Meeting of the European Foreign Affairs Council

European Union foreign ministers met in Brussels. Among the subjects on the table: the war which continues in Ukraine and the death of Russian opponent Alexeï Navalny. But also the situation in the Middle East and the Sahel.

Reactions to the death of Alexei Navalny
Vladimir Putin will have to “be held accountable” after the death of Alexeï Navalny. This is what the head of European diplomacy said about X.

Josep Borrell and the Ministers of the Foreign Affairs Council spoke with the widow of the Russian opponent who died in prison, Yulia Navalnaïa, who accused Vladimir Putin of being responsible for the death of her husband. She also said the Kremlin was blocking the family’s access to her husband’s remains.

This meeting is a symbol of the support of European states for the stifled protest in Russia. Last weekend, hundreds of people were arrested across the country as they came to lay wreaths or light candles at memorials dedicated to the victims of Stalinism, but this time to pay tribute to Alexeï Navalny.

Several European ministers, including the German Annalena Baerbock, also say they are in favor of the adoption of new sanctions against Russia. A thirteenth package of measures should be adopted on the occasion of the second anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, on February 24. The new global sanctions regime will be renamed the “Navalny regime” in tribute to the deceased opponent.

New mission in the Red Sea, Gaza and the Sahel
Furthermore, the Foreign Affairs Council officially launched the naval military operation Aspides (“shield” in ancient Greek). The main objective of this mission is to protect maritime traffic in the Red Sea. Germany is one of the states which have announced their intention to participate.

A street in Timbuktu (archive)A street in Timbuktu (archive)
The situation in the Sahel concerns EuropeansImage: AFP
The meeting was also attended by the United Nations’ senior coordinator for humanitarian aid and reconstruction in Gaza, Sigrid Kaag. The United Nations fears a famine may appear in the Gaza Strip.

As for the Sahel, the ministers were to discuss the fight against terrorism and the deterioration of security in West Africa. The United Nations expressed concern a few days ago about the entrenchment of the jihadist group Islamic State and its affiliates in the region.

To renew the mandate of the European military mission in Mali (EUTM-Mali), the unanimity of the member states would be required. But for now, all its activities are suspended.
In Niger, the EU has an important civilian mission, supporting the police and controlling borders. The junta in power in Niamey is demanding its withdrawal.

French diplomacy also calls not to forget the war in Sudan. In mid-April, Paris is hosting an international conference intended to raise funds to help the 25 million Sudanese who need it.

Ursula von der Leyen candidate for a new mandate
In Germany, the conservative camp supports the candidacy of Ursula von der Leyen for a new term as president of the European Commission.

No wonder because Ursula von der Leyen is herself a member of the CDU, the conservative party. The CDU and CSU of Bavaria should therefore support her at the start of March as head of the right-wing list in the European elections. Germany also advocates the creation of a new position of European commissioner: that of Defense Commissioner.

The FDP, another party in the government coalition, is more reserved on its economic management of European funds. The president of the centrist group in the European Parliament also warns Ursula von der Leyen, I quote, against “the temptation of a shift towards the populist right”.

This weekend, the former head of Europe’s border protection agency Frontex announced he was running for third place on a far-right list in France, sparking concern in Europe .

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