EU remarks by High Representative Catherine Ashton following the Foreign Affairs Council

Remarks by High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Cather­ine Ash­ton fol­low­ing the For­eign Affairs Coun­cil, 21 March 2011

“I’m going to spend a lit­tle bit of time tak­ing you through the Coun­cil dis­cus­sions today because I think it’s impor­tant and, of course, we’ll take ques­tions after­wards.


We began our meet­ing with an update on the sit­u­a­tion in Japan and reit­er­at­ed our sup­port and sym­pa­thy for the Japan­ese people.

We’ve received an offi­cial request from Japan to assist in bring­ing relief to the affect­ed pop­u­la­tion and we are cur­rent­ly prepar­ing its response in coor­di­na­tion with the Japan­ese authorities.


Today’s meet­ing showed the EU’s deter­mi­na­tion to react quick­ly and deci­sive­ly and with one voice to the events in Libya.

Every­thing we do has one objec­tive – and that is to help the peo­ple of Libya. We adopt­ed strong con­clu­sions express­ing our sat­is­fac­tion with the adop­tion of Res­o­lu­tion 1973, and stress­ing our deter­mi­na­tion to con­tribute to its implementation. 

And I quote: “While con­tribut­ing in a dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed way, the EU and its Mem­ber States are deter­mined to act col­lec­tive­ly and res­olute­ly, with all inter­na­tion­al part­ners, par­tic­u­lar­ly the Arab League … to give full effect to these deci­sions.” We call upon Gaddafi to relin­quish pow­er imme­di­ate­ly and to allow the Libyan peo­ple to realise their aspi­ra­tion for democracy.

We have added 9 new enti­ties and 11 new indi­vid­u­als to the sanc­tions list. And we will fol­low up in the com­ing days with anoth­er deci­sion to imple­ment the sanc­tions in Res­o­lu­tion 1973.

We agreed that the EU is ready to pro­vide CSDP sup­port to human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance, under the coor­di­na­tion of the UN.

We will now con­tin­ue, and I quote: “fur­ther plan­ning on sup­port for human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance / civ­il pro­tec­tion oper­a­tions, includ­ing by mar­itime means”. And as part of this process, I will con­tin­ue with my close con­tacts with Ban Ki Moon, with Amr Mous­sa of the Arab League, with Jean Ping and the African Union and, of course, oth­er coun­tries in the region.

Our debate also focused on the wider neigh­bour­hood. We need to look longer-term, to sup­port peo­ple in all coun­tries in the region in the tran­si­tion to free­dom and democracy.

The con­sti­tu­tion­al ref­er­en­dum in Egypt is a sig­nif­i­cant step in Egypt’s tran­si­tion to an open, demo­c­ra­t­ic and plu­ral­ist society.

It is now impor­tant that there is time for all polit­i­cal forces to organ­ise them­selves. Egypt’s future lies in the hands of the Egyp­tians, and only the Egypt­ian peo­ple can estab­lish and main­tain a sta­ble and demo­c­ra­t­ic society.

We stand ready to help. We are also extreme­ly con­cerned with the sit­u­a­tion in oth­er coun­tries too and I am fol­low­ing close­ly events in Yemen, Bahrain and Syria. 

We have adopt­ed strong con­clu­sions urg­ing the author­i­ties in Yemen and Bahrain to show restraint and engage in dia­logue with the oppo­si­tion with full respect for human rights and fun­da­men­tal free­doms. I look for­ward to dis­cussing the events in Bahrain with my envoy who has just returned this morn­ing. In par­al­lel to the unfold­ing polit­i­cal events on the ground, the Coun­cil called on us to con­tin­ue work on the EU’s pack­age of assis­tance to our South­ern Neigh­bour­hood. What I have call the ‘3 Ms’: Mon­ey and resources; Mar­ket access, trade; and Mobil­i­ty will be vital as the region con­tin­ues its jour­ney towards deep, sus­tained democ­ra­cy. We will now feed this work into the Euro­pean Coun­cil at the end of this week.


I pre­sent­ed to the Coun­cil the Euro­pean Strat­e­gy for Secu­ri­ty and Devel­op­ment in the Sahel. We dis­cussed the main com­po­nents of the Strat­e­gy and options for its imple­men­ta­tion. It was wel­comed. The inte­grat­ed action tak­en and the strate­gic lines of action pro­posed were seen as very pos­i­tive. And we will now start work­ing on the imple­men­ta­tion options. In doing so, we will con­sult with part­ners in the region.


We, of course, too looked at the polit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in Bosnia-Herze­gov­ina and the way for­ward and agreed to fur­ther strength­en our pres­ence there in order to sup­port the reform process. In return for results deliv­ered, we look to pro­vide a very clear EU per­spec­tive. As a mat­ter of pri­or­i­ty, we are look­ing for a broad-based gov­ern­ment, which can progress on all nec­es­sary reforms (par­tic­u­lar­ly bring­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion in line with the Euro­pean Con­ven­tion of Human Rights, adopt­ing a state aid law, and a cen­sus law). It is clear that progress will depend on the abil­i­ty of the politi­cians there to show lead­er­ship and their will­ing­ness to compromise. 

To pro­vide fur­ther sup­port, we intend to have one sin­gle EU rep­re­sen­ta­tive on the ground. We want to have avail­able a broad, bal­anced tool­box so we can sup­port reforms, includ­ing finan­cial sup­port, and we can mon­i­tor and report around polit­i­cal facil­i­ta­tion. In addi­tion EUFOR ALTHEA, which we have there, will remain part of our approach. We will dis­cuss this fur­ther with key local and inter­na­tion­al part­ners in the com­ing weeks.


We are also, of course, con­cerned about the sit­u­a­tion in Belarus. We con­demn the con­tin­ued deten­tion, tri­als and sen­tenc­ing on polit­i­cal grounds of rep­re­sen­ta­tives of NGOs and oppo­si­tion lead­ers. They must be released imme­di­ate­ly. Today we have extend­ed the visa ban and assets freeze list to a fur­ther 19 indi­vid­u­als, in par­tic­u­lar judges, pros­e­cu­tors and uni­ver­si­ty rec­tors who are direct­ly involved in the lat­est tri­als and harass­ment of stu­dents. Depend­ing on devel­op­ments in Belarus, we stand ready to con­sid­er fur­ther tar­get­ed mea­sures in all areas of cooperation.


And final­ly, we are wor­ried that the human rights sit­u­a­tion in Iran con­tin­ues to dete­ri­o­rate. We have seen a dra­mat­ic increase in exe­cu­tions; the sys­tem­at­ic repres­sion of Iran­ian cit­i­zens, includ­ing human rights defend­ers, lawyers, jour­nal­ists, women’s activists, blog­gers and the opposition.

Hun­dreds of Ira­ni­ans are sub­ject to harass­ment and arrest for exer­cis­ing their legit­i­mate right to free­dom of speech and peace­ful assem­bly. We will there­fore con­tin­ue to sup­port indi­vid­u­als and civ­il soci­ety orga­ni­za­tions which stand up for the rights that all Ira­ni­ans should enjoy. 

We are also ready to keep chan­nels of com­mu­ni­ca­tion open with the Iran­ian author­i­ties. We want to dis­cuss our human rights con­cerns frankly and open­ly. We do want to make our views clear. The EU will con­tin­ue to stand up against human rights abus­es in Iran, in all pos­si­ble ways. And that includes the intro­duc­tion of restric­tive mea­sures tar­get­ed against those respon­si­ble for grave human rights vio­la­tions.” Thank you. 

Coun­cil of the Euro­pean Union 

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