Brussels, 19 November 2018
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Let me start by welcoming a considerable and very welcome group of journalists from Central Asia to this press room. Not by coincidence, as today we had a very positive and very good discussion with the Ministers, starting exactly with our policy on Central Asia. I will chair again the Ministerial [meeting] with my colleagues from the Central Asian countries this Friday for what is a very positive and encouraging part of our foreign policy work.
We often focus on conflicts and crises. Let me say that this [Central Asia] is a point on our agenda that is bringing us good results, with a positive agenda, with a demand for more cooperation with the European Union, with steps that are being taken in Central Asia in the right direction in all different fields. And so we discussed with the Ministers today the strengthening of our cooperation with this region that is very important. And the work will continue in full unity and with full determination to strengthen ties with the Central Asian countries bilaterally and together as a region, and also to encourage the further strengthening of regional cooperation among them.
We also had a point on Bosnia and Herzegovina where the three main messages shared by the Ministers today were: first, an invitation or an appeal for the formation of governments as soon as possible – now that the electoral results have been made official; second, to focus 100% on the reform agenda – which is what the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina and especially the younger ones expect to see – that is also linked to the European Union perspective of the country, next months will be crucial in this respect; and third, to focus on the electoral law reform and addressing the concerns about that.
There is an overall agreement among all Ministers on the fact that we need to keep very intense work with all the political leaders in Bosnia-Herzegovina and we will come back not only to Bosnia and Herzegovina, but to the entire region of the Western Balkans at the Foreign Affairs Council in December.
We then had a point on Yemen, in particularly important times. I discussed this yesterday with the UN Special Envoy [to Yemen, Martin] Griffiths, in a moment where we see some encouraging steps in the direction of the de-escalation. Steps that have been achieved also thanks to the work that we have been doing directly with some of the key players and through the support that we have been giving, together with different Member States, to the work of the UN Special Envoy.
It is too early to express optimism, I believe, but I think it is the right moment to pass a clear and strong message to all those involved in the conflict in Yemen, inside and outside of the country, to consolidate these de-escalation steps, to come to a ceasefire and to engage in political talks on substance led by the UN Special Envoy in the coming weeks. The European Union is fully behind this position and fully working to try and help achieving this result – as I said: consolidation of the de-escalation steps, ceasefire, beginning of substantial talks in the coming weeks.
And obviously, I should never forget this: The European Union is and will continue to remain the main humanitarian donor when it comes to the situation in Yemen. We are extremely worried about the humanitarian situation on the ground and we will continue to do all we can, also here in coordination with the United Nations, to make sure that access is given to humanitarian aid and that it gets to the people in need, which unfortunately are in enormous numbers in the country.
Last but not least, we had a point on Ukraine on our agenda. You know that we are constantly working to support the country, in particular on its reform agenda. I will chair the Association Council together with the Prime Minister of Ukraine [Volodymyr Groysman] on 17 December. That will be another opportunity for us to reconfirm the European Union’s strong support to the work he and his government are doing on anti-corruption, economic reforms and social reforms.
But today is also an opportunity to express the full unity of the European Union on the position we have already expressed of the non-recognition of the so-called “elections” that were held on 11 November in Donbas and also our preoccupation over activities in the Azov Sea, which are damaging not only the Ukrainian economy, but also so many vessels that are flying European Union Member States’ flags. So these are issues on which we will continue to work with full determination from all our Member States and obviously the European Union institutions and services, including taking appropriate targeted measures in the coming weeks or days.
Link to the video: https://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I163746