that information sharing and coordinated action between the EU, its Member States and NATO will produce results in areas such as terrorism response to hybrid threats, situational awareness, resilience building, strategic communications, cyber security and capacity-building vis-à-vis the EU’s partners; believes that further coordination and closer cooperation with other existing multilateral entities such as Eurocorps is needed in order to increase the EU’s security; reiterates that a revitalisation of the strategic partnerships should be a priority for the EU;

    52.  Underlines the role of Parliament in shaping a genuinely common foreign policy in line with the expectations of European citizens; calls on the Council to act in concert with Parliament during the main phases of foreign policy decision-making;

    53.  Acknowledges the work of the VP/HR and calls for her to continue to ensure that future annual reports will be more concise and forward-looking, focusing on the most important priorities for the year ahead and an evaluation of the measures launched in the previous year, including their financial implications, in order to provide a comprehensive overview on the EU’s performance;

    °

    °  °

    54.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and the Member States.

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  • Differing Views on How to Preserve Stability amid Existential Threats, as General Debate Considers Security, Human Rights, International Law

    Small Island States Concerned about Access to Financial Markets, Illegal Fishing

    Security, human rights and international law took centre stage at the General Assembly today, with States diverging over how best to preserve their stability in the face of existential threats, as the 193-member body entered the fifth day of its annual high-level debate.

    Despite broad agreement that terrorism and organized crime menaced the safety of civilians around the globe, opinions were split over how to combat such threats.  Some speakers underlined the primacy of human rights and others spotlighted security and the rule of law as the most pressing concerns.  Meanwhile, nearly all delegations stood united in condemning the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s recent nuclear and ballistic missile tests as flagrant violations of international law, an allegation that the country’s Foreign Minister denied.

    Ri Yong Ho, Foreign Minister of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, underlined his country’s right to self-defence under the United Nations Charter, saying article 10 of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons stated that the supreme interests of States stood above nuclear non-proliferation.  He described claims that Pyongyang’s possession of a hydrogen bomb and intercontinental ballistic missiles constituted a global threat as lies akin to those told by the United States in 2003 about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

    Pointing out that the United States had been the first country to produce and use nuclear weapons, he said that country had also been the first to introduce them to the Korean Peninsula after the Korean War.  It was for those reasons that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was compelled to possess nuclear weapons, he explained.  “The possession of nuclear deterrence by the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] is a righteous self-defensive measure” intended to establish a balance of power with the United States, he continued.  That country and its followers would now have to “think twice” before launching a military provocation.

    Walid al-Moualem, Syria’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, expressed optimism about the de-escalation zones resulting from the Astana process, saying that pledges to join it by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and Al-Nusrah would be the true test of their commitment and that of their Turkish sponsors.  He also reaffirmed Syria’s commitment to the Geneva process, while pointing out that it had yet to bear fruit in the absence of a national opposition that could be a partner in Syria’s future.  Influential countries, including permanent Security Council members, had blocked any meaningful progress in Geneva, he added.

    He said those behind the war had falsely accused the Government of Syria of using chemical weapons, yet the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had confirmed the elimination of its chemical weapons programme.  Such claims were a pretext for continued aggression against Syria, he said, noting that the “so-called” international coalition led by the United States and allegedly created to fight ISIL, had in fact killed many more Syrian women and children while destroying vital infrastructure.  It had also used phosphorous bombs and other internationally prohibited weapons, he added.

    Sushma Swaraj, India’s External Affairs Minister, referred to the dispute between her country and Pakistan over Jammu and Kashmir, saying the latter had forgotten that under the Shimla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration, they had agreed to settle

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  • Sudan has ‘turned the page’ on conflicts, Foreign Minister tells UN Assembly

    23 September 2017 &#150 Addressing the United Nations General Assembly’s annual general debate, Ibrahim Ahmed Abd al-Aziz Ghandour, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sudan, said his country has “turned the page” on conflicts and has embarked on an era of peace and stability, including through the establishment of a unity Government that includes members of former armed groups.

    Expressing the hope that the international community, including the UN Peacebuilding Fund and the World Bank, would support the Government’s ongoing efforts carry out the national dialogue, he said, and also encouraged the remaining armed groups to join this quest for peace.

    Recalling that the Government had extended its unilateral ceasefire until October, he expressed Sudan’s deep concern at the lack of strict action by relevant UN entities and the international community vis-à-vis rebel groups operating from Libya and South Sudan.

    He went on to say that Sudan opposed the politicization of international justice and considered the International Criminal Court to be an organization that manipulated the law for political objectives.

    The Sudanese Foreign Minister emphasized the Government’s efforts to fight terrorism, human trafficking, drug trafficking and cybercrime, as well as its assistance to three million refugees from neighbouring countries and beyond. On a recent visit, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees commended Sudan for opening its borders when others were closing theirs.

    Sudan was committed to working with the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) and the African Union towards peace and security in South Sudan and to help address the humanitarian crisis there. Having met all technical conditions, Sudan looked forward to having its outstanding foreign debt forgiven, in line with the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative, he said.

    Full statement (in Arabic) available here

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  • Press Conference by Secretary-General António Guterres at United Nations Headquarters

    Following is a transcript of UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ press conference, held in New York today:

    Ladies and gentlemen of the media, thank you very much for your presence.  It’s good to meet all of you once again.  We have a very busy week ahead.  Global leaders will gather here next week at a time when our world faces major threats — from the nuclear peril to global terrorism, from inequality to cybercrime.  Hurricanes and floods around the world remind us that extreme weather events are expected to become more frequent and severe, due to climate change.

    No country can meet these tests alone.  But, if we work together, we can chart a safer, more stable course.  And that is why the General Assembly meeting is so important.

    Today, I want to mention two issues at the top of global concerns — and two reform initiatives.  First, the situation in Myanmar.  Grievances that have been left to fester for decades have now escalated beyond Myanmar’s borders, destabilizing the region.  The humanitarian situation is catastrophic.  When we met last week, there were 125,000 Rohingya refugees who had fled into Bangladesh.  That number has now tripled to nearly 380,000.  Many are staying in makeshift settlements or with host communities who are generously sharing what they have.  Women and children are arriving hungry and malnourished.

    I urge all countries to do what they can for humanitarian assistance to be provided.  As you know, I wrote an official letter to the Security Council to express my concern.  I welcome the Council’s decision to discuss this crisis today.  I have condemned the attacks made by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army in Rakhine State, but there have been disturbing reports of attacks by security forces against civilians, which are completely unacceptable.  Aid activities by UN agencies and international non-governmental organizations have been severely disrupted.

    I call on the Myanmar authorities to suspend military action, end the violence, uphold the rule of law, and recognize the right of return of all those who had to leave the country.  I urge them to ensure the delivery of vital humanitarian aid by United Nations agencies, non-governmental organizations and others.

    I repeat my call for an effective action plan to address the root causes of the crisis.  The Muslims of Rakhine State must be granted nationality or, at least for now, a legal status that allows them to lead a normal life, including freedom of movement and access to labour markets, education and health services.

    Turning now to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  The nuclear and missile tests by the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] have created great instability and tension on the Korean Peninsula, throughout the region and beyond.  Unity in the Security Council is critical.  This week’s unanimous adoption of a new resolution sends a clear message that the DPRK must comply fully with its international obligations.

    I call on all Member States to ensure the full implementation of this and other relevant Security Council resolutions.  But, Security Council unity also creates an opportunity for diplomatic engagement — an opportunity that must be seized.  The solution can only be political.  Military action could cause devastation on a scale that would take generations to overcome.

    I would also like to announce two new initiatives to strengthen the work of the United Nations that are part of my broader reform agenda.  When I took office, I called for a surge in diplomacy for peace.  Since then, I have increased my own engagement and worked to improve our institutional capacity to conduct mediation.  As part of this effort, I am announcing today the establishment of a new high‑level advisory board on mediation.

    The Board is made up of 18 internationally recognized personalities who bring experience and skills, deep knowledge and extensive contacts to this extremely important task.   The names will be distributed to all of you.  I will look to the Board to provide me with advice and to back specific mediation efforts.  I am confident they will help us to collaborate more effectively with regional organizations, non-governmental groups and others involved in mediation around the world.

    Today, I am also launching my gender parity strategy for the United Nations.  This road map fulfils an urgent need, a moral duty, an operational necessity — and a personal priority.

    The strategy now completed aims to achieve parity at senior levels by 2021, and across the board by 2028.  I have already started to do my part.  Since January, over half of my appointments to the Senior Management Group have been women — a total of 17 women and 15 men so far, including both appointments and renewal of mandates.  There is a large majority of men in the present mandates, which means that in the new appointments, the high percentage of women is even higher.

    But, more than statistics, we will need to change our own attitudes and approaches.  We must lead by example on gender equality and women’s empowerment, which is one of the greatest human rights challenges and opportunities in our world.

    Finally, I know the headline crises rightly fill our screens and working agendas every day.  But I want to shine a spotlight on an under-reported emergency.  In the Central African Republic, we have seen a 37 per cent increase in refugees and displaced people in just the last three months.  This is grave cause for concern in a country where more than half the population are in dire need of assistance.  I hope global leaders will give this crisis their attention during their talks next week.

    I would also like to highlight that when we do act together, we can achieve results.  The international humanitarian system sounded the alarm earlier this year about the threat of famine in Somalia, Yemen, South Sudan and northern Nigeria.  I remember this was my first press conference in this room.

    Despite serious food insecurity in these countries, which has tragic consequences, famine as such has so far been kept at bay — thanks to coordinated efforts by Governments, non-governmental organizations, donors and the United Nations system.  I want to express my deep appreciation to the work of all my colleagues in the UN humanitarian agencies.  You, the media, have also played a very important part.

    Some 13 million people in these four countries are receiving life-saving aid each month.  We must continue to meet the needs of all those who look to us for support.  But, this is a reminder that when we act together as united nations, we can make a meaningful difference in people’s lives.

    Thank you very much for your attention, and now, of course, I will be able to take your questions.

    **Questions & Answers

    Spokesman:  Sherwin.

    Question:  Secretary‑General, good to see you.  Thanks for this briefing.  And, on behalf of the UN Correspondents Association, good luck for your first UNGA [United Nations General Assembly] as chief of the United Nations, and have a lot of hand sanitizer on standby.  My question is…

    Secretary-General:  I don’t need to sanitize.

    Question:  Lots of handshakes.  Let me quote you your words last week: “I am totally committed to the reform of the UN to make it more effective, more nimble, more able to respond, for people to feel that the UN is working for them.”  Do you believe, Secretary‑General, that, given the mass exodus of the Rohingya that we’re seeing across the border of Myanmar and Bangladesh that the United Nations has lived up to your words, or is the reputation of the United Nations again being sacrificed at the altar of the Security Council, given its ineffective response to date?

    Secretary-General:  I think there are three dimensions on this.  One dimension is the action of the Secretary‑General, the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the other officials that have been, very clearly, living what I believe is necessary in order to make the Myanmar authorities find a way to address the dramatic situation that exists, and as I mentioned, take the necessary measures.  On the other hand, it’s important to recognize the huge effort of UN agencies and other non‑governmental organizations supporting the refugees in Bangladesh in extremely difficult circumstances, you can imagine, with this massive flow.  Unfortunately, we are not allowed to do the same inside Rakhine State at the present moment and [that is] one of the reasons of my appeal.  On the other hand, I wrote an official letter to the Security Council.  I don’t know if you are aware, but the last official letter sent by the Secretary‑General to the Security Council on an issue was in 1989 about Lebanon, which means that this was a very important commitment from my side to ask the attention of the Security Council.  And I’m happy the Security Council has introduced it in today’s discussion, and I hope the Security Council will be able to have a very clear message in relation to the situation in Myanmar.

    Spokesman:  James.

    Question:  Secretary‑General, James Bays from Al Jazeera.  I asked you this question last week, and it’s about how you term the violence that’s being carried out right now in Myanmar.  Your High Commissioner for Human Rights said it seems to be a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.  Given the situation has gotten so much worse in the last week, do you believe this is ethnic cleansing?

    Secretary-General:  Well, I would answer your question with another question.  When one third of the Rohingya population had to flee the country, can you find a better word to describe it?

    Spokesman:  Edie, then Majeed.

    Question:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary‑General.  I’ll do just two follow‑ups, one on… one on North Korea and one on Myanmar.  On Myanmar, the Security Council has, so far, failed to agree on any kind of a statement.  Your letter was, of course, exceedingly important.  Are you prepared to follow up your letter by invoking Article 99, which says, and I quote, “the Secretary‑General may bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which, in his opinion, may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security”?  And, on the DPRK, diplomats tell me that you’ve been on the phone constantly trying to work on ways to resolve this crisis.  Russia’s UN Ambassador said after the vote that the United States’ unwillingness to include the idea of having you use your good offices to resolve the dispute “gives rise to very serious questions in our minds”.  So, I wonder if you could respond to that, and could you give us an update on your contacts and whether you’ve made any headway and what you’re planning as a follow‑up during the GA?

    Secretary-General:  Well, first of all, I didn’t invoke formally Article 99, but what I did was exactly to draw the attention of the Security Council for the situation, and I’ve done it officially.  And I invoked the regional destabilization — that it is taking place.  I think we sometimes give too much importance to the formalities.  I think the substance is what matters, and I think the substance here was clear.  And I hope that the Security Council will, indeed, have a meaningful discussion.  And I had the opportunity to brief the Security Council again yesterday during our monthly lunch.  So, it’s a matter that I’m following with a lot of interest and a lot of personal commitment.  I visited Rakhine State many times in the past in my past capacity, and this is a matter that I feel very deeply in my heart.  The suffering of the people is something that… I mean, I feel very, very strongly.  In relation to the good offices of the Secretary‑General, the good offices of the Secretary‑General can only be implemented when there is a consensus in the Security Council about the need to use them.  That consensus was not yet reached or not reached.  So, of course, I am available.  I am ready to do whatever is considered necessary.  But, one thing it is clear; a mediation can only take place when the parties to a conflict all want that mediation to occur.

    Spokesman:  Majeed.

    Question:  Mr. Secretary‑General, this is Majeed Nizamuddin Gly of Rudaw Media Network.  My question is about… about the Kurds.  A nation that has been living under occupation, oppression and genocide ever since colonial Powers made a choice for them and forced them into modern Iraq.  Now for the first time in modern history on 25 September during UNGA, the Kurds want to exercise their right of self‑determination.  Just like Saddam Hussein, some politicians in Baghdad just yesterday threatened the Kurds with bloody civil war and military campaign in response to that referendum.  My question is, don’t you think the Kurds, like any other nation, have the… have the right of self‑determination, a right that’s enshrined in the UN Charter?  Thank you.

    Secretary-General:  I don’t subscribe to many of the comments that you made in describing the situation.  But, let me be very clear on one thing.  Iraq is facing an extremely decisive moment in its history.  Iraq was victim of a dramatic attack of Da’esh that occupied large chunks of the country, and it has been slowly reoccupying its territory, which is not yet completed.  At the same time, we are deeply concerned with the need for an effective reconciliation of the different communities in Iraq.  So, our advice at the present moment is for an enhanced dialogue, mainly between Erbil and Baghdad, to come to an understanding on the near future.  And I would hope that unilateral decisions from one side or another would not undermine the belief I have that this is a very sensitive moment in Iraq and that we need to do everything possible to the benefit of the Iraqi people in its entirety, including, of course, the Kurdish population, to which I have a lot of personal sympathy.  I visited Kurdistan many times.  I’ve relations with many of the Kurdish leaders.  I understand their concerns.  But, my appeal is at the present moment for dialogue between Erbil and Baghdad to make sure that we are able to stabilize a situation that is still extremely fragile.

    Spokesman:  Michelle.

    Question:  Thanks, Secretary‑General.  Just a follow‑up on Myanmar.  How… sorry.  How concerned are you that there’s a risk of genocide taking place in Myanmar?  Have you spoken with Aung San Suu Kyi since you last spoke to her on Wednesday?  And with regard to your mediation board, which crisis tops the list for them?

    Secretary-General:  Sorry?

    Question:  Which crisis tops the list for your mediation board?

    Secretary-General:  First, in relation to Myanmar, yes, I’ve spoken several times with Aung San Suu Kyi.  And I believe that we are facing a very dramatic situation, and that is the reason why I appealed to the Security Council to seriously consider the situation and…

    Question:  [Inaudible]?

    Secretary-General:  Again, we can… the question here is not to establish a dialogue on the different kinds of technical words that have different meanings.  I think the question is to say, this is a dramatic tragedy.  People are dying and suffering at horrible numbers, and we need to stop it.  That is my main concern.  And in relation to the mediation efforts, if I would have to consider a priority situation in which I believe progress can be made in the short term, even if many others, of course, deserve our attention, but if you ask me to choose this situation, which I believe progress can be made in the short term, and correspond for us undoubtedly to a very important priority, I would select Libya.  I think there is an opportunity in Libya, and I appeal for all countries that have an influence in Libya, and I appeal for all Libyans to seize this opportunity and to be able to overcome the divisions and move in the direction of a solution.  And my Special Representative is working very hard.  We will have again an important moment here during the General Assembly to bring together all people involved, and I think there is an opportunity for peace and stability in Libya.

    Spokesman:  Somini, on the right.

    Question:  Thank you.  Secretary‑General, do you plan to meet with [United States] President [Donald] Trump? What will be your message to him on a couple of specific things that you’ve alluded to — firstly, North Korea, secondly, Myanmar, and thirdly, climate change, which you’ve also spoken to in the past?

    Secretary-General:  Well, first, I plan to meet with President Trump.  I don’t plan to tell him about North Korea or Myanmar anything different from what I told you.  I think we need to be able to tell the same thing to everybody that we meet about every issue, because, if not, we will not be credible.  And in relation to climate change, my position is very clear.  I do believe climate change is a serious threat.  I do believe recent events have proven it again.  I do believe that the Paris Agreement is something that must be implemented by the international community and with an enhanced ambition.  And I do believe that the green economy is not only necessary to rescue the planet, it is also the smart way to look into development at the present moment.

    Spokesman:  Iftikhar.

    Secretary-General:  But, this is not new.  I’ve said it many times.

    Question:  Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary‑General.  Iftikhar Ali from Associated Press of Pakistan.  I originally wanted to ask you about Myanmar, but I now go to the lingering crisis that is Afghanistan, a country about which you have deep knowledge.  The UN, sir, has a large presence in Afghanistan to promote peace and stability, but the… under the new United States policy, more troops are being sent to Afghanistan to bring about a military solution.  Sir, do you think there is a military solution to the crisis in Afghanistan?

    Secretary-General:  I don’t think there is a military solution to the crisis in Afghanistan, as I don’t think there is a military solution for practically any crisis in the world.  I believe it is important in Afghanistan to invest in the conditions to create a political solution.  I believe that is possible.  I believe that means the engagement in dialogue with the relevant parties, and I think that, even when the United States have announced their surge, they were also saying that they believe a political solution is necessary.  So, it is clear for me that, independently of short‑term measures that might be taken, the political solution is the long‑term road that we need all to move on.

    Spokesman:  Apostolos.

    Correspondent:  Apostolos Zoupaniotis, Cyprus News Agency.  Mr. Secretary‑General…

    Spokesman:  Sorry, Apostolos, wave to us, please.  There he is.

    Secretary-General:  Yes, yes, yes.

    Question:  Mr. Secretary‑General, on 6 July, you decided to close in Crans‑Montana, Switzerland, the Cyprus conference, a conference that you have described previously as open‑ended.  What prerequisite is… right now you place in order to continue your good offices mission and your initiative?  And also, when are you planning to issue your good offices report on Cyprus?

    Secretary-General:  It’s very simple.  I plan to use my good offices as soon as the parties are in agreement for those good offices to be put in place.  And the report, I hope it will be presented… we are still working on it.  I hope we will be presenting it probably end of this month, beginning of next month, after the high‑level session, which, as you can imagine, we are all completely overwhelmed.  But, it is to come soon.

    Spokesman:  Carole, AFP.

    Question:  Mr. Secretary‑General, clearly, the most watched leader next week at the UN will be Donald Trump.  Can you tell me, how do you think he’s going to be received at the UN given his policies, his statements on the Organization, his remarks?  And is there anything he might say that… that you hope he might… that you’re hopeful that he might say?

    Secretary-General:  Well, I think that all the efforts I’ve been making until now are in the direction of trying to create conditions for the relationship between the United States and the United Nations to be a constructive relationship.  And I hope that that will also be the message of President Trump, and I hope that, if that is the message that will be conveyed, that that message will be well received.

    Spokesman:  Abdelhamid.

    Question:  Thank you, Secretary‑General.  Abdelhamid Siyam from the Arabic daily Al‑Quds al‑Arabi, based in London.  I wish this press conference will extend for two hours to ask about Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, but my question would be about Palestine.  You just visited the area, sir.  First, do you think there… truly there are enough land to establish an independent continuant, sovereign, viable Palestinian state?  That’s one question.  The second, you have been requested to treat Israel as a normal State, and your Spokesman said so:  Israel needs to be treated as just a normal State.  Is there any country in the world that has been in violation of Security Council resolution and General Assembly resolution, Human Right Council, ICJ [International Court of Justice] as much as Israel?  Thank you very much.

    Secretary-General:  Well, what I said, first of all, is that I believe the two‑State solution is a must, that there is no Plan B to the two‑State solution.  And obviously, for the two‑State solution to be possible, we need to have a territory adequate for both States.  And that is the reason why we have taken a very clear position in relation to the settlement activity that you know.  Second, I never used the word “normal”.  What I said is that Israel needs to be treated with the same rights and obligations as any other State.  And that, I think, is true for Israel or for any other State that does whatever is done.  There are rules that need to be abided by.  And of course, if they are not, they should… the non‑implementation of rules should be clearly denounced and condemned.  But, all States, as I said, must have the same obligations and the same rights.  And this, I think, is unquestionable.  I didn’t make any comment of the characteristics of the State.

    Spokesman:  The young lady at the end of the fourth row there, you.  Go ahead.

    Question:  Veronica Figueroa para 24 Colombia; Mr. Secretary-General

    Secretary-GeneralPuede hablar en español

    QuestionEl Presidente colombiano va a venir la semana que viene y acaba de pedir otra misión de acompañamiento para el cese al fuego con el ELN.  ¿Están las Naciones Unidas preparadas para acompañar a Colombia en un proceso, si necesitan hacerlo?  Y también viene el Ministro de relaciones exteriores venezolano.  ¿Esta Asamblea va a dictar la posición de las Naciones Unidas en la situación de derechos humanos en Venezuela?

    Secretary-GeneralCon total sinceridad, hay que decir que las noticias de Colombia son las mejores noticias que tenemos en el mundo y estamos muy entusiasmados con el acuerdo de cese al fuego entre el ELN y el Gobierno colombiano.  Naturalmente, de acuerdo con lo que será necesario y las discusiones que se están haciendo, estamos no solamente preparados pero muy interesados en ayudar concretizar el éxito de este cese al fuego.  Y naturalmente, en relación con Venezuela, pensamos que… van a empezar de nuevo las negociaciones entre el Gobierno y la oposición — y yo estuvo en contacto muy estrecho durante todo este tiempo con el Presidente Zapatero en relación con esto — y hicimos ayer, yo creo, una nueva declaración apoyando a esas negociaciones.  Creemos que una solución política con el acuerdo de las dos partes es absolutamente necesaria para salvaguardar la democracia y los derechos humanos en Venezuela.

    Spokesman:  Nizar.

    Question:  Thank you.  Nizar Abboud of Al‑Mayadeen Television in Lebanon.  My question is regarding Yemen.  Yemen, of course, the… cholera is very… is getting out of control, more than 600,000, as you well know.  And the rate of increase is 5,000 or more a day.  When… do you think that the United Nations should tell the Coalition, which is carrying out that attack against Yemen continuously, enough is enough?  And what else can the United Nations do to alleviate the suffering of Yemenis?

    Secretary-General:  What we are doing at the present moment, exactly in relation to that concern, through our Special Representative, is to try to negotiate an agreement allowing for both the harbour of Hudaydah and the airport of Sana’a to be open to allow for the humanitarian aid that is absolutely crucial to be able to reach the populations in distress.  And the humanitarian situation in Yemen is, as you know, catastrophic.  So, we are totally committed to try to reach an agreement with the parties to make it possible to have full and effective access for humanitarian aid, which will be absolutely crucial also in relation to the cholera.  There are other aspects that he is engaged in, but these two are the most important.  But, we also believe that this should be confidence‑building measures to allow to restart effective political negotiations to put an end to this conflict that is one of the bloodiest and most dramatic conflicts of our time.

    Question:  Sorry, just a quick follow‑up.  Do you believe that the Coalition is… can really conduct an investigation on… on slaughter in Yemen?  Or this… should this be done by International Tribunals or any independent…?

    Spokesman:  As you know, there are initiatives in the context of the Human Rights Council that are taking place.  Independently of that, any party to any conflict can conduct its own initiatives.  But, as you know, there is exactly an initiative of this sort at the present moment in the Human Rights Council.

    Spokesman:  Benny Avni.

    Question:  Mr. Secretary‑General, Benny Avni of the New York Post.  So, to follow up on Abdelhamid question, in your visit to Ramallah, you didn’t meet President [Mahmoud] Abbas.  Could you explain why?  And he was a… I believe it was reported you met [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan that day.  And also, on Trump, there will be a lot of pressure on you from different quarters, including in the United States, to confront him directly on several political issues that were mentioned here.  Will that be your style, or are you going to be a little more… a little less confrontational?

    Secretary-General:  First of all, the reason is very simple.  I mean, I had the opportunity to meet the Prime Minister and a number of very relevant high officials of the Palestinian Authority.  The visit went very well.  And so, I understand that, for reasons that have to do with the questions of unity between West Bank and Gaza, the visit of President Abbas to Turkey was absolutely crucial.  And I respected, of course, that choice.  There was no diplomatic incident at all related to it.  On the contrary, there was a very meaningful dialogue taking place.  I… you will be able to listen to my speech in the beginning of the Assembly, and when you listen to my speech, your question will be answered, not by opinions I might issue today, but by the proof that is in the words that I will pronounce in the General Assembly.

    Spokesman:  Fathi.

    Question:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary‑General.  Ahmed Fathi, American Television News.  Back to UN reform, you have announced a short while ago that you’re going to be submitting a plan for UN Mission in Libya (UNMIL) reform.  Would that plan or new ideas be sort of a blueprint for other UN missions in order to… to contribute to the peacekeeping operations around the world that UN is undertaking?  And what will be your message to the Member States with regard to the financing of the DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations], since there are some reductions.  Maybe not major this year but for future years, we are anticipating much larger reductions from the US side.  Thank you.

    Secretary-General:  Now, first of all, what was done is something that I believe should be a normal way to proceed, which means, in all missions, we need to have regularly evaluations of the mission.  This one was done by Jean‑Marie Guéhenno, and based on this evaluation, we are now taking the measures to adapt the mission to the needs of the new situation that exists in Libya.  I think that we should… that doesn’t mean that the same conclusions of the evaluation will apply in all other evaluations, but this procedure of evaluating regularly our missions and adjusting them to the realities on the ground is, I think, essential.  And one of the reasons that I’ve asked for the management reform aspect is to have the possibility to implement quickly the conclusions of any evaluation in relation to the changes that will be necessary on the ground of each operation.  Now, in relation to peacekeeping, I am very keen on preserving the integrity of our peacekeeping operations in all its aspects.  We have given instructions, because that, I think, the right thing to do when we deal with Member States that pay their contributions based on their own citizens’ taxes — we have given instructions to look carefully into all the procedural aspects of our missions in order to make savings where those savings do not undermine the efficiency of the mission.  To give an example, we hope to have a 15 per cent reduction in air assets by a more rational use of the air assets that are present.  And this kind of policy will be followed systematically.  We cannot afford to misspend $1 when all the dollars are necessary — dollars, Euros, yens and whatever are the currency — when all the money is necessary to make sure that our missions have the necessary level, equipment and capacity to deal with the problems of the situations we face in line with the diagnostic of those situations.  So, my intention is to do everything to preserve the integrity of the peacekeeping missions, but, of course, to do also everything possible to make it in the most effective and cost‑effective way.

    Spokesman:  Gentleman against the wall there.  Go ahead.  If you could use your microphone.  And if I could ask all of you just to limit yourself to one question.  Thank you.

    Question:  On the US policy and the paying for UN policy in general… yeah, yeah, the US policy… for US policy, America First, and now that you seem is focusing on people.  So, what’s the link between the two?

    Secretary-General:  Well, we can have different opinions about the use of the word “first”.  Now, when I was Prime Minister of Portugal, I always considered that, for me, as Prime Minister of Portugal, Portugal would come first.  But, it’s my deep belief that the best way to preserve the American interests is to engage positively in global affairs and to engage positively in support to multilateral organisations like UN.

    Spokesman:  Sylviane and then Matthew.

    Question:  M. Secretary-General, un question en Français.  Lors de sa visite à Berlin, le Président israélien [Reuven] Rivlin a déclaré à Angela Merkel qu’Israël pourrait être forcée de prendre des mesures préventives contre le Hezbollah pour retirer l’arsenal d’armes de cette organisation.  De son côté, l’Ambassadrice [Nikki] Haley n’a pas ménagé les menaces contre la FINUL [United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon] et aussi contre le Hezbollah.  Vous-même, vous avez été dans la région pendant le renouvellement de mandat de la FINUL qui avait demandé beaucoup de négociations ardues, vous n’avez pas été au Liban pour constater de visu ce qui se passait sur le terrain.  Est-ce que vous pensez que le Liban est en péril, quelles sont les mesures préventives qu’il faut prendre pour préserver la force de la FINUL, et aussi quel est le message que vous avez à donner au Président [Michel] Aoun lorsque vous allez le rencontrer, surtout qu’il s’agit du Hizbullah?  Thank you.

    Secretary-General:  Je crois qu’en ce qui concerne et les autorités libanaises et la communauté internationale, pour moi la question clef, c’est le renforcement des institutions nationales libanaises, et surtout de l’armée libanaise.  Je crois qu’il faut donner au Liban tous les attributs nécessaires à l’exercice effectif et total de sa souveraineté.  Et là, une question clef de mon point de vue, c’est le renforcement de l’armée libanaise et mon appel à la communauté internationale, c’est de garantir au Liban tout l’appui — d’ailleurs si vous regardez la générosité libanaise face aux réfugiés qui sont entrés au Liban, que le Liban mérite -, de donner au Liban tout l’appui pour qu’il puisse renforcer ses institutions et notamment son armée.  A mon avis, c’est la meilleure mesure préventive que l’on puisse avoir en relation avec les risques de conflits qui pourraient exister entre Israël et les milices du Hezbollah.  Et je crois que le rôle de la FINUL est exactement de renforcer le rôle d’une armée libanaise qu’on veut renforcer elle-même, pour être un facteur de stabilité dans la région.  Et nous sommes en train de faire une révision en demandant des capacités accrues aussi du point de vue du fonctionnement de la FINUL.  Mais à mon avis, la question clef et la priorité, et pour le Liban et pour la communauté internationale, c’est le renforcement de l’armée libanaise et de son rôle, notamment dans le Sud du Liban.

    Spokesman:  Matthew.

    Question:  Sure.  Thanks a lot.  Matthew Lee, Inner City Press, on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access, hoping for readouts of your diplomatic merry‑go‑round upstairs during the GA week.  I want… you speak the lot about reforms.  It’s something I tried to ask at the stakeout, but thanks for giving me the question.  This case of John Ashe, who I know has deceased — may he rest in peace — but there was a court decision this summer in which basically it painted a picture of the UN as being quite susceptible to bribery.  There was a Chin… a Macau‑based businessman, Ng Lap Seng, was found guilty.  So, I won’t go through it all except to say, I wanted to know what your view of whether the UN… beyond just some reforms to the PGA’s [President of the General Assembly] office, whether it has instituted enough reforms.  Your… your… the former PGA yesterday sitting here said that there are crows picking around the side of the UN.  There are a lot of business interests… basically, they try to buy their way into the UN by hooking up with a small State.  So, I wanted to know whether your reforms will address that.  And there’s also a Code Blue report out today about sexual abuse where they say that, of cases they’ve uncovered, many of them are not disclosed in the conduct and discipline website.  What’s your plan during this GA week to try to address the sexual abuse issue of peacekeeping?  Thank you.

    Secretary-General:  Well, in addition to the sexual abuse, as you know, we have taken already a number of measures.  A global victims advocate was appointed, and four victims advocates were appointed in the four situations that are more dramatic in several African contexts.  We are preparing a compact to be signed with Member States in order to make sure that there is effective commitment in relation to this.  I’m creating a circle of leadership with Heads of Government and State to assume engagement of states in making sure that everything is investigated properly.  And so, we are really committed to make the best we can in this area, knowing the difficulties and the problems and sometimes even the… especially, my main concern is with the victims that sometimes have an enormous problem in coming with their cases because of the risks that they might face in different conditions with the community or even with the country or even if the UN Mission is not properly organized.  So, we are deeply committed to that.  But, the best protection in relation to abuses is the whistle-blower policy protection.  We have introduced a first group of measures to enhance the whistle-blower protection when I assumed functions immediately in January.  So, it’s probably my first measure.  And after that, we have introduced a number of other reforms, which I believe are bringing our whistle-blower protection policy to the state of the art.  And if that’s not the case, if there are other things to be suggested, we are ready to introduce them, because that is the best guarantee that people can detect and denounce things that happen and that they will be protected if they do so.  This is, for me, an absolute must and the best possible guarantee an organisation can have in relation to the risks of abuse of power or abuses of any other kind or of corruption or whatever.  So, this is a big concern for me, and I think we are acting as we can but with total determination to address the problem.

    Spokesman:  BBC.

    Question:  Thank you, Secretary‑General.  BBC, Bahman Kalbasi here.  Secretary‑General, last week, the ambassador to the UN… the United States ambassador to the UN, basically laid the groundwork for the Trump Administration to leave or kill the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] or Iran deal, as it’s known.  What would you say to Mr. Trump given that IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] has said eight times so far that Iran has been in full compliance with the nuclear deal?

    Secretary-General:  I think this agreement is a very important agreement.  I think that it contributed to an important de‑escalation at the moment, and it is a factor of stability.  And it’s my opinion that all parties should do everything possible for this agreement to be preserved.

    Spokesman:  Marie Boourreau.

    Question:  RFI a sorti une enquête aujourd’hui sur la mort des deux experts de l’ONU qui montre qu’il y a eu des défaillances notamment du Board of Inquiry concernant des traductions.  Il semble que les deux experts aient été pris dans un guet-apens et que l’Etat congolais pourrait être impliqué.  Quand est-ce que l’ONU va annoncer une enquête indépendante sur la mort des deux experts?

    Secretary-General:  Nous sommes en train de faire les consultations que j’ai annoncées au Conseil de sécurité et aux familles pour mettre en place notre dispositif à nous.  Il y avait différentes possibilités ; la plus efficace serait à mon avis l’intégration d’experts indépendants à l’intérieur du système congolais.  Je ne sais pas si ce sera possible ou non.  Sinon, nous prendrons notre initiative : nos collègues du Département des Affaires politiques sont en train de faire toutes les consultations nécessaires pour mettre en place le système qui puisse être le plus efficace possible pour que la vérité soit connue.

    Spokesman:  Talal.

    Question:  Thank you very much.  Mr. Secretary‑General, the crisis in the Gulf, the dispute between Qatar and three of its neighbours and Egypt, I understand, of course, you want to leave the solution for the regional mediation efforts and you support the… and you said that; you support the Kuwaiti mediation efforts.  But, it’s been months now, and this mediation hasn’t really bear fruits and it’s going around in circles.  Isn’t it time that your office and your high office took part in this mediation pushing the parties closer together and avoiding a very dangerous situation that could threaten the peace and security of that area?

    Secretary-General:  Well, first of all, I want to express my total confidence in the Kuwaiti mediation.  I went to Kuwait on purpose just two weeks ago to express that confidence and to express our full support.  I don’t see ourselves creating a parallel initiative.  We are ready to fully support that mediation.  And, in our contacts with the parties, because we have contacts with the parties, not mediation, but contacts, we have been insisting on the need to find a political solution because this is, of course, not only impacting negatively in relations among the countries, but it is having wider aspects that it would be useful to eliminate by an agreement.  We will go on with these kind of efforts, but I want to reaffirm our total support to the Kuwaiti mediation, and I have to say that I believe that they have been doing an excellent work with the difficulties that we all know.  I also would like to underline what [United States] Secretary of State [Rex] Tillerson has done in relation to this.  We’ve been following all these efforts with a lot of interest.  But, as I said, it’s not our intention to duplicate efforts but to strengthen the efforts that exist.

    Correspondent:  Just a follow-up, sir:  [inaudible] they’re trying their best and [inaudible] has done his best, but the situation is getting worse.  The verbal attacks between the countries are getting worse.  Isn’t it time to look at strengthening through your offices the Kuwaiti mediation efforts?  That’s what I’m trying to say.  It’s… it’s not working.

    Secretary-General:  Look, it’s… mediations cannot replace political will of the parties.  So, I don’t think it’s by duplicating mediation efforts that we will solve the problems.  I think what our appeal is is for the political will of the parties to overcome the situation.  But, as I said, we will remain engaged and in very close contacts… I was, again, yesterday with the ambassador of Kuwait… in very close contact and fully supporting their efforts.

    Spokesman:  Mr. Abbadi.

    Correspondent:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary‑General, for this press conference.  I hope you will be in a position to give more regular press conferences so that someone… some of us do not have only a rare opportunity to ask you a question.

    Secretary-General:  If I may interrupt, we have… I was told that we would have more regular contacts, and you will witness that I did two stakeouts and a press conference.  I’m indeed accelerating these contacts.  But, as you understand, I have a lot of other things to do, too.  And, if I’m always here, I might not be able to do the things that might be news for the press conference.  Please go on.

    Question:  US Ambassador Nikki Haley said that she wants to see the Secretary‑General of the United Nations an Executive Officer.  That has a lot of implications.  There are many people who, given the complexity of the problems, want to see strong leadership coming out of the Secretary‑General, going beyond invoking Article 99 and good offices.  What do you think of that idea?

    Secretary-General:  It’s very simple.  We have a constitution; that is, the Charter.  I’m doing everything I can within the limits of the Charter with the widest possible interpretation of the Charter.  But, I cannot violate the Charter.  The moment I violate the Charter, all my capacity to act will be totally undermined.

    Spokesman:  Valeria, ANSA.

    Question:  Thank you, Secretary‑General.  [Inaudible] I have a follow‑up on Myanmar, if you had contact with Suu Kyi after she decided not to come to the UN? And then my question is… is on Libya and on the refugees crisis, if… the relocation of the refugees is still an unsolved problem, and my question is if you plan to discuss the issue with Italy and other European countries and if you have any positive signal from some country?

    Secretary-General:  I have not had any contact after yesterday evening when I read that Aung San Suu Kyi was not coming.  There is a channel that is open between the two of us; that is, contacts are taking place between people we have designate, but I have not any contact after that announcement.  In relation to the second question, the answer is yes.  I intend to discuss the issue, and I think it is very important that Europe plays a constructive role in relation to the management of global migration affairs.  And I hope that that will be translated into some effective steps, but I wouldn’t like to go further at the present moment, because it would undermine the possibilities of useful contacts.

    Spokesman:  Oleg, and I think that will have to be the last question.  Sorry.

    Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  Thank you, Secretary‑General.  How concerned are you with the latest diplomatic rift between the United States and Russia?  The two countries have been sending out diplomats, closing consulates and diplomatic facilities.  Do you foresee any consequences or any complications of this for the UN work, for example, peace efforts in Syria?  And also, a short second question:  Do you agree with the notion that the civil war in Syria is over, and now it has transformed into fight against terrorism?  Thank you so much.

    Secretary-General:  Well, first of all, I think it is obvious that an important pillar for international peace and security should be a very positive and constructive relationship between the United States and the Russian Federation.  And I can only wish that that relationship is established.  And, of course, when that relationship is not good, the international community as a whole suffers.  I think this is obvious, and it is clear for me that many of the problems in the world are easier to solve if the two countries have a common position and work together to address those problems.  I think that in Syria, we still have a number of different things happening.  We still have de‑escalation zones with some of them with some problems.  We still have aspects of fighting.  We don’t have a political solution between Government and opposition.  We have a fight against terrorism, but a fight that is conducted in different fronts in different ways, and I think that there is a risk of fragmentation in Syria that is very important to take into account.  So, I would say Syria still needs a lot of attention of the international community, and I hope that, both in Astana and in Geneva, it will be possible to make progress in the near future to allow for a political solution to finally be a way to create the conditions to stabilize the country in the future.

    Spokesman:  Great.  Thank you very much.  Thank you.

    Secretary-General:  Thank you.  Thank you very much.

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