Official speeches and statements - May 14, 2020
The European Union defense ministers had a video conference today to take into account the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the European security and defense agenda.
Following the informal meeting of EU defense ministers held on France and Germany’s initiative on April 6, at which emphasis was placed on the necessary mobilization of military resources and Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) tools to combat the pandemic, today’s meeting provided the opportunity to make an initial assessment of the European response in terms of security and defense.
Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly stressed the progress made since the beginning of the crisis in mobilizing military resources to support the fight against the pandemic, both on European territory and worldwide. For example, the task force created by the European External Action Service (EEAS) following the April 6 meeting enabled information to be shared more effectively and should contribute to increased coordination between Europeans’ responses to the crisis.
Moreover, EU missions and operations, despite the health crisis situation, are continuing for the most part and still supporting local authorities in their efforts to cope with the pandemic. The Minister called for these missions’ activities to return to normal as soon as the situation allows, especially in the Sahel.
Beyond these immediate challenges, the meeting allowed us to adopt a more long-term outlook, focusing among other things on strengthening Europe’s strategic autonomy. This is an objective France has upheld for several years and which the COVID-19 crisis makes even more necessary.
The Minister emphasized the need for an ambitious, effective CSDP. In this respect, the Minister welcomed the launch of the maritime operation IRINI, despite the pandemic. The Minister also emphasized the need to develop and finance the military capabilities and technology Europe needs. Finally, Florence Parly called for an ambitious budget to be maintained for the European Defense Fund, which will be a key instrument for bolstering the defense industry and therefore supporting the economic recovery of all the European Union countries.
2. European Union - Portugal / Spain / Italy / Austria - The Council of the European Union approves €279 million in aid for Portugal, Spain, Italy and Austria following a series of disasters - Communiqué issued by the Council of the European Union (Brussels - May 13, 2020)
Today EU ambassadors endorsed a Commission proposal to provide €279 million in disaster relief aid to Portugal, Spain, Italy and Austria. The money will be used to repair damage inflicted by the major natural disasters that hit these four member states in 2019.
"In addition to the COVID-19 crisis, several regions across the EU continue to suffer from the economic impact of natural disasters that struck last year. Today’s decision to provide disaster relief aid is a further concrete example of European solidarity in action," said Zdravko Maric, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance of Croatia.
The aid will be distributed as follows:
- €211.7 million for Italy following the extreme weather events across the country in autumn 2019,
- €56.7 million for Spain after the floods of September 2019 that hit the regions of Valencia, Murcia, Castilla-La Mancha and Andalucía,
- €8.2 million for Portugal following Hurricane Lorenzo that passed through the Azores in October 2019,
- €2.3 million for Austria following the severe flooding that affected the regions of Carinthia and Eastern Tyrol in November 2019.
The money will be channelled through the EU solidarity fund, which provides grants to EU member states and candidate countries struck by major natural disasters.
In parallel, EU ambassadors also endorsed draft amending budget No.4 to enter the necessary appropriations in the 2020 EU budget, both in commitments and payments.
The financial aid will be paid out once both proposals have been adopted by the European Parliament and the Council.
[Source of English text: European Council website]
The European Union, witnessing the continued escalation of violence in Libya, renews its call for a truce, as the United Nations did on the eve of Ramadan with the European Union’s backing.
The European Union demands that all parties act responsibly and immediately cease the fighting all over Libya, which is first and foremost affecting civilians, including migrants, and is placing them at even greater risk. It urges all parties having committed to a truce and a negotiated ceasefire to follow up on these commitments. It also reminds the parties that they must respect international law, including international humanitarian law, and that those who violate it will be held accountable.
The European Union urges all parties to protect civilians, including migrants and refugees, by allowing and facilitating a safe, rapid and unimpeded delivery of humanitarian aid and services to all those affected.
The European Union remains determined to see the UN arms embargo in Libya fully respected. It recalls that Operation EUNAVFOR Med Irini, approved by the Council on March 31, aims at implementing the UN arms embargo in line with the relevant UNSC resolutions through naval, aerial and satellite assets. It underlines that all efforts must be made to ensure the full and effective implementation of relevant UNSC resolutions, also through the land and air borders with Libya.
The European Union calls on all parties to the conflict in Libya to cooperate without further delay, with a view to implement a lasting ceasefire confirming as soon as possible their agreement on the draft discussed at the joint military committee held in Geneva on February 23, 2020, within the framework of the joint military committee.
The truce must proceed hand in hand with an immediate resumption of UN-brokered talks between the parties, and in full respect of the Libyan Political Agreement. There is no alternative to an inclusive political solution reflecting the conclusions of the Berlin conference, as confirmed by UNSC Resolution No. 2510.
In order to facilitate the quick resumption of political talks among the Libyan parties, the EU hopes that a successor to Ghassan Salamé as Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya can be appointed as soon as possible and urges all States to cooperate with the UN in the political process
The European Union reiterates its commitment to the sovereignty, unity and stability of Libya and to international law.
[Source of English text: Council of the European Union]
Thank you, Mr. President, and I would like also to thank our briefers for their comprehensive updates.
In addition to continued warfare, Yemen is now facing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is high time that the Yemeni parties seize the opportunity to make peace by agreeing an immediate and lasting ceasefire and by engaging and agreeing a comprehensive political solution.
A global and immediate ceasefire, as called by the UNSG, is indeed required to fight the pandemic.
France welcomes in that regard the announcement by Saudi Arabia on behalf of the coalition to unilaterally cease their attacks for another month.
Nevertheless, my country remains preoccupied that fighting is still ongoing in various areas in Yemen. We reiterate our call on those fighting in Yemen to immediately cease hostilities. It is now more than essential that they fully engage with the Special Envoy to reach a nation-wide and lasting ceasefire.
It is also all the more necessary to pursue efforts for the parties to accept the crisis meeting that the Special Envoy has called for, at least to coordinate efforts to fight the pandemic. France therefore calls on the parties to continue in a more constructive manner and without delay their discussions on Martin Griffiths’ proposals for a ceasefire, confidence building measures and the resumption of a political settlement of the crisis. We would like to reiterate our full support to Martin Griffiths to this end. Women’s participation also must be ensured.
France also urges the government of Yemen and the STC to fully implement the Riyadh agreement in the South of Yemen, where the calm and cessation of hostilities should prevail. The STC must respect the territorial integrity and unity of Yemen.
All parties must respect international humanitarian law, in particular protect civilians and civilian infrastructures, and ensure a safe and unhindered humanitarian access, including protection of humanitarian and health personnel and facilities : it is more necessary than ever to facilitate the response to the COVID-19 crisis.
We are of course deeply worried by the spread of the pandemic in Yemen: the Yemeni population is extremely vulnerable, including a very high proportion of children as the PR of Belgium recalled. Only half of the medical infrastructures is fully operational while humanitarian needs have not stopped increasing in a country where 80% of the population depend on humanitarian assistance for their survival. The financial and economic consequences of the pandemic are also already felt, further weakening and hurting one of the most deprived people in the world.
Efforts to prevent and respond to the spread of the pandemic must be scaled up. It is crucial to overcome the shortage of essential supplies and equipments, including tests, protective equipments and ventilators. Coordination between all the relevant actors, including Yemeni parties, is key in this regard as our briefers have highlighted. Humanitarian and health personnel and facilities must be protected and supported, and get the access and freedom of movement they need.
Lastly, it is crucial and urgent to ensure UN access to the Safer oil tanker, which constitutes a serious threat to the environment: an oil leak could have a dramatic impact on the region. Continued inaction, as stressed by previous speakers, is dangerous.
To conclude, France remains fully engaged and committed to find a solution to end the war in Yemen and more broadly to ensure de-escalation in the region.