Informal Foreign Affairs Council (Defence): Press remarks by High Representative Josep Borrell upon arrival
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Good morning. I would like to thank the Swedish Minister [for Defence] Pål [Jonson] for receiving us and organising this Informal meeting of Defence Ministers. It is an informal meeting, but it is going to be a very important meeting.
We have on the table important decisions to be taken, today not formally but politically. We will provide guidance for the next FAC/Jumbo meeting with the Foreign Affairs Ministers. The issue is how to support better, quicker and stronger Ukraine.
The war in Ukraine continues raging. There are fierce combats and heavy fights. Russia continues bombing and destroying all civilian infrastructure
s with a lot of casualties on their side. And Ukraine needs more ammunitions. The issue is how to provide the ammunitions that Ukraine needs to continue to defend [itself].
I presented a proposal. The Ministers will discuss [it]. The proposal has been built together with the European External Action Service (EEAS), with the European Defence Agency (EDA) - which I have the honour to chair - and the [European] Commission. And it has three pillars.
First, to provide ammunition quickly from the existing stocks. We are talking about weeks, so we need to use what we already have. What the European armies already have in their stockpiles and in the contracts that they have passed to the industry.
Second, to ask for more ‘going together’: a common procurement of all armies that wanted to do that all together in order to provide parts of this common procurement to Ukraine, in the medium term.
In the longer term – or not so long, but certainly not for tomorrow - to increase the defence capacity of our industry. We cannot talk seriously about our capacity to have an autonomous strategic responsibility if we do not have enough defence capacity in our industrial side. And on that, we are working together with the [European] Commission and we will see how we can increase this capacity.
Ukraine is not the only issue on the table. We have also to take care of many other geopolitical challenges.
We will discuss about the situation in the Sahel, for example [part of current affairs ]. We must not forget other issues around the world. But Ukraine is very high on the agenda.
I do not want to forget that today is the Women’s [International] Day. And on this specific occasion, we have approved a package of sanctions covering a wide range of circumstances where there have been abuses and violations of human rights, especially women’s rights. We sanction a set of personalities ranging from the Taliban, two Taliban ministers (the [Higher] Education Minister and the Minister in charge of the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice), [to] Russia, Myanmar, Syria. I will provide the list afterwards in the press conference.
It is important to use our human rights sanctions regime to sanction the people that are committing abuses and violations of human rights and using gender violence as a weapon in many places of the worlds – including in Iran.
So that is our working program for today. I said [that] it is going to be a very important Council. Let’s see how the Ministers [for Defence] respond to my proposal.
Q. High Representative, the Estonian proposal had a very specific amount of money attached and the Estonians are also saying that needs to be separate money. It cannot be money that has already been pledged to the European Peace Facility. Do you agree with that assessment?
Well, money does not come from the sky. It is not because one Member State is claiming that we need to have more money that the money will appear by miracle.
We have the resources that we have, and the first thing to do is to use what we have. If the Member States are ready to provide more, I will be happy. I will ask [them] to provide as much as they want. But today, let’s be realistic and pragmatic. [Let’s] not discuss about the infinity, [but] discuss about the things that can be adopted today. One thing is good wishes, another thing is practical realities. The European Peace Facility is ready to mobilise all [of] its resources.
For the first pillar, for transferring existing ammunitions, we are ready to finance €1 billion.
For the second pillar, I do not want to advance a figure, but it is also an important figure. And remember that the European Peace Facility is paying 60% [of the Member States’ expenses]. The other 40% has to be in charge of the Member State. So, if [for] €1 billion it is 60%, or if [for] €2 billion it is 60% [of the expenses], you can multiply, and it is not far away from the €4 billion.
Q. Talking about the war economy mode, how do you want to convince for example neutral countries like Austria, which is not sending lethal material right now to Ukraine, to support it?
Austria has a neutrality in its Constitution, and nobody is asking Austria or Ireland to abandon their posture. It is perfectly compatible that they can continue supporting [Ukraine] financially. We know and they know that their money is not going to be used for lethal equipment. Their neutrality will be fully respected.
Q. What do you say on the new findings that the pro-Ukrainian group committed the Nord Stream II attack?
I cannot comment on things I do not have clear evidence and information.
Q. What amount [of money is needed] for the second part of your project? for the ramp up of [ammunition of] the next week? How much do you need? How much is it possible to put on the table?
To ramp up the capacity of the European industry, this is something for which the [European] Commission has to provide financing.
The European Defence Agency (EDA) has no financial resources for that, so. The three pillars go together, you know. If I ask Member States to provide Ukraine with their stockpiles, they have to have the insurance that these stockpiles will be renewed: “I give, expecting that I will get more in the future.”
Ukraine needs it now. Member States – happily for them – are not at war. They can wait. But the three things need to go together: more industrial capacity means more production; more production means more contracts; more contracts [means] more stockpiles and more [deliveries] to Ukraine.
Q. Isn’t it dangerous to decrease the stockpiles of ammunitions with what Russia can do in the future?
I do not see the danger, why is it dangerous?
Q. Are you sure they have the ammunitions in their stockpiles currently [inaudible] to give to Ukraine?
I do not know what the level of stockpiles is. That is why we are here together.
Q. High Representative, there is the idea that it should be open to non-EU countries, that EU countries put in the money but if they give ammunition to Ukraine quickly, then it comes from non-EU countries as well as the European Union?
Let’s see, I am in charge of the European Union.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-238442