Robles attends the informal meeting of EU defence ministers

News - 2024.1.31

31/01/2024. Informal meeting of EU defence ministers. The Minister for Defense, Margarita Robles, together with the High Representative for ... The Minister for Defense, Margarita Robles, together with the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the EU, Josep Borrell

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The Minister for Defence, Margarita Robles, has taken part in the informal meeting of EU defence ministers in Brussels. The meeting, chaired by the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, began on Tuesday with an informal dinner hosted by Belgium, the country that took over the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the EU on 1 January, and which Minister Robles attended along with the other EU defence ministers.

The discussion during Wednesday's first session, which was devoted to support for Ukraine and focused on European initiatives to deliver ammunition to Ukraine, saw member states renew their commitment to these initiatives. The session was preceded by a video conference with Ukrainian Defence Minister Rustem Umerov, who briefed his European colleagues on the latest developments in the conflict and the situation on the ground.

During her speech, the Minister for Defence, Margarita Robles, explained the military support and the training, education and humanitarian assistance that has been provided by the Spanish Armed Forces. She also joined the various initiatives under way to expand the European Peace Support Fund and to address the creation of a new Fund to support Ukraine, highlighting the Spanish defence industry's extremely important participation in the European effort to supply long-range artillery ammunition.

Robles reiterated that "Spain will continue to support Ukraine using all means to ensure that this support is as flexible and effective as possible", recalling that during the almost two years of conflict, "the Spanish Ministry of Defence has provided armoured vehicles, air defence systems, weapons and artillery ammunition, and systems for the defence of maritime routes".

She also pointed out that "Spain has made an ongoing contribution with vehicles, electric generators and medical and protection material, including a field hospital and fuel to sustain the Ukrainian effort, to which must be added the 3,500 Ukrainian soldiers trained in the EUMAM Mission and the support provided to displaced persons, to the wounded that have needed complex amputations, and recently, to the families of those killed in combat who have been taken in at our military rest homes".

Looking to the future, Robles highlighted the value of the European Peace Support Fund, recalling that "the €6.7 billion of military equipment financed by the fund make it the best instrument for helping Ukraine".

The Minister for Defence closed her speech in this session by underlining "the important contribution of Spanish industry through direct contracts to support the Ukrainian Armed Forces".

Defence industrial strategy

During the second session, which focused on "defence preparedness", Robles thanked the Commission, the External Action Service and the European Defence Agency for the efforts they are making to prepare the European Defence Industrial Strategy, anticipating that "it will be a key instrument for achieving the Defence Technological and Industrial Base that Europe needs".

"It will be an opportunity to explain to our citizens the importance of defence and its relationship with and dependence on an industry with resources, talent, innovation and the potential to create highly qualified jobs in Europe," said the minister.

Last, she reiterated that this strategy "will allow us to effectively coordinate our demand, strengthen supply chains, support the competitiveness of the defence industry and promote innovation, empowering the EU in its goal of achieving the objectives of the Strategic Compass".

The meeting concluded with a working lunch devoted to current security and defence issues, during which the ministers discussed the situation on the African continent, with a particular focus on the Sahel.

In this regard, the minister assured that "Spain will maintain its contribution as long as the local governments do not request our immediate exit and the EU decides to remain, because for us, leaving the Sahel would simply lead the societies there into a much more difficult situation at the hands of predatory actors".

In the margins of the Council, Robles also met with her Lithuanian counterpart, Arvydas Anušauskas, to discuss issues related to the demining coalition in the framework of the Contact Group for Ukraine. She also held a meeting with the Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations Department of Peace Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, with whom she discussed the crisis in the Middle East and the relevance of the Spanish Armed Forces' contribution to the UNIFIL mission.

In this regard, said Robles that "it is in the current volatile crisis that Spain's efforts in favour of Lebanon's stability reach their true added value and provide greater stability at the border, which is the bottom line of its mandate".

Non official translation