European Parliament: Remarks by the HR/VP Josep Borrell on the Foreign policy consequences of the COVID-19 crisis, on the PRC national security law for Hong Kong and on the possible Israeli annexation in the West Bank
Thank you Mr President, thank you Members of Parliament. [This debate is dedicated to] three issues, I will go directly to the first of them.
First, on the European Union response to the coronavirus crisis, it is clear that a global pandemic needs global solutions and the European Union must be at the centre of this response.
For doing so, in April we launched the Team Europe response to support our partner countries face this pandemic. I have already presented this in Committee meetings. On the 8th June, we discussed at the Foreign Affairs Council on Development how to move forward quickly with the €36 billion to help the most vulnerable countries in Africa, Latin America and our neighbourhood. One can say that it is not fresh money but just redirecting already allocated resources. But, anyway, it was very much important to give priority to the pandemic.
The extension of the key European Union programmes for refugees is also crucial during this crisis. We appreciate the Parliament’s efforts to approve the necessary Draft Amending Budget in July to allocate more than €400 million in support to Syrian refugees.
In the new MFF proposal we have included a top-up for external action policies financed through the Next Generation European Union Instrument. Part of this funding will go for humanitarian aid, part to provision a higher ceiling for the External Action Guarantee under the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI).
We also foresee an additional provisioning of €10.5 billion with that we could provide guarantees up to €130 billion under “European Fund Sustainable Development Plus” operations, as well as additional macro-financial assistance and loans to third countries.
This will allow us to help boost sustainable and green investment in our partner countries worldwide. I hope I can count on your support so that we can maintain an ambitious level of resources for EU external action.
Let me say that it is badly needed, because this crisis will be a crisis of biblical consequences. Look at the situation, for example, at Latin America, where things are becoming worse, happily in Africa things are not being as bad as expected. But, in general, both health and economic consequences of this crisis will be very important and, I am afraid, long-lasting.
The second issue in our debate today is about the People’s Republic of China and the National security law for Hong Kong.
Let me frame my answer on a very evident fact: Covid-19 has accelerated existing trends. With tensions between China and the United States growing by the day.
I want to repeat what I already said and written many times: Europe needs to find its own way when it comes to balancing its relations towards both actors. Yesterday the French Minister of Foreign Affairs [Jean-Yves Le Drian] was saying more or less the same thing in the French press and I think it is quite a shared point of view at the Foreign Affairs Council.
But independence does not mean equidistance. The transatlantic partnership remains the most important and strategic relationship for the European Union. We maintain divergences with the current administration in the United States - that is clear, evident - with regards to their stance on multilateralism, about the International Criminal Court, for example, which is the last one. But nevertheless, we seek positive engagement wherever possible.
Our relationship with China does not fit into a single category – I am sorry for the people who would like to have a simple scheme - this is not possible, this is complex and complex will remain.
It needs to be based on trust, transparency, and reciprocity. China is clearly a necessary partner – like it or not - to solve global challenges such as the global pandemic or climate change. Nobody can imagine that we can solve climate change without a strong commitment from the China side.
At the same time, human rights remain a contentious issue in our relations.
I raised these concerns on the situation in Hong Kong with the Chinese Foreign Minister [Wang Yi] last week. We had a long conversation, more than 3 hours. I think it was a useful and frank conversation about all issues of our complex relationship and, for sure, the adoption of a security law for Hong Kong is not in conformity with China’s international commitments, particularly under the Sino-British Joint Declaration, enshrined in the Basic Law of Hong Kong.
Pressure on Hong Kong’s autonomy and fundamental freedoms affect us directly. It is not just a matter for Hong Kong people. It is a matter of values, principles and the need to uphold international commitments, seriously undermining the “One Country, Two Systems” principle and Hong Kong’s autonomy.
As you may be are aware, I made this point very clear in my declarations on behalf of the EU27, on the 22nd and 29th of May. On that issue, there was unanimity, something that is less and less frequent in the debates at the Foreign Affairs Council.
And I also raised these matters in the United Nation Security Council when I had the opportunity to address this body, in the very day this decision was adopted.
I am at your disposal during the questions and answers to discuss the specific measures taken by the European Union and to go deeper into this issue.
On the third point, on the possible annexation by Israel of parts of the occupied Palestinian territory.
There, our position is clear, although once again it is difficult to find unanimity but there is a strong, very strong majority of countries that continue supporting a negotiated two-state solution, based on international parameters and considering that any annexation would be against international law.
Consequently, we strongly urge Israel to refrain from any unilateral decision that would lead to the annexation of any occupied Palestinian territory. I had the opportunity of expressing this point of view in my phone calls with the new Ministers of Foreign Affairs [Gavriel Ashkenazi] and Defence [Benjamin Gantz] of Israel.
This would constitute a serious violation of international law. In March, in Geneva, 27 Member States agreed on that.
At the last Foreign Affairs Council, unhappily, unanimity was not found on this same issue, but as I said, a very strong majority of countries continue supporting this decision.
Second, it would cause real damage to the prospects for a two-state solution.
Third, it would negatively affect regional stability, our relations with Israel and between Israel and Arab States, and potentially the security of Israel, which is not negotiable for us, let me stress that also.
And finally, from an European Union perspective, annexation would inevitably have significant consequences for the close relationship we currently enjoy with Israel.
My time is reaching an end I will stick to my time, I will not prejudge the specific impact of a possible annexation, but let me underline that the European Union has its own obligations and responsibilities under international and European Union law. And as agreed in the mid-May Foreign Affairs Council, we engage with our Israeli partners to avoid such a step before it is too late. We are using all our diplomatic capacities in order to put pressure for that not to happen.
As I said, I opened constructive conversations with Alternate Prime Minister [Benjamin] Gantz and Foreign Minister [Gavriel] Ashkenazi, where I expressed in the same terms I used with you, the gravity of such announcement.
I have also been in close contact with the Palestinian leadership and other key Arab representatives. Several European Union Foreign Ministers passed the same messages and we held an important discussion with the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo earlier this week. This issue took an important part in the 1h30 discussion with Mike Pompeo.
In the coming weeks and months, we will continue engaging with the parties and the international community in support of a negotiated two-state solution based on the international parameters and which ensures equal rights for all.
Thank you very much Mr President for giving me half a minute more. Thank you for your attention. I need to stop here. I think my time is over but I will remain at your disposal for the many issues I am sure you will raise during our dialogue.
Thank you President.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-192036