The Informal meeting of defense ministers focused on the EU’s security and defense agenda, with a particular focus on five issues:
- PESCO: Normally there are 17 ongoing PESCO projects and EU plans to enhance PESCO with 30 new project proposals. Discussion of participation of third countries has been discussed with a view to adapt at the end of this year. This item could be seen as a measure to include UK in PESCO after Brexit.
- Military Planning and Conduct Capability (MPCC): Reinforcement of MPCC in a phased approach in the coming years was foreseen.
- European Peace Facility (EPF): Elaboration of EPF as an off-budget instrument for financing European Military and Defense related initiatives was discussed.
- Operation Sophia: Ministers decided on the continuation of the operation. Discussions to find consensus on practical, sustainable solutions on the issue of how to manage the people that are disembarked by the vessels are ongoing. (Italian proposal to disembark to other ports rather than those of Italy). HR/VP Mogherini stated her hope that a common solution would be found soon.
- Western Balkans: Strengthening the cooperation on security and defense issues with the Western Balkan countries were discussed.
Additionally, Austrian Defense Minister Mario Kunasek presented an Austrian non‑paper on the Austrian assistance model and the possibilities to apply it in the management of EU external borders.
In the margins of the meeting possibilities for further cooperation with NATO and the UN were also on the agenda. NATO Deputy Secretary-General Rose Gottemoeller and UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean‑Pierre Lacroix also participated to the working dinner.
During the Informal meeting of ministers of foreign affairs a very dense agenda was discussed such as current developments in the Middle East, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), transatlantic relations and possibilities of cooperation regarding de-nuclearisation of North Korea. The working session on effective multilateralism took place together with the EU partner countries: Albania, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey.
- Middle East: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict was discussed in face of current lack of process, and EU reiterated its firm position on the need for a two-state solution. EU announced its support for the work of UN and Egypt on Gaza.
- Syria: HR/VP Mogherini announced the need to prevent and avoid a military action in Idlib since such kind of operation might cause humanitarian catastrophe. EU will continue to stand ready for reconstruction in Syria right after the political process will be firmly underway under UN auspices. Iran’s behavior in the region has been discussed in depth during the meeting. There will be a ministerial meeting on Syria in New York in the margins of the UN General Assembly.
- JCPOA: HR/VP Mogherini announced that EU’s work continues to preserve the nuclear deal. 12th International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report released on 30 August 2018 certifies that Iran is still complying with all its nuclear-related commitments. EU continues its work to make sure that Iranians and Iranian citizens can benefit from the economic relations not only the European Union’s Member States, but also others in the world.
- Transatlantic relations: Transatlantic relations is a key pillar of the European Union foreign policy. Although there is divergence on some issues between transnational partners, an excellent cooperation continues on so many other topics such as North Korea.
In short; PESCO continues to accelerate with 30 new projects. The EU is trying to enforce building up military capabilities and integration through projects such as MPCC and EPF, which are progressing gradually. Despite positive decision towards continuation of Operation Sofia, divergence about disembarkation ports are ongoing. EU is trying to take measures to provide participation of UK into EU projects by accelerating multilateralism. Land swap issue between Kosovo and Serbia continues to cause sensitiveness.