Mon. Jul 15th, 2024

Brdo pri Kranju, Slovenia, 02/09/2021


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This is the second part of the day, the Foreign Affairs Council, the Gymnich. You know that it is an informal Council, so no decisions, political debate on political conclusions, which I hope I will be able to present to you at the end of the meeting, if there is agreement, which I hope.

This morning has been from the defence point of view; this evening is on foreign affairs relations. Both things overlap, but it is important to look at the new political landscape. And this new political landscape has to be approached from three different points of view: first, how do we deal with foreign interventions and nation-building in our missions after the failure on Afghanistan; second, how it affects our relationship and our alliance with the United States; third, how do we deal with the Taliban; and fourth, how do we manage the new regional landscape and the new role for Russia, China, Pakistan, Turkey and India.

It is a vast programme, so today we will concentrate mainly on the more operational and more practical side: how do we engage with the new power in Afghanistan? It does not mean recognition, but, certainly, we have to develop an engagement with the Taliban for many issues. First, how do we help them [Afghan people]. How do we bring in humanitarian aid? Second, how can we take care of the many people who were willing to leave and were not able to take a place in the planes that were leaving Kabul until last week? This is for us the most important and pressing issue. How to continue working in order to take these people out, the most vulnerable, the people who were working with us, but also the vulnerable people from the point of view of their security. Call it humanitarian corridor or whatever you want. But it is about how to bring help and how to bring people out.

This requires engagement with the Taliban. We are going to see how we can do that in a coordinated manner, putting conditions and, according to the fulfilment of these conditions and according to the kind of government that the Taliban will form and how do they behave, we will be engaging successively with them.

Second, we have to pay a lot of attention to the new regional landscape. The new role of China, Russia, Turkey, India and Pakistan, strongly affected, for the good or for the bad, by the new situation. We have to pay more attention to Central Asia; we have to work closely with the region as a whole.

And certainly, the backdrop of all this, will be the movement of people. I do not want to call it ‘migration wave’, because many of them will not be migrants, but asylum-seekers. Let us talk about the movement of people. Some of these people we want them to move, because if you want them to go out of Afghanistan, it means that we want them to move and to go where? This is something that the Home Affairs Ministers talked about yesterday, but it is also a geopolitical issue and we will talk about it as well.

The purpose of this meeting is to analyse the problem from this perspective and to try to get an agreement about the conditions-based engagement with the Taliban. How do we do that on a coordinated manner and how do we engage with the regional actors?


With Afghanistan as a backdrop, what kind of lessons do you draw with regard to other missions, like in the Sahel?

A lot of them. That is what we are going to discuss. But, certainly, this morning I already said at the end of the [meeting of the] Defence Ministers, that certainly we will have to have a more comprehensive approach. Not only military, but civilian, development, efficient governance, fight against corruption. All this has to be a package. And a lot of local empowerment. You do not export democracy, you do not export freedom. It has to be empowered by the people. But this is something that will have to be developed much deeper, because certainly the Western values did not have enough power in the Afghan society. This has to be taken very much into consideration. It was not just a military defeat; it was also a defeat of the Western values.

Is not there a sort of recognition if you engage with the Taliban?

There are two kinds of recognition. There is a factual recognition: if you are in power and, certainly, they are in power, we have to recognise the reality. As we recognise the reality when we were talking with them on how to bring people to the [Kabul] airport. This factual recognition is factual, like it or not, it is the way it is. We will have to talk with them and engage with them to solve practical problems. I repeat: the most important one is how to take people out of the country.

And then, there is the political recognition. And, this is not factual at all. I recognise you politically if I like you and if you behave according with my values, according with my wishes and my interests. And this is what is a conditions-based recognition, and that requires time and requires to see how things are going.

What are these conditions?

That is what we are going to discuss. At the end of the day I will explain it.

Will the EU diplomats go back to Afghanistan? What is the plan for the EU missions and other EU Member States’ diplomats?

For the time being, there are no more European Union diplomats in Afghanistan. We will have to have […not audible..] people working. Not necessary embassies, an embassy means recognition. And you set an embassy where there is political recognition. But this is something that has to be discussed, I cannot advance the discussion.

Are there other points in the agenda?

Yes, the Gulf.

What could be the European Union’s contribution to the framework of what is happening?

There are positive movements in the Gulf. In the region of the Gulf there are positive movements.  Next week I will be travelling to Iraq and then the other week, after the United Nations General Assembly, I will be travelling to the Emirates. I think we have to engage more with the Gulf.

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