Highlights from the Foreign Affairs Council of 7 December 2020, held in Brussels
A few days ahead of the International Human Rights Day on 10 December, the Council adopted a decision and a regulation establishing a global human rights sanctions regime that will allow the EU to target individuals, entities and bodies responsible for, involved in or associated with serious human rights violations and abuses worldwide, no matter where they occurred.
This is a landmark agreement, the first of its kind, which will allow the European Union to target serious human rights abuses and violations worldwide. It will send a clear signal to those responsible: there will be consequences.
Josep Borrell, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
High Representative Borrell briefed ministers on the legislative elections that took place on 6 December 2020 in Venezuela, and that the EU considered not to be free, fair or democratic. The High Representative stressed that the EU, Latin American partners in the International Contact Group and other stakeholders should come together to help Venezuelans to try to find a democratic, peaceful solution.
Ministers were then informed about the situation in Georgia, where the majority and opposition parties must pursue efforts to find a way forward following the parliamentary elections.
The Council was then updated on the latest developments surrounding Turkey ahead of the European Council on 10-11 December. In this context the High Representative reported that Turkey had not shown a fundamental change of direction, and the European Council would assess how Turkey had responded to the EU's offer for a constructive agenda and dialogue.
Ministers reviewed the situation in Belarus, where repression by the authorities against the population continues. They also discussed the situation in Ethiopia, on which the High Representative stressed that a return to dialogue and a peaceful and sustainable settlement of the conflict were essential, and that the EU strongly supported the African Union initiative in this sense.
Following an initial exchange of views held during the video conference of foreign affairs ministers on 19 November and the Joint Communication of the Commission and the High Representative adopted on 2 December, the Council discussed how to reinvigorate the strategic partnership with the United States and engage with the new administration taking office in January 2021. Ministers stressed that a strong, reciprocal and far-sighted partnership should become the backbone of a renewed global alliance between the EU and the US.
In this context the Council adopted conclusions on EU-US relations.
The Council had an exchange of views on how to enhance and operationalise the EU’s strategic autonomy from a foreign and security policy point of view. Ministers were invited in particular to identify concrete political initiatives and projects that can help enhance the EU's capacity to act and have an impact globally.
During the debate it was stressed that the discussion on strategic autonomy goes together with and complements efforts to increase EU's resilience and strengthen multilateral engagement.
Under Any other Business, the Council reviewed the implementation of the National Security Law imposed on Hong Kong on 30 June 2020, stressing that the political situation had deteriorated, with severe blows to political pluralism and freedom of opinion. The EU will continue to implement the Council conclusions expressing political support for Hong Kong's autonomy under the "One Country, Two Systems" principle, and, if necessary, further measures could be considered at a later stage.
The Council adopted conclusions on Lebanon, the Civilian CSDP Compact 2021, and EU Peace Mediation.
-7 December 2020