Summary: 21 February 2011, Brussels - During the Foreign Affairs Council, the 27 EU ministers expressed support for the peoples of the South Mediterranean, declared the EU's readiness "for a new partnership" and discussed the Union's response to what High Representative Catherine Ashton called the "unprecedented events" in the region.
The Council condemned the ongoing repression against demonstrators in Libya and encouraged "all sides" to start a "national Libyan-led dialogue", which would bring a constructive future for the country and for the people.
The ministers welcomed the decision of Bahrain's authorities to "open a national dialogue" and urged the Yemeni authorities to do the same.
They confirmed their solidarity with the Tunisian people and the EU's commitment to contributing to the country's "socio-economic development and institution-building".
The Council encouraged the transitional authorities of Egypt to set "a clear timetable and steps for constitutional reform", that being a necessary precondition for free and fair parliamentary and presidential elections. However, the future of the state, emphasised Catherine Ashton, "lies firmly in the hands of the Egyptian people" and "we are not going to dictate the outcomes or impose any solutions."
"This is our neighbourhood. We need to be ambitious, we need to be effective and we need to be integrated," underlined High Representative Ashton.
She has already launched a task force both within the EU's External Action Service and the Commission to adapt the EU's existing tools to help the region's countries.
Catherine Ashton declared that her aim was a package of measures which "would be comprehensive across all the fields of our engagement. And tailored to the specific needs of each country."
After the meeting, High Representative Ashton left for Egypt, where she will meet representatives of the transitional authorities, the opposition and civil society to discuss how the EU can best assist the country.
EU Foreign Affairs Council Conclusions (pdf)
Webcast of press conference