Joint press release following Canada-European Union Ministerial Meeting

On September 8, 2020, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, François-Philippe Champagne, and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission (HRVP), Josep Borrell, met to reaffirm their joint commitment to address together the COVID-19 crisis and pressing foreign and security policy challenges.

Canada and the European Union (EU) will continue to show leadership in strengthening the global response to the pandemic and future crises by promoting global health as a public good and in full support of the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) ongoing efforts. It is only through multilateral cooperation and solidarity that the world will contain the virus and overcome the challenges to public health and economic stability. Canada and the EU welcome the establishment of an Independent Panel on Pandemic Preparedness and Response and will continue to provide support and enhance cooperation to strengthen the ability of multilateral institutions, including the WHO and the international community, to respond to future global health crises. Canada and the EU are also fully behind the Build Back Better Agenda to ensure a recovery that is green, digital, just and resilient and that links investments and debt relief to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Canada and the EU highlighted our immediate and substantial response to the COVID-19 pandemic by funding new research projects and coordinating research efforts, and in particular, the successful international pledging initiative launched on May 4, 2020, to help develop and ensure equitable access to coronavirus vaccines, tests and treatments.

Canada and the EU are also collaborating across a number of multilateral forums to explore how to explicitly leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and other digital technologies to help the international community respond to, and recover from, COVID-19. This includes the Global Partnership on AI’s subgroup on AI and Pandemic Response and the annual Canada-EU Digital Dialogue. This is happening in parallel with ongoing and deep collaboration in other domains, including quantum technologies.

Canada and the EU will continue our close cooperation to identify and respond to foreign threats to our democracies, including state-sponsored information manipulation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. This work is already taking place both bilaterally via the EU’s Rapid Alert System and multilaterally through the G7 Rapid Response Mechanism, as well as in NATO. Especially in times of crisis, citizens need to have easy access to reliable information and need to be able to engage in discussions that are free from foreign interference, including disinformation.

The Ministers reaffirmed their full commitment to the long-term climate goals established under the Paris Agreement and the objective of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and called for a clean reset of the economy. They committed to show leadership by putting forward and implementing ambitious recovery plans aligning the economic recovery from COVID-19 with climate goals and the transition to a climate neutral, resilient, inclusive, and digital economy. They emphasized that the global economic recovery from COVID-19 represents an opportunity to invest in green technology, to decouple economic growth from resource use, and not to return to business as usual.

Today’s interconnected world and the global challenges we face show that multilateral cooperation and upholding the rules-based international order are more necessary than ever. Canada and the EU will continue to cooperate to promote an effective multilateral system that is rules- and rights-based, protects the global commons, promotes shared public goods, and delivers benefits for citizens across the globe. We recognize that an effective, relevant and resilient multilateral system must be capable of facing new global realities, including through reform and modernization of multilateral institutions where necessary. Canada and the EU agreed that new impetus was needed and that new initiatives to promote effective multilateralism need to be action-oriented, including via the G7 and the G20.

Canada and the EU will continue to stand up for our interests and values vis-à-vis China, including human rights and fundamental freedoms. China is a trade and economic partner as well as an essential partner at the global level on issues such as climate change and the Paris Agreement implementation, and the fight against COVID-19. Canada and the EU will continue to call on China to respect the rule of law and international governance standards, including on issues related to trade, investment, and science and technology. Canada and the EU express deep concern about the continued arbitrary detention of the two Canadian citizens, the use of the death penalty, the treatment of minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet, and the situation in Hong Kong.

Canada and the EU both stand by the people of Belarus in their wish for democratic change. We are in agreement that the August 9, 2020, presidential elections in Belarus were neither free nor fair and it is high time to launch an open and constructive national dialogue to find a way forward. We condemn the arbitrary arrests and detentions on political grounds, as well as targeted attacks on independent media. Only a peaceful and democratic process can de-escalate the situation and provide sustainable solutions. Belarus has international obligations, which we expect the authorities to respect. As an Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) participating state, Belarus has committed to holding genuinely democratic elections and to upholding human rights and fundamental freedoms. Canada and the EU strongly support the sovereignty and independence of Belarus, and will continue to work with our international partners to ensure that the voices of the Belarusian people are heard and their rights upheld.

Canada and the EU remain unwavering in our support for Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders and condemn the illegal annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, which is a violation of international law. We recall that the duration of economic sanctions is entirely linked to Russia’s complete implementation of its commitments under the Minsk agreements. We continue to encourage Ukraine to implement robust and inclusive reforms. We need to remain vigilant in the fight against corruption and vested interests in Ukraine. We underline the value of our good cooperation on the rule of law as exemplified by our support for the reform of Ukraine’s security sector and by Canada’s contribution to the EU Advisory Mission (EUAM) in Ukraine.

Canada and the EU are united in our determination to aid the people of Lebanon in recovering and rebuilding from the devastating August 4, 2020, explosion in Beirut. As major donors of humanitarian, development and other assistance to Lebanon we remain committed to assisting the Lebanese people in the days, months and years ahead. It was especially tragic that this disaster should befall a country already sorely afflicted by financial, economic and political crises, and the COVID-19 pandemic. While we will continue supporting Lebanon through the immediate humanitarian crisis, with respect to providing medium- and longer-term assistance, we call on the new Government of Lebanon to implement necessary political and economic reforms as demanded by the Lebanese people. An agreement with the International Monetary Fund is urgently needed as well as concrete steps to reform the financial system and to adopt anti-corruption measures.

Canada and the EU condemn the unconstitutional overthrow of ex-president of Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta. Beyond the return to constitutional order, Canada and the EU call for a transition addressing the root causes of the crisis and meeting the aspirations of the Malian people. We support the mediation of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), calling for a civilian-led transition in the near term. The situation remains volatile and entails security risks for the whole region. Our efforts aim to ensure stability in Mali and the region, promote economic opportunities and human rights, and support sustainable development efforts.

Canada and the EU remain committed to strengthening international efforts in support of a peaceful, political and democratic solution to the crisis in Venezuela, through free, fair, and inclusive legislative and presidential elections, in line with international standards. We regret that these conditions do not currently exist. The Ministers underlined the urgent need to continue to reinforce international humanitarian assistance to Venezuelans, inside and outside the country. Canada and the EU stressed the importance of keeping the spotlight on this long-term humanitarian, political and economic emergency. The EU thanked Canada for agreeing to host a follow-up event to the International Pledging Conference co-hosted by the EU and Spain, and co-convened by Canada, Norway, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in May 2020.

The strong relationship between Canada and the EU is anchored firmly in our shared commitment to the rule of law, democracy, human rights and multilateralism and has proven to be a solid framework to address global uncertainties and challenges. Canada and the EU remain committed to strengthening the multilateral system and the Ministers agreed to work collaboratively on the most urgent situations and ongoing issues. They also agreed to further their discussions on arbitrary detention.

We look forward to further close cooperation between Canada and the EU.

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