Foreign Affairs Council: Press remarks by High Representative Josep Borrell after the meeting

Good afternoon, bonne après-midi, 

On a eu un long Conseil [Affaires Étrangères]. On est au Conseil depuis 8:30 ce matin, ça fait neuf heures [de réunion]. 

It has been a long [Foreign Affairs] Council but a productive one. I am very happy about the result. 

First of all, because we reaffirmed our top priority. This top priority is to continue supporting Ukraine. I will leave for tomorrow the military aspects of this issue. Tomorrow, we have a Defence Ministers Council where we will continue discussing about what is happening in Ukraine from the defence and the military point of view. But certainly, the [Foreign] Ministers also talked about it. 

We listened to Minister [of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Dmytro] Kuleba, who joined us [remotely] to debrief on the latest developments. We had the opportunity to reconfirm to him that the European Union stands with Ukraine until Ukraine’s victory. This has to be understood under Ukrainian parameters. Until then, we stay united in our support to Ukraine.  

A good proof of that is that today, we launched the EU Military Assistance Mission [to Ukraine (EUMAM)] with the purpose of training at least 15,000 Ukrainian soldiers. It has been decided, it has been agreed, it has been implemented in record time. It is the first time I see a Military Assistance Mission to go [ahead] as quickly as this one, through the whole procedure. I hope that, by the end of the month, it will start working.  

Member States discussed about the amount of our military support. More details will come tomorrow, but allow me to say that we should not confuse the €3.1 billion from the European Peace Facility, with the [combined] military support of the European Union and its Member States to Ukraine. Sometimes you can read some figures, a comparison between the United States’ effort and the European effort.  

I asked my military staff to do the best estimation of which is the amount of our military support to Ukraine, and I can advance a figure that tomorrow will be discussed with the Defence Ministers. 

I think I can say that at least €8 billion in military equipment have already been provided to Ukraine by the European Union and the Member States. It is about 45% of the effort done by the United States, so it is not negligible. We are not talking about €3.1 billion, but about €8 billion on military support. 

Tomorrow, as I said, I will continue discussing these figures with the Defence Ministers and study how these resources have been implemented, with which kind of defence material, and its effectiveness.  

All in all, our approach to Russia remains clear. We agreed with the Ministers on a common message along the following lines. 

First, we will continue isolating Russia internationally. We will continue imposing restrictive measures against [the] Russian economy. We stand ready to continue reinforcing restrictive measures and target third countries’ involvement, especially the ones who [we know] are providing arms and military support – Iran and Belarus.  

This morning, we discussed with the leader of Belarusian [United] Democratic Forces, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. We reconfirmed to her our solidarity with the people of Belarus, and we will continue upholding sanctions against Lukashenko’s regime. 

As I said, tomorrow I will go deeper into the military aspects of the situation.  

It is clear that our sanctions are weakening the Russian economy. They weaken Russia’s capacity to buy and update technology. We never expected the sanctions were going to finish the war, but certainly, they are weakening the capacity of the Russian army to renew its material, especially in front of the enormous losses that Russia is suffering in the battlefield. It has weakened its capacity to lead a war based on terror against the Ukrainian people.  

Putin’s Russia wants to put Ukrainians into the darkness and the cold. They are destroying the electricity systems of this country: millions of Ukrainians do not have electricity. The purpose is, during the winter, to put them in inhumane situation in their cities.  

We will continue supporting the Ukrainian people and ensure accountability for the violations of international law and war crimes committed in Ukraine. The news coming from the liberated cities are really important to know what has happened there. Together with the [European] Commission, we are looking at the options at our disposal to ensure accountability, and the discussion will continue on that. 

We are working closely with our NATO partners and worldwide, [with] everybody who is ready to defend the international order based on rules.  

We are enhancing our resilience, in particular on energy security and critical infrastructure, countering Russia’s hybrid threats, and information manipulation. We are supporting civil society, human rights defenders and independent media inside and outside Russia. Our immediate support focuses on supporting Ukraine to resist Russia’s increased systematic targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure.  

Putin is unable to conquer Ukraine. Putin is unable to defeat the Ukrainian army, Putin is withdrawing. The Russian Army has withdrawn to the other side of the Dnipro River, and it is trying to compensate these military failures with efforts to increase the human suffering of the Ukrainian people – especially now as the winter is approaching.  

As I said, we are working with our partners to repair and replace Ukrainian energy infrastructure. This means an enormous effort.  

In parallel, we are redoubling our efforts on outreach to third countries, in particular on the issue of food security. I want to mention that just today, we have published a joint statement with the United States Secretary of State, [Antony] Blinken, and the United Kingdom [Foreign] Secretary [James] Cleverly, and the High Representative of the European Union. The three of us going together with a public statement clarifying the issue of sanctions in relation to Russian food and fertilisers’ exports. Please, have a look at this communication from the three of us – United States, United Kingdom and the European Union – to clarify the conditions in which operators can participate in the exports of food and fertilisers from Russia.  

I want to stress that, on our side, thanks to the EU Solidarity Lanes, we have been able to support the export of 15 million tons of agrifood products between May and October [2022]. And, today, the Commission announced a new humanitarian aid package of €210 million for 15 countries around the world, especially from Africa, to Afghanistan, [and] Latin America, to address their immediate needs.  

Now, the international community needs to ensure the renewable and practical implementation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative beyond the 19 November deadline. It is very important that this initiative –brokered by the United Nations and Turkey – could be implemented. But do not forget why this initiative has been taking place: it is not because a natural disaster, it is not because of a tsunami in the Black Sea, it is not because there were pirates. It is because the blockade of the Russian Army to the exports of Ukraine - using hunger as a weapon. 

Russia has no reasons, no legal ground to block food [from] going out from Ukraine to the international markets. What Russia has been doing is illegal and affecting first [of all] the lives of people from vulnerable countries around the world.  Russia must stop weaponising food. 

This is the strong message that the Foreign Affairs Council has issued today: Russia must stop weaponising food.  

Q&A 

Q. Mr Borrell, I am very impressed by your support to Ukraine, because it is a very big support that you will accept 15,000 soldiers and officers to train them. My question is on your diplomatic dealing. After the removal of Russian forces from Kherson city, Ukraine feels the soft pressure of United States and Turkey to start negotiations with Russia. What is your position – the position of the EU? Because Ukraine has a separate position, not the same as the United States to start the negotiations and to resolve the problems, the conflict and war with diplomatic meanings. We hear the same rhetoric from Ankara, from Turkey. What is the official position of Brussels?  

Look, I am not representing Ankara here. I am not representing the US, neither. I am representing my colleagues from the Foreign Affairs Council. Je pense que je me suis bien exprimé avant, je vais répéter la phrase: we will continue supporting Ukraine until Ukraine's victory, and it has to be understood under Ukrainian parameters.  

Q. Can you tell me more about this military assistance mission for Ukraine? Where will it take place – only in Poland or also in other countries? At what stage are the negotiations on €18 billion of aids for Ukraine now? Because I know that Hungary does not support this aid for Ukraine. 

Thank you for very precise questions. It is easier to answer when the questions are focusing on specific issues. Yes, we are going to train 15,000 Ukrainian soldiers, not all of them in Poland. It will be several different Member States that will provide the basis, not only training, not only material, not only trainees, but concrete places in which this training will take place. I can tell you that the country that I know best will also participate in the training of these soldiers on their soil. So, several Member States will be participating, and the training will take place in several different member states, not only in Poland.  

Secondly, as far as I understood, the country you mentioned is not opposing to the macro-financial assistance of €18 billion to Ukraine. Only the discussion is about how to implement it; through common debt or by bilateral agreements? But the principle of providing a macro-financial assistance to Ukraine has been agreed unanimously. 

Q. Je vous poserai le mois prochain la question sur la nouvelle Stratégie pour les Grands Lacs. Entre temps, sur la guerre en Ukraine: vous soulignez donc la façon dont les Vingt-Sept ont réitéré leur soutien à l’Ukraine jusqu’à la victoire et selon les paramètres fixés par l’Ukraine. Ma question est celle-ci: est-ce que, selon votre compréhension, selon la compréhension des Vingt-Sept, ces paramètres impliquent la reconquête des territoires perdus depuis 2014 et pas seulement depuis le 24 février 2022? Et si c'est le cas, est-ce que vous sentez un soutien unanime des Vingt-Sept pour cette entreprise, ce but ? 

No, I have not gone as far as you pretend. I said that it is up to the Ukrainians to decide what does it mean for them: “victory”- is up to them. The country which has been destroyed is Ukraine. The people frozen are Ukrainians. The 7 million people that fled Ukraine are Ukrainians. The casualties are Ukrainians, so let Ukrainians decide. I think it is quite logical. How can I say to the Ukrainians what they have to do? The only thing I can tell them is: “we will support you”.  

Et demain, on va discuter, avec les ministres de la Défense, plus en détails des questions militaires. Mais c’est évident qu’en se retirant de Kherson, l’armée russe a subi déjà une défaite très grave: elle s’est retirée sans combattre, peut-être pour éviter le pire. Il faut quand même savoir que la capacité de nuisance dont Moscou dispose est encore très importante, mais elle ne l’utilise [non] pas pour se battre militairement, mais pour détruire les infrastructures critiques [de l’Ukraine]. Et même si les défenses anti-aériennes sont capables d’intercepter les drones avec une remarquable efficacité, c’est évident que la Russie de Poutine est embarquée dans la volonté [de vouloir] détruire un pays. Donc je pense que si on veut éviter de penser à la reconstruction, il faut éviter la destruction. Si vous voulez éviter d’avoir à reconstruire, évitez la destruction. Now. This is the key for me.  

Which are the Ukrainian parameters, the Ukrainians will decide. 

Peter Stano
Lead Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
+32 (0)460 75 45 53
Nabila Massrali
Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
+32 (0) 2 29 88093
+32 (0) 460 79 52 44