Foreign Affairs

The EU Council formula on how to operate during this era of war

May 2024
By Editorial Staff

On May 27th and 28th, two important meetings were held in Brussels: the Foreign Affairs Council and the Defense Council. While we are facing extreme conditions in both the Middle East and Ukraine, the Council is striving to keep up and take actions to condemn this era of war.

About Ukraine

Both meetings had the same purpose: mobilizing funds to support Ukraine in its fight against the Russian army. As the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, said during the press conference on the margins of the meeting, “some Member States are lifting the restrictions for Ukrainians to be able to use our military support in response to the Russian attack.”

The Foreign Affairs Council has taken some crucial steps to address the war in Ukraine. First, action has been taken against the Kremlin through the decision to list one entity, the Federal Penitentiary Service of the Russian Federation, and 19 natural persons under the new regime of frozen Russian assets. Additionally, these natural persons are subject to a travel ban, which prevents them from entering or transiting through EU territories.

The Ministers also adopted more restrictive measures against those responsible for serious human rights violations or abuses, repression of civil society and democratic opposition, and undermining democracy and the rule of law in Russia. This decision was based on the escalating and systematic repression in Russia.

Another measure adopted involved trade restrictions on exporting equipment, which might be used for internal repression in information security or interception of telecommunications.

The arrival of president Zelenskyy

In order to strengthen support, the President of Belgium, Alexander De Croo, received the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, to sign a bilateral agreement on security and mutual support between Belgium and Ukraine. This agreement establishes 977 million euros from Belgium to Ukraine and includes a promise to support Ukraine for the following ten years.

In parallel, the Defense Council hosted NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Ukrainian Minister of Defense, Rustem Umerov, to discuss “the mobilization of resources to support Ukraine during the Russian invasion.” To continue providing the Ukrainian people with all the necessary political, financial, economic, humanitarian, military, and diplomatic support for as long as it takes and as intensely as needed, the EU will use all tools at its disposal, including the recently established Ukraine Assistance Fund as part of the European Peace Facility (EPF) and training and advice through the European Union Military Assistance Mission in support of Ukraine (EUMAM Ukraine).

West Bank area

On the other hand, on May 26th, EU ministers had an informal exchange with the Ministers of the Arab Quint: Qatar, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, as well as the Secretary General of the League of Arab States. Their discussion focused on finding a political solution to the conflict and increasing humanitarian support for the people in Gaza.

The Arab Ministers presented their vision for a peace process and discussed with their EU counterparts ways to enhance cooperation to achieve a political resolution to the conflict. One suggestion that emerged was to consider the possibility of an international conference on implementing the two-state solution, which could lay the groundwork for an international peace conference.

Ministers agreed that, beyond addressing the suffering of people in Gaza, the most pressing issue was to support the Palestinian Authority and UNRWA, as well as to increase humanitarian aid. To facilitate the delivery of this assistance, the EU will explore options for reactivating its Border Assistance Mission for the Rafah Crossing Point (EUBAM Rafah) in coordination with the Palestinian Authority, and the Israeli and Egyptian authorities.

Three crucial implementations

EU ministers concurred on three specific points regarding recent developments: First, the EU reiterates its demand for Israel to implement the recent International Court of Justice ruling to halt military operations in Rafah and allow humanitarian aid access into Gaza.

Second, Israel should stop blocking the funding necessary for the functioning and survival of the Palestinian Authority.

Third, UNRWA should not be declared a terrorist organization and should be allowed to continue its work in Gaza and the Palestinian territories. Additionally, EU ministers agreed to work on organizing a meeting of the EU-Israel Association Council to discuss the situation in Gaza and the respect of human rights.