On 20 March, François Bausch, Minister of Defence, and Jean Asselborn, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, attended the Foreign Affairs Council of the European Union in Brussels.
In the morning, Jean Asselborn took part in the meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, which was the occasion for an in-depth discussion on Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine.
Minister Asselborn focused on accountability issues, stressing the need to continue to support the investigations of the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court: "Accountability for all international crimes committed in Ukraine remains a priority for Luxembourg. I am particularly shocked by the accumulation of evidence concerning a programme of deportation and adoption of Ukrainian children to Russian territory. I would also like to reiterate our commitment to the work on accountability for the crime of aggression. The creation of an international centre for the prosecution of the crime of aggression against Ukraine is a first concrete and visible step towards the establishment of a special court," stressed Jean Asselborn, before adding that "the future special court for the crime of aggression must be able to try the most responsible persons, including President Vladimir Putin himself. This objective can be achieved by setting up a special international tribunal on the basis of an agreement between Ukraine and the United Nations.
Finally, Minister Asselborn recalled that the EU must continue its efforts to raise awareness in third countries in order to counter Russian disinformation. "The consequences of Russia's hybrid war are also being felt in our immediate neighbourhood, as shown by recent developments in Moldova and Georgia," he said.
The ministers then had an exchange of views on Tunisia and the main current issues. Minister Asselborn expressed his concern about the authoritarian drift and the risk of economic collapse in our immediate neighbourhood Tunisia. With regard to Iran, Luxembourg welcomed the adoption of additional sanctions against eight individuals and one entity responsible for serious human rights violations.
In the afternoon, EU foreign ministers were joined by defence ministers to discuss EU military support for Ukraine. The Ministers, meeting in an enlarged Council, agreed to the proposal of the European External Action Service (EEAS), consisting of three parallel tracks, namely:
- the immediate transfer of weapons and ammunition from existing stocks or pending orders from Member States and reimbursement through the European Peace Facility (EPF);
- placing large joint orders with the European defence industry by pooling procurement; and
- building European industrial capacity to meet current and future needs.
The first two tracks will be financed via a €1 billion each from the first €2 billion EFF top-up agreed at the end of 2022. "Luxembourg fully supports the three parallel tracks approach, using the EFF to provide Ukraine with the necessary artillery shells," said François Bausch in his speech. He added: "It remains important that we continue to support Ukraine in the short, medium and long term and that we give ourselves the means to replenish our national stocks in a coordinated and timely manner!" The FAC also reached political agreement on a second replenishment of the EFF of €3.5 billion, bringing the total budget of the facility to €11 billion. This agreement needs to be endorsed by Heads of State and Government at the next European Council.
In this context, and in the margins of the FAC, François Bausch signed the Collaborative Procurement of Ammunition (CPoA) project, which aims to support contributing members in their ammunition procurement efforts.
Ministers also took stock of the EU Strategic Compass, one year after its adoption.
On the evening of 20 March and 21 March 2023, the Minister of Defence, François Bausch, will participate in the first edition of the Schuman Security and Defence Forum. This forum will bring together the Ministers of Defence of the 27 EU Member States and 45 partner countries, as well as international and regional organisations with which the EU cooperates on security and defence matters.
Press release by the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs and the Directorate of Defence