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EU foreign ministers in Helsinki: discussions included wider Middle East, hybrid threats and Arctic region

EU2019FIMinistry for Foreign Affairs
Publication date 30.8.2019 16.19
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Photo: Lauri Heikkinen, Prime Minister’s Office, Finland

The topics of discussion at the Informal Meeting of Ministers for Foreign Affairs (Gymnich) included the wider Middle East, the Arctic region, hybrid threats and regional cooperation with the Western Balkan partners. After the meeting, Finland arranged a separate informal lunch, which was also attended by a number of invited human rights defenders from around the world.

The meeting was held in Helsinki on 29–30 August and was chaired by High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini.

The first day of the meeting began with a discussion held jointly with the EU defence ministers on the subject of hybrid threats. Countering hybrid and cyber threats is one of the priorities of Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union. On the first day of the meeting, the foreign ministers also held a wide-ranging discussion on the situation in the wider Middle East.

On the second day of the meeting, the foreign ministers discussed the Arctic region, the strategic significance of which will grow in Europe and globally in the coming years and decades. They also held a discussion with the foreign ministers of the Western Balkan partners on the subject of regional cooperation. The second day of the meeting included brief discussion of the forest fires in the Amazon basin.

Informal lunch on human rights

During its Presidency of the Council of the EU, Finland wishes to focus attention on support for the position of girls and women and the work of human rights defenders and civil society, as part of the EU’s external policies.

After the EU foreign ministers’ meeting, Minister for Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto hosted a ministerial lunch, which was also attended by a number of invited international human rights defenders. They presented their views about the current situation during the lunch and gave their recommendations to the ministers and the EU.

“Today, support is needed more than ever as human rights defenders around the world face a growing number of threats and attacks. Women human rights defenders, in particular, are often at risk. The lunch provided us an opportunity to discuss how we can best support the important work of human rights defenders in dangerous and challenging situations,” said Minister Haavisto.