Foreign Affairs Council: Press remarks by High Representative Josep Borrell upon arrival

18.03.2024 EEAS Press Team

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Good morning to everybody,

Here we are again, for another Foreign Affairs Council with – more or less – the same items on the agenda. 

The most important geopolitical issues today, as you can understand, are Ukraine, Gaza, Belarus and Haiti. These crises determine regional and global stability. The Council will discuss it.

We will have two important guests with us – by video conference: Secretary of State from the United States, Anthony Blinken and the Foreign Minister of Ukraine [Dmytro Kuleba].

I hope that we will finally adopt important decisions today. First, the Ukrainian Assistance Fund, with a top-up to the European Peace Facility of €5 billion, that has been discussed for weeks. I hope that today the Ministers will definitely approve that, in order to increase our military support to Ukraine which is very much needed. 

On the support to Ukraine, as I said at the last Foreign Affairs Council, I will hope - definitely - [to] have a political agreement from the Ministers on the windfall profits coming from the Russian assets, that have been frozen. I hope a political decision will finally be taken in order to take this windfall profits, not the capital but the revenues, in order to increase our capacity to finance Ukraine’s defence. I hope today a political agreement will be reached in order to finally take action on that. So, the Ukrainian Assistance Fund on one hand, and the [proceeds from the] frozen assets on the other hand.

We will adopt a package of sanctions for the killing of Alexei Navalny, and also, I hope for the Hamas and extremist settlers, both. We failed at the last Foreign Affairs Council having agreement on that. It seems that today all will agree on putting sanctions on both: Hamas and the violent settlers who are harassing Palestinians in the West Bank. 

We see that Russia continues attacking civilians, with the last attack in Odessa with a lot of casualties [last Friday]. We have seen the Russian elections, and a statement by the 27 [Member States] will be issued.

But I want to anticipate that this has not been free and fair election, no OSCE observation, with highly restricted environment. This is what diplomatically I can say, but more than that, this election has been based on repression and intimidation. And being held on the occupied Ukrainian territories violating Ukrainian sovereignty.   

Then, the Middle East, the situation in Gaza. Gaza was before the war the greatest open-air prison. Today, it is the greatest open-air graveyard. A graveyard for tens of thousands of people, and also a graveyard for many of the most important principles of humanitarian law. This is the sad situation in Gaza.  I hope that the Ministers will discuss in order to prepare for the next European Council, a review of the EU joint position. In the meantime, today, United Nations will issue a statement about the humanitarian situation in Gaza, and we will issue a statement from myself, and the Commissioner [for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Janez] Lenarčič on that.

And finally, today is the first anniversary of the Ohrid Agreement. Time flies, it is already one year that we reached an agreement between Kosovo and Serbia in order to move towards normalization [of their relations]. Unhappily, despite extensively European Union and international support, Serbia and Kosovo have achieved very limited progress. 

There will be soon a new meeting of the chief negotiators here in Brussels. I am very sorry that this agreement [which] was very difficult to reach, has not been implemented. We will continue putting pressure on both sides in order to move forward. But, one year later, the implementation has not been very much what I expected to be.  

This is the programme for today. 


Q. The Association Agreement with Israel, will you ask from the Ministers to [inaudible]

Look, when we will discuss about the situation in the Middle East certainly, two Member States have asked for to analysing the Association Agreement point of view. I will ask the ministers to debate about it. This is a political orientation debate. And, according to the results, we will proceed one way or another. We are not talking about full suspension of the Association Agreement, this would be something for the [European] Commission to propose. We are talking about the political dimension based on the respect of humanitarian law and humanitarian principles – Article 2 of the Association Agreement. This is up to the High Representative to ask to the Members of the Council what they think about, and let’s see what is going to be the result.

Q. Mr Borrell, you said with quite strong language concerning Gaza from the EU leaders at the summit this week. Is it enough to ask for humanitarian pauses, or like a ceasefire, or does it need more, more actions? 

Well, more and more, I think public opinion as well in Europe as the US – and I am coming from the US - I see public opinion moving more and more, expressing concern and asking for actions. You see the Democratic Party leader asking for elections in Israel in order to substitute the government, which has raised important reactions. As you have seen, Chancellor [of Germany, Olaf] Scholz, saying that Europeans cannot sit and watch how Palestinian people are starving.  

[On] the Egyptian side of the border there is food for months accumulated in the stocks. While on the other side of the side of the border people are dying of hunger. Well, this is something that requires some reaction, not us just expressing concern but taking decisions. I hope the European Council will discuss about it and see.  

Link to the video:  


Peter Stano
Lead Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
+32 (0)460 75 45 53