Wednesday

1st Feb 2023

EU to talk to Taliban to prevent 'migratory disaster'

  • EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell: The EU's focus is on getting European nationals and an estimated 400 Afghans out of the Taliban-controlled country (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

The EU will engage in dialogue with the Taliban in Afghanistan to prevent a "humanitarian and potential migratory disaster", the bloc's foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said on Tuesday (17 August) after an emergency video conference of 27 member states' foreign ministers.

Borrell also said the focus of any dialogue would be to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a hub for foreign terrorists.

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"We have to get in touch with authorities in Kabul, whatever they are. The Taliban have won the war so we will have to talk to them," he said, adding that it does not mean the EU would recognise the Taliban that took over the Afghan capital on Sunday.

"I just said that we have to talk with them for everything, even to try to protect women and girls. Even for that, you have to get in touch with them," Borrell told reporters.

"We'll have to talk with them in order to engage in a dialogue, as soon as necessary, to prevent a humanitarian and potential migratory disaster," he added.

In a statement, Borrell said cooperation with a future Afghan government will depend on "a peaceful and inclusive settlement and respect for the fundamental rights of all Afghans, including women, youth, and persons belonging to minorities".

He also said any future government in Kabul will need to fight against corruption, and prevent the use of Afghanistan's territory by terrorist organisations.

The EU's priority remains evacuating European nationals and the estimated 400 Afghans, including their families, who have worked with the EU over the last two decades, he added.

Spain has offered to act as a hub to receive the Afghans working with the EU before sending them off to other member states that had offered visas and shelter.

France has provided security at the Kabul airport, and Italy has offered an airbridge.

Borrell said the fall of Kabul to the Taliban was the most important geopolitical event since the Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014.

"It will have an impact on the geopolitical balance of the world," he said.

Some EU leaders have also coordinated reactions.

German chancellor Angela Merkel discussed the situation with UN commissioner for refugees Filippo Grandi, French president Emmanuel Macron, British PM Boris Johnson and Italian premier Mario Draghi.

Merkel later said the first step would be to consider the safest options in neighbouring countries for those Afghans who wanted to flee, before discussing the number of refugees EU countries should take in.

"Then, in a second step, we can think about whether people who are particularly affected should come to Europe and to European countries in a controlled and supported manner," Merkel was quoted as saying by German press agency DPA.

Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday that some 800 civilian personnel remained in Afghanistan, working on air-traffic control, fuel supplies and communications.

He described the situation as "extremely serious and unpredictable." Like US president Joe Biden, he blamed the Afghan leaders for the quick collapse of the Afghan military and government.

In the meantime, the Taliban have given their first press conference in Kabul saying that human rights and particularly women's rights will be respected within the framework of Islamic law.

Asked if he thinks the Taliban have presented a softer image than 20 years ago when they had been in power the last time, Borrell said: "They look the same, but they speak better English".

EU states resume evacuations from Kabul

EU countries have resumed evacuations from Kabul airport, the last piece of allied-controlled territory in Afghanistan, as Taliban forces urged people to return to normal life.

Afghans' plight reignites migration fears in Europe

Several EU member states are worried that the Taliban takeover would trigger a replay of the 2015-16 migration crisis when the bloc has seen the arrival of over one million asylum seekers in a matter of months.

Germany and Netherlands halt returns of Afghans

Last week, six EU countries, including Germany, and the Netherlands, said forced returns must continue despite violence in Afghanistan. Now they have changed their mind. Belgian Greens are also criticising the decision.

EU seeks Afghan safe passage to Pakistan

The EU wants to create safe passage routes out of Afghanistan towards Pakistan and other central Asian states in order to evacuate Afghan women's rights activists and others with similar profiles.

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