We are going to have a Foreign Affairs Council and tomorrow, a Defence Council. Both will be focusing on Ukraine.
Today, an important decision is the launching of the [Military Assistance] training Mission for the Ukrainian army (EUMAM). As you know, we have been discussing it and we have decided it in record time. The mission will be launched, and it will be operational in a couple of weeks.
It will be in Poland [and Germany], and there are lot of countries willing to participate in this training mission, which will be training about 15,000 Ukrainian soldiers.
The news from the Ukrainian war are very good for the Ukrainians. Apart from retaking [the city of] Kherson, the Russian army is retreating. That is very good news. It seems that the strategy of supporting Ukraine militarily was the good one.
We have to continue. We have to continue supporting Ukraine with our military capacities, putting pressure on Russia, and reaching out to the rest of the world to face the consequences of this war.
We will discuss the amount of our military support, which is bigger than some news say. I think it is very important to put the right figures on the table. I will talk about it after the Council, because certainly the military support of the European Union plus the Member States is quite important.
Secondly, we will discuss about the Western Balkans. Kosovo and Serbia have kept me busy this weekend in Paris. I met with Prime Minister [of Kosovo, Albin] Kurti and with President [of Serbia, Aleksandar] Vučić.
We are unhappily on the edge of another crisis. We have to go out of the crisis mode and look for a structural approach. We presented a proposal. This proposal has to be discussed. It is a good way out of the situation. I have to call on both parties to fulfill their commitments, to respect their engagements, to implement past agreements, that have already been agreed many years ago, and embark on looking for a structural solution.
Iran will be also on the agenda. Today, we are going to approve another package of sanctions against the people responsible for the repression of the demonstrators. I talked yesterday with the Iranian Minister [for Foreign Affairs, Hossein Amirabdollahian]. We discussed about that. We discussed about the JCPOA. We discussed about the military support of Iran to Russia that has to stop.
These are the three most important issues for today. We also have to have a look at the situation in the Great Lakes, where [there is] some news, from the point of view of more military engagement of the Kenyan troops, to another big crisis in Africa.
Q. On Iran, you are going to sign up new sanctions. Iran has already threatened countermeasures: what could they entail, and aren’t you afraid that, in the end, the JCPOA will die because of this tit for tat?
Yes, everybody who has been sanctioned takes countermeasures: Russia did, China did, Iran did. It is part of the game. We are ready. I think it is a mistake: it is a mistake, in particular, to sanction parliamentarians for doing their job. On the other hand, I think that the JCPOA is a different issue: the JCPOA is about Iran [not] becoming nuclear, and the best way for Iran not becoming nuclear is to continue working on the JCPOA. It is not on a good track, it is at a stalemate, but the work continues.
Q. Should we expect any time soon a ninth package of sanctions against Russia?
Well, not today.
Q. Are you gathering evidence about Iran sending missiles to Russia?
No evidence about missiles, but clear evidence about drones. That is clear.
Q. The Lithuanian Minister [for Foreign Affairs, Gabrielius Landsbergis] said a few minutes ago that the Baltic States and Poland proposed new sanctions to build the ninth package [of sanctions against] Russia, but there was no reaction from the EU institutions. Why are the institutions not reacting to the proposals?
The “[European Union] institutions” means me (smile). Yes, we are reacting, and we are following the procedures. Member States propose, then sanctions are being studied, legal services are being consulted, and then we proceed. Be sure that we are not stopping.
Q. What about special tribunals also mentioned by Mr Landsbergis [Minister for Foreign Affairs of Lithuania]?
That is something that has been discussed and it will be discussed maybe today, also. We have to look for a clear legal path [whether] to implement it.
Q. What to expect about Lebanon?
Lebanon is not in the [formal] agenda today but, for sure, we will comment it under Any Other Business. The situation remains the same, I cannot tell you anything new.
Q. What do you expect from the exchange of views with Ms [Sviatlana] Tsikhanouskaya? Does it need a harsher, stronger policy against Belarus?
Yes, I forgot to tell you that, after this encounter, we will have a meeting with Ms Tsikhanouskaya. Once again, she is invited as the leader of the Belarusian opposition to the Council, to share with us the situation in Belarus and see what we can do. [We will discuss] the level of engagement of the Belarusian army in this war. That is something that worries us a lot, because it is clear that they are providing as much support as Putin is requiring from the Belarusian leader. For the time being, there is no evidence of direct engagement of their troops, but we want to know about the internal political situation, the fate of the thousands of political prisoners that are still in the jails of Lukashenko. It is important to keep the contact with the Belarusian opposition.
Q. On that, do you feel that, because of Ukraine, Belarus does not get enough attention as needed?
No, we pay as much attention as needed and we do everything we can. We take a lot of care about Ukraine, but it is not the only thing.
Well, let’s follow the [developments of the] war. It is very important to see what is happening in the next days: the retreat of the Russian army on the other bank of the river, abandoning Kherson, not willing to resist Kherson because maybe it would have been a big defeat, if they tried to keep their positions there. It is a turning point in the war.
Q. Because of that, there are more and more reports that Ukraine should be ready to negotiate. Do you share that stance?
Ukraine will decide what to do. Our duty is to support them.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-233256