Chaired by EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, the 27 EU Foreign Ministers met in the German capital for the biannual Gymnich. The informal meeting focused on topical issues such as developments in Belarus and the EU’s relations with Turkey and Russia.
In view of the violence in Belarus following the presidential elections, the arrests of journalists and demonstrators and the reprisals against opposition members, Foreign Minister Schallenberg supported a rapid EU response and underlined the importance of targeted sanctions:
Those responsible for violence must be held accountable and all political prisoners must be released immediately.
The recent conflict with Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean was also the focus of the EU Foreign Ministers’ discussions. Foreign Minister Schallenberg stressed that Turkey was increasingly violating international law through such actions and that further targeted measures by the EU were therefore necessary:
It is essential that we show solidarity with Greece and Cyprus. We are only in favour of dialogue if Turkey is also constructive. Cooperation is not a one-way street.
Concerning the EU’s relations with Russia, Austria committed itself to a balanced approach. With regard to the current case of the Russian opposition politician Navalny, a thorough and independent investigation is in any case necessary. However, regional and global challenges could only be solved in dialogue with Russia, but sanctions should not be shied away from where necessary.
At the Gymnich, the EU Foreign Ministers also met their Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi to discuss EU-Israel relations and the Middle East peace process. Foreign Minister Schallenberg welcomed the normalisation agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and expressed his hope for further such steps in the region.