Informal Foreign Affairs Council (Development): Press remarks by High Representative Josep Borrell at the press conference

EEAS Press Team


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Good afternoon and thank you dear Johan [Forssell, Minister for International Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade of Sweden], thank you for this meeting. Thank you to the Swedish Presidency [of the Council of the European Union] for the hospitality and impeccable organisation.  

But the bad news is that Russia does not stop its barbaric attacks, and again it has struck Ukraine’s critical infrastructure. During the night, and during our meeting, more than 80 rockets have been launched by Russia – rockets and drones. Another massive attack during night all across the country, killing innocent civilians and causing serious damage.

Among this damage is the attack against the Zaporizhzhia nuclear [power] plant, which has been disconnected again from the Ukrainian electricity grid, significantly increasing the risk of a nuclear accident. I am sorry to say that, but the risk of a nuclear accident has increased a lot in the last hours. The [power] plant has to rely on diesel generators for the cooling of its reactors.  

This is a serious breach to the nuclear safety, caused by Russia. Zaporizhzhia is the biggest nuclear power plant in Europe – the biggest in Europe – and Russia is putting in danger the entirety of our joint European continent, Russia included.  

We support the International Atomic Energy Agency’s expert mission in the zone and the Agency’s call for a nuclear safety zone around the nuclear plant. The security of the site must be guaranteed in order to avoid any risks of an accident.  

These recent attacks of Russia are another example of their objective. Their objective is to terrorise the Ukrainian people and to lower the Ukrainian morale. It shows that Russia is not interested in peace and its talks about ‘peace’, or a ‘ceasefire’ are utterly insincere.  

That is why we have to continue supporting Ukraine. Yesterday, we discussed about the military support – this was the main subject of yesterday’s [informal] meeting with the Ministers of Defence. 

Today, with the Development Ministers, the purpose [of the discussion] was the reconstruction of Ukraine; both things go together. We have to defend Ukraine in order to avoid destruction, and we have to support Ukraine in order to reconstruct. But the less destruction, the better for the reconstruction effort. That is why we have to send generators to produce electricity and we have to send anti-aerial missiles in order to avoid the Russians from destroying these generators. 

In doing that, we are putting the basis for the future of Ukraine. We have been joined by the Deputy Prime Minister [for Restoration of Ukraine] Oleksandr Kubrakov who shared his vision on our priorities. 

It is clear that we have to continue to [support] Ukraine to win this war. And it is clear that we have to prepare the recovery and reconstruction. As I said, both things go hand in hand, together with the process of reforms on the path to European membership. These processes are mutually reinforcing. Ukraine has to advance on anti-corruption and judiciary reforms. This will increase the efficiency of the spending in Ukraine and create predictable and favourable economic conditions, in order to attract private investment that has to be mobilised, in order to ensure that the private sector can play a key role for civil society and local governance. 

We need to leverage our funding to attract private investment both from Ukraine and from Europe. Let’s be realistic: the reconstruction will be the next huge task. The longer the war lasts, the higher the damage will be and more impressive the work that we have to do in order to support Ukraine to rebuild. 

It is also clear that Russia must compensate for the enormous losses and damage caused to Ukraine and its people.  It has to pay for the costs for rebuilding Ukraine.  

To that end, we are stepping up our work on the how to use the frozen and immobilised Russian assets, in accordance with international law. 

Then we discussed about the Multilateral Development Banks reform. There are many discussions on how to make these banks fit-for-purpose in an age marked by evermore pressing global challenges, especially climate change – that was not a problem 20 years ago - and natural disasters, - that unhappily are more and more frequent - as well as pandemics, poverty and fragility in many states around the world. The world has changed, and we need these institutions to change with it. Today’s discussion, Minister, was very much needed, timely and interesting.  

Everybody talks about the reform of the World Bank Group, but we also have a World Bank. Our European Investment Bank is bigger than the World Bank from the point of view of the amount of loans. People do not know that, but our European Investment Bank gives more loans to development than the World Bank. It is our lending arm. And also, we have the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Both are part of Team Europe; they are European banks and are also reflecting on their business models and on how to respond to new challenges. Today, representatives of both banks were with us to exchange on the reforms needed. 

We underlined that multilateral development banks need to remain committed to the goal of poverty eradication. There are legitimate concerns among some stakeholders, especially in Africa, on the need to maintain a focus on poverty reduction and all Sustainable Development Goals. We care about Ukraine, but we also care about many other conflicts around the world. We assist Ukraine, but we also provide assistance to many other countries around the world. And now we have to look at the next problem with the debt, and also with global challenges and how middle-income countries can be put on our radar screen, without crowding out assistance to the poorest and most vulnerable people around the world. 

This will be a priority for our upcoming meetings and the next formal Foreign Affairs Council meeting on the Development format in May. 

The European Union Development Ministers and I will also bring our perspective to the ongoing discussions in Brussels and European Union capitals, including the Global Financing Pact Summit to be co-hosted by President Macron and Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, in Paris in June. 

We know that it is a complex reform process, but we are very much committed to it and today it has been an important step in this direction. 



Q. High Representative Josep Borrell, I was wondering, the war in Ukraine has had devastating effects on Ukraine, but also on countries that rely on food supplies from Ukraine, I am thinking of African countries. Are there any plans to help with funding and support those countries to be able to sustain themselves in this difficult time? 

Ce n’est pas qu’on a prévu [de les aider], c’est qu’on le fait. On a aidé les pays touchés par le blocage russe des denrées alimentaires qui sont bloquées en Ukraine avec plus de 18 milliards d’euros [au total]. On a été capable d’exporter par les Solidarity Lanes (Corridors de solidarité) à travers les ports de la mer Noire, plus de 20 millions de tonnes de blés qui étaient bloquées par la Russie. On a aidé beaucoup de nos pays voisins à financer le coût élevé de l'énergie. Bien sûr qu’on a essayé d’aider, qu’on aide à la hauteur de nos capacités les pays touchés par [les conséquences de la guerre]. Je profite de votre question pour dire que s’il y a un problème, c’est un problème causé par la Russie. Ce n’est pas nous qui bloquons les exportations de céréales ukrainiennes. On essaye de parer aux conséquences pas seulement de la guerre, mais pire que la guerre, c’est [le blocage des exportations de céréales]. Et ça c’est la Russie qui le fait. La Russie a essayé d’affamer le monde, alors votre question est bienvenue. On essaie de parer à ça, mais n’oubliez pas qui est le responsable de ce problème. Le responsable de ce problème, c’est la Russie avec sa guerre contre l’Ukraine et pire qu’avec sa guerre, avec son intention d’utiliser la faim de millions de personnes dans le monde comme une arme de guerre.  


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