On 2 and 3 September 2021, the European Union’s Foreign Affairs Ministers gathered for their informal meeting – Gymnich – in Brdo, Slovenia. The main items on the agenda were Afghanistan and the EU-China relations. Attention was also devoted to the state of affairs at the EU border with Belarus. EU ministers also met with the Minister for Foreign Affairs of India, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, for a discussion on the EU’s involvement in the Indo-Pacific region.
Developments in Afghanistan will remain in the circle of attention of the international community. The Foreign Minister of Latvia, Edgars Rinkēvičs, underlined in his remarks that an immediate task still is to help those people in Afghanistan who had helped the EU and NATO and supported their presence in Afghanistan. At the same time, every effort must be made to avoid further deterioration of the situation in the country. The EU and NATO must seek the best way to position themselves vis à vis the Taliban while exploring solutions for the prevention of a humanitarian crisis. The Ministers were unanimous that, with the risk of the refugee flow increasing, it is vital to work together with Central Asian and other partners in the region on their capacity building. It is important to prevent the Afghan refugees from being used for the purposes of hybrid operations of other countries and finding themselves at the EU’s eastern border, Foreign Minister Rinkēvičs added.
Relations between the EU and China are still high on the agenda. Latvia fully supports a united EU’s stand in relation to China, since it is only by pooling efforts that the EU’s economic interests could be balanced with the protection of values such as the rule of law, democracy and human rights. The EU is interested in improving connectivity with Asia, including with China; nevertheless, it is important for all the actors to comply with the principles of sustainability, transparency and a level playing field. Our priority, the Minister asserted, is to strengthen relationship in the format of EU Member States and China, or “27+1”.
On the initiative of the Baltic States and Poland, the issue was raised of the situation at the border of the EU and Belarus. The Ministers of Latvia, Lithuania and Poland called for new EU restrictive measures to be adopted against physical persons and legal entities related to the hybrid operations of Belarus – arranging for migrant flows from Iraq to the EU’s eastern Border.
In a conversation with the Foreign Minister of India, the participants confirmed the EU’s interest in the strengthening of political and economic links with India as well as cooperation in security and defence. This is vital in the context of stability across the entire Indo-Pacific region. India’s status as a non-permanent member on the UN Security Council and the climate neutrality goals set by the country correlate with the EU’s intention to work on strategic partnership with India.
The informal meeting referred to as ‘Gymnich’ is a gathering of the EU foreign affairs ministers organised every six months by the country holding the Presidency of the Council of the EU. These meetings, chaired by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy are marked by an informal atmosphere in which ministers speak candidly on various topics of EU foreign and security policy.