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Official speeches and statements - April 17, 2020

Published on April 17, 2020

1. Ukraine - Joint statement issued by Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, and Mr. Heiko Maas, Foreign Minister of Germany (Paris - April 16, 2020)

Today’s exchange of prisoners related to the conflict represents significant progress toward implementing the Minsk agreements and the conclusions of the summit in Paris on 9 December 2019. France and Germany commend the efforts of the Trilateral Contact Group, under the leadership of Ambassador Heidi Grau, to achieve this exchange.

France and Germany reaffirm their attachment to the full implementation of the conclusions of the summit on 9 December, notably with respect to upholding the ceasefire, mine clearance, the opening of new crossing points and the identification of new disengagement zones. The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine must have safe, secure and unimpeded access throughout the entire Ukrainian territory, including in the areas not controlled by the government, in accordance with its mandate.

2. COVID-19 - European Union - Joint Statement by the Croatian Presidency and the European Commission following the informal meeting of EU Trade Ministers (Brussels - April 16, 2020)

This (Thursday) morning, the President of the FAC (Trade), Mr. Gordan Grlić Radman, chaired a video-conference meeting of EU Trade Ministers, together with EU Trade Commissioner, Phil Hogan.

The informal meeting, which was the first in which Commissioner Hogan participated, was an opportunity for Ministers to have an exchange of views on the impact of COVID-19 on trade relations and on global value and supply chains. It also provided Ministers with an opportunity to provide initial political reactions to the Commission’s proposal for a new export authorization measure for certain items of personal protective equipment (PPE) as well as discuss the Commission’s recently published guidelines on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) screening.

The COVID-19 pandemic requires a global response and the EU remains committed to playing a leading role in that response, particularly through its active engagement within the G7 and G20 formats. The EU has also taken a series of measures aimed at protecting its citizens, while also ensuring that vital supply chains are maintained, particularly for medical supplies and equipment, critical agricultural products and other essential goods and services.

In view of the immediate challenges to the maintenance of global supply chains, Ministers acknowledged that efforts must continue to keep trade flows open and avoid unnecessary disruption of global value and supply chains, not least to ensure the effective operation of the Single Market. In the long-run there will be a need to ensure the resilience and sustainability of global value and supply chains.

Ministers welcomed the Commission’s proposal for a new export authorization measure for specific items of PPE, which was sent to MS earlier in the week and which is due to come into effect on April 25. Ministers supported the changes to the product scope and the wider exemption from the export authorization requirements as well as its 30-day duration.

Ministers also welcomed the Commission’s recently published guidelines on FDI screening. Those Member States that have screening mechanisms were encouraged to make full use of them and those that do not have screening mechanisms were encouraged to set-up such mechanisms. Commissioner Hogan invited MS to share information and cooperate on a voluntary basis before the FDI Screening Regulation becomes fully operational.

The Commissioner also updated Ministers on the development of a Multi-Party Interim Arbitration Arrangement as a stop-gap measure to maintain an independent, two step dispute settlement function in the WTO.

Reflecting on the meeting, Minister Grlić Radman stated: "The COVID-19 pandemic will have a profound and long-lasting effect on the European economy and on the way we trade with the rest of the world. Our immediate challenge is to keep trade flows open. We also need to ensure a swift recovery of our economies, in particular by securing the resilience and sustainability of our supply chains".

Commissioner Hogan said "this was a very useful opportunity for me to listen to the concerns of Ministers about the impact of the pandemic in their respective Member States and on vital supply and value chains.

It also provided me with the opportunity to outline the main features of the Commission’s new export authorization measure and to get the initial political reactions of Ministers and I welcome the positive reaction of Ministers to the Commission’s proposal.

I also recalled the Commission’s guidelines on FDI Screening. While the EU remains open for and welcomes investment, we need to know who invests and for what purpose and we must use our investment screening framework to avoid a sell-off of strategic assets. The Commission is ready to start an informal cooperation with Member States on FDI screening, including the sharing of relevant information and voluntary exchanges on pending FDI screening cases among Member States. While I am conscious of the Member States’ competence in this area, I believe we can and should do more and the Commission is ready to help in that endeavor".