The latest meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council took place in Brussels on 15 November 2021. Discussions focused on current events on the EU’s external border with Belarus and on strengthening the EU’s existing commitments to the Western Balkans and the Sahel. The 27 EU foreign ministers agreed to tighten the EU sanctions regime against Belarus. The decision means the EU can now impose sanctions on Minsk for the way it is instrumentalising migrants for political ends. As Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Linhart explained before the talks got underway:
Today we will adopt a new, additional sanctions regime against Belarus. It will allow us to impose sanctions against Belarus for the way it is importing migrants and sending them to the EU. We must not allow ourselves to be blackmailed here.
At the same time, however, Foreign Minister Linhart also issued a reminder that the situation on the EU’s external border with Belarus must not be allowed to distract attention from events in Belarus itself, where long-time ruler Alexander Lukashenko continues to violate the human rights of the country’s citizens.
The EU foreign ministers also discussed a number of other international issues and trouble-spots, including the situation in Mali, the civil war in Ethiopia and the latest developments in Ukraine. The process of enlarging the EU to include the nations of the Western Balkans was also on the agenda at today’s Council. This issue is a major priority for Austria, as Foreign Minister Linhart made clear:
The Western Balkans is a very important issue for us in terms of where we can take more concrete action and how we can give people of the Western Balkans nations the prospect of a European future. This issue is very close to my heart, which is why I will be travelling to North Macedonia and Albania this week.
In the evening, the EU foreign ministers joined their opposite numbers from EU defence ministries for a meeting known as a ‘Jumbo Council’, with talks on the EU’s new ‘Strategic Compass’ security policy framework taking centre stage.