Koenders meets with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs

On Thursday, in the margins of the conference on cyberspace in The Hague, foreign minister Bert Koenders met with the EU’s High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy Federica Mogherini. The two discussed plans

‘Hybrid warfare is a reality we have to take into account,’ Mr Koenders said. ‘These days, cyber attacks can have as much of an impact as traditional attacks, and the EU and its member states must take action to defend ourselves against such threats.’

Both the foreign minister and the high representative believe that it is high time for international agreements on online codes of conduct. ‘The internet is not the property of individual states; it belongs to us all,’ Mr Koenders remarked. ‘This is why we have to guarantee that everyone has access to the web at all times. In our view, developing standards for state conduct that are based on mutual self-interest is the first step towards a arms control regime for cyberspace.’

At the meeting Mr Koenders also indicated the Netherlands’s wish to help with the revision of the  EU’s foreign policy. ‘We would like to actively contribute to enhancing our common foreign and security policy, now and during the Netherlands’ EU Presidency in the first half of 2016,’ the minister said. ‘In these turbulent times the EU must consolidate its foreign policy swiftly and effectively. With Europe surrounded by an arc of instability, it is vital for us to ensure that security is firmly anchored in our partnership. This is good for the Netherlands and for Europe.’

At his meeting with the high representative Mr Koenders stressed the Netherlands’ commitment to an integrated approach: ‘When it comes to our foreign policy, we need to adopt a coherent approach. Compartmentalised thinking is not the way forward. Our resources and programmes need to be coordinated in order to tackle the problems before us,’ the minister contended.

As an example, he cited Dutch counterterrorism policy. ‘We are working closely in this area with countries like Morocco and Tunisia to exchange knowledge and expertise. We are also freezing the assets of known terrorists. Beyond that, we are working to eliminate the causal factors of terrorism, by providing humanitarian aid and by contributing to development. There is no one solution for these kinds of complex problems. They require a whole range of measures.’

The problems in Libya also demand a coherent approach, in Mr Koenders’ view. ‘I have serious concerns about recent developments in Libya,’ he said. ‘We simply cannot stand on the sidelines. Wherever possible, we must contribute to the political process by bringing the parties together, reducing the negative impact on Europe and taking steps to provide long-term support for the future unity government.’

Mr Koenders and Ms Mogherini also touched on the conflicts on Europe’s external border, including the situation in eastern Ukraine and the need for compliance with the agreements made in Minsk. The unstable situation in Yemen was discussed as well. Mr Koenders and Ms Mogherini also looked back on the conference on the European Neighbourhood Policy, which was held last Monday in Barcelona. There, Mr Koenders pushed for a more flexible form of partnership with the countries south of the EU.