The European Union Foreign Affairs Council, meeting in Brussels yesterday, welcomed the United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, via video conference, for their first exchange of views since President Joe Biden's Administration took office. In the opinion of the Portuguese Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Augusto Santos Silva, the meeting “exceeded all expectations, considering the convergence of positions that was seen”. He highlighted the “absolutely crystal-clear way the US Administration said 'we're back'", meaning that multilateralism, the most important global agendas and relations between the EU and the USA are once again among the priorities the new administration's foreign policy is based on.
© European Union
Portuguese Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Augusto Santos Silva, at the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council of the European Union with US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, yesterday by videoconference. © European Union
Council agrees to sanctions against Russia, Myanmar
Relations between the EU and Russia were also on the table, following “the acts of hostility recently adopted by Russia against the EU”, explained Minister Santos Silva. The Council gave its political agreement to initiating the process that will lead to sanctions aimed at certain Russian officials for human rights violations, particularly in connection with the jailing of Russian opposition leader, Alexei Navalny.
This process will be one of the first cases of applying the new global sanctions regime for gross human rights violations, which the Council approved in December.
Augusto Santos Silva, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, at a press conference after the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels © Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union 2021 / Tony da Silva/LUSA
Apart from Russia, the Myanmar coup was also analysed. The Council decided to initiate proceedings to prepare specific sanctions, aimed at the military leaders who directed the coup. The Ministers also appealed for the unconditional release of State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.
The list of sanctions was also extended to the group of Venezuelan officials targeted by the EU's restrictive measures, due to gross human rights violations and the restriction of fundamental freedoms in Venezuela.