CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
Today the Council will have many different heavy issues on the table. We’ll start with a discussion on how to counter terrorism not only in Europe but also in other parts of the world such as in the Mediterranean region and Africa. I’m just having now, before we start, a meeting with the Secretary General of the Arab League, Mr El Araby, as the threat is not only the one we faced in Paris but also spreading in many other parts of the world, starting with Muslim countries. We need to strengthen our way of cooperating together, first of all with Arab countries but also internally. Interior Ministers and Foreign Affairs Ministers will have discussion about that and we need to share information more, we need to cooperate more also among Member States on the security level and we’ll discuss that with Commissioner Avramopoulos.
I’ve always said it is not an issue between Europe or the West and Islam. Terrorism and terrorist attacks are targeting most of all Muslims in the world so we need an alliance, we need a dialogue there to face the issue together. We also need to take full responsibility for what we do and what we say and I think that respect is also one of the main core values of the European Union. Drawing the line between the freedom of expression and respect has always been one of the main philosophical dilemmas, but I think we need to look at that very carefully these days as we see what is happening in many parts of the world. What we need to do is face terrorism while respecting Islam.
Then we’ll have a discussion on Russia. The point of the discussion is not our support to Ukraine – that stays strong and firm; it is not a decision on sanctions – don’t expect anything like that today. It’s a follow-up of the discussion we had in November already in the Foreign Affairs Council and in December with the Heads of States and Governments. We will be preparing the decisions for the months to come, but any decisions on sanctions – as we agreed several times among Ministers but also with President Tusk and President Juncker – will only be based on improvements on the ground, on implementation of the Minsk agreement. And in these days obviously the coming back of violence in the East of Ukraine is definitely not good news. What we will discuss today is the ways in which the European Union’s tools and the instruments we have, apart from sanctions, can be used in a more coordinated way and in a more effective way.
We’ll also have a discussion on Libya following the talks in Geneva. We’ll discuss that more in details with Ministers and see how the European Union can further support the positive news that are coming from there.
We’ll also have a discussion on climate change, with the climate change Action Plan in view of the decisions to be taken later this year in Paris in December.