UN: Address by the High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell to the UN Security Council
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Thank you Madame President for giving me this opportunity and for the great work that Albania is doing, at the UN and as future member of the EU.
I really do regret that I am unable to be with you in person, as I was planning to do. But, unhappily, the pandemic is not over yet. So yet again we have to have our exchange via video-link.
We meet at a historical juncture. The UN was created 72 years ago to save humanity from the scourge of war. To build a system of global cooperation, safeguarding the sovereign equality of all. Protecting the rights of both states and of people.
Gradually, the UN built around itself a whole ‘system’ of rules, norms and organisations dealing with the full range of international relations.
The UN has always been the embodiment of this bigger idea: that we share one planet and that we need global governance to live together, peacefully and sustainably. Even at the height of the Cold War, the UN kept functioning
The bedrock of it all was the respect for the international rule of law. All states, no matter their size or political orientation, committed to respect international law and core principles, above all the non-use of force in international relations.
The EU has multilateralism in its DNA. We are multilateralist by nature. It is part of our deepest conviction that we need agreed rules: to tame the passion of states; to provide public goods; and to ensure there is global cooperation even among states with different ideological beliefs.
It is easier to cooperate among friends and like-minded. But it is still necessary to cooperate with countries that are not. We need to cooperate in spite of our differences.
We have always been a strong supporter of the UN: investing politically and financially. We pay our dues in full and on time. We have consistently backed big UN initiatives like the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris agreement on climate change and work on human rights.
We cooperate closely here in New York and in the field. All EU crisis management operations work with the UN as their partner. We are the partner you can count on.
The hard truth is that the multilateral system is under pressure like never before. There are major global trends and challenges for which we need global cooperation. But the supply and demand of multilateralism do not match.
The speed and scale of cooperation is falling short of what is needed to manage the ‘global commons’. Think climate change but also vaccines and the pandemic or the digital revolution. In each case, science and technology are advancing, but diplomacy and rule making are not – or not enough.
The main reason has been the rise in power political competition. In recent years, we have seen, more distrust, more point scoring and more vetoes. The price has been paid in terms of problems not solved, wars and conflicts that fester, people left at the mercy of events.
Last year when I met you all. I talked about a ‘deficit in multilateralism’. I fear the situation has only worsened since.
The UN Charter has entrusted this Council to maintain international peace and security. So to sit on the Security Council is a great responsibility. The world needs this Council to be able to take decisions and protect the people whose lives depend on it.
Russia’s war against Ukraine has come on top of these structural problems and amplified them. It has already left tens of thousands of dead and over 5 million refugees – the fastest growing refugee crisis since World War 2.
The war takes place in Europe but this is not a European war. This is an attack on the foundations of the UN and this Security Council, by a permanent member of the Council.
In a globalised world, there is no ‘faraway’. Everything is close to everyone. A war or major security crisis in one region affects everyone. It is also impossible to ‘compartmentalise’, to think that security tensions will not affect the economy. We can see it from the shockwaves Russia’s war against Ukraine is sending around the world, exacerbating a global food and energy crisis.
The EU is fully mobilised to keep Ukraine economically afloat and militarily able to defend its people, its territorial integrity and its democracy. And we call on every member of the UN, big and small, to help Ukraine by doing the same.
In the face of aggression, no one can be neutral. Being neutral in this case means being on the side of the aggressor. No one can live safely in a world where the illegal use of force is normalised or tolerated.
This war is sending ripple effects throughout the world. And these compound a pre-existing food crisis with yields suffering because of climate change.
The World Food Programme estimates that the number of food insecure people has doubled from 135 million before the pandemic to 276 million at the start of 2022. Because of the war, the WFP now estimates this number to grow to 323 million.
I urge all of you to help end the war, to restore Ukraine’s sovereignty and to ensure that the global fallout is contained, especially the growing food crisis.
Right now, Russia is blocking at least 20 million tons of Ukrainian grain that cannot reach global markets because they are being blocked.
That is the equivalent of 300 massive ships that should be docking at ports all over the world. Instead, Russia is bombing Ukraine’s ports, infrastructure and farmland.
Just after President Putin spoke with the Chair of the African Union, Russian forces bombed Ukraine’s second largest grain silo in Mykolaiv. These actions speak for themselves.
We fully support the UN’s efforts so that Ukraine can re-open its ports and resume its deliveries of grain to the world. This has to be the top priority.
The easiest way to do this is for Russia to stop its aggression, withdraw its troops from all of Ukraine and to, finally, work with the UN and others to re-open the Black Sea. Military risks to commercial navigation in the area inevitably drive up the cost of insurance and transport further fuelling the current crisis.
Until such time, we will all have to deal with the global consequences of Russia’s war. On this you have our word: Europe stands by its partners. We support the UN role, including the Global Crisis Response Group.
The EU has already increased its support for some of the most affected regions. The EU and its member states – what we call Team Europe – have pledged €1 billion for the Sahel and Lake Chad regions and over €600 million for the Horn of Africa. We have also put in place a €225 million food facility to assist our partners in the Middle East and North Africa.
Let me add here a word on sanctions and respond directly to Russian disinformation: EU sanctions are not the cause of food shortages. They only target the Kremlin’s ability to finance the military aggression – not the conduct of legitimate trade.
EU sanctions do not prohibit the import and transportation of Russian agricultural goods, nor for fertilisers, nor for payment for such Russian exports.
Furthermore, EU financial sanctions only apply on EU territory: we are against secondary sanctions as a matter of principle and law. So our measures do not affect the ability of third countries to purchase from Russia if they wish.
I have been discussing with UN Secretary General Guterres, Under Secretary General Griffiths and UNCTAD Secretary General Grynspan and their efforts to unblock Ukrainian grain exports in the Black Sea.
In support of UN efforts, we are ready to look into possible mis- interpretation of EU sanctions that could lead to over-compliance or market avoidance and further clarify to economic operators what is and what is not targeted in our sanctions. We are ready to work with all partners in this regard.
While war has returned to Europe, it has not stopped anywhere else. We are acutely aware of this. This is why the EU continues to help prevent and solve conflicts and crises around the world.
Over 4000 women and men are deployed by the EU in 18 crisis management Missions and Operations on three continents, always working in close cooperation with the UN.
I want to mention especially our operations in the Mediterranean (IRINI), off the Somali coasts (ATALANTA) and in Bosnia and Herzegovina (ALTHEA).
IRINI plays a unique role in implementing the UN arms embargo and prevent illicit petrol export from Libya. ATALANTA has been successfully helping counter piracy off the coasts of Somalia since 2008 and is now also addressing other illicit trafficking, including drugs. Only between last March and April, it intercepted 12 tons of narcotics. And ALTHEA supports the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina in maintaining a safe and secure environment in a politically very difficult context.
Beyond crisis management and peace operations, the EU and its member states make large contributions to the UN’s work on mediation, peacebuilding and transitions. Just to give you one figure: for the period 2021 - 2022, we tripled our contribution to the UN Peacebuilding Fund (PBF).
In this context, I want to underline the strategic nature of the cooperation on peace and security between the EU and AU. We work together to offer tailor-made forms of support for training, capacity building and equipment. We want to put into practice our maxim of ‘African solutions to African problems’.
Let me end with some quick comments on specific regional crises where the EU has a deep stake and where we work closely with the UN:
- Syria: 11 years into the crisis, we cannot forget the Syrian people. We continue to support Special Envoy Pedersen. We need a solution so that cross-border humanitarian aid can continue to flow. Millions depend on this. At the last Brussels conference on Syria, the EU and its member states €4.8 billion for 2022 and beyond, 75% of the total sum pledged.
- Iran: I am in permanent contact with all the parties to try arrange a return to the JCPoA and ensure its full implementation. The basic elements and terms to do this are known and on the table. And the time for decision is now.
- The Sahel: the trends are worrying. The EU will stay engaged in the region, with our operations, working with MINUSMA. But we do need commitments from local partners, both on the security situation on the ground and the state of democratic governance
- Afghanistan: we will continue supporting the Afghan people. I welcome the new UNAMA mandate but it is clear that the human rights situation is getting worse, especially for women and girls. We need sustained international pressure on the Taleban to re-open education in full to all girls and women. Access to education is a basic human rights,
There are many other crises I could mention: Myanmar, Yemen, Venezuela etc. But let me stop here. I am sure we will have an interesting debate. I look forward to your comments.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-226906
I cannot finish this meeting without thanking many of you for your engagement and acknowledgement on the contribution of the European Union to global peace security and your support for the further strengthening of the European Union – United Nations partnership.
I can only echo the words of some ambassadors, in particular the ones from [the ambassadors of] Ghana and Gabon. Also [the ambassador of] Kenya, who spoke on the important role of regional and sub-regional organisations in addressing global challenges.
I agree with China that we will not want a world organised around opposing blocs. This would only bring greater insecurity. We are sensitive to the security concerns of all countries and ready to engage in discussions and negotiations to rebuild the European security, once Russia stops its invasion of Ukraine and reestablishes its territorial integrity.
I also welcome the comments of India on the Indo-Pacific strategy. With this strategy we look forward to strengthening our strategic partnership not only with India, but also with the entire region.
About the main subjects of the discussion today, which is the situation in Ukraine and the role of the European Union. Well, I was certainly not expecting to agree with the Russian Ambassador. I thank him for lecturing me about the interpretation of the historical role of the European Union and how the founding fathers conceived it, but I think I have better interpreters of my history.
And I do not think we are diverging from this prospect of peace, which is the essence of the European Union. We continue being a Union who wants to engage in peace. We are not a military Union, but certainly we cannot be indifferent to what is happening in our neigbourhood and the aggression of one of our most important partners – Ukraine - is suffering.
There is one thing for me, at this moment, that is the most important, and this is the issue on which should concentrate our attention. We can discuss endlessly about the causes of this war and certainly we will not agree. But one thing is clear, there are Russian troops in Ukraine and there are no Ukrainian troops in Russia. Who is the aggressor is clear, but we will not agree.
But we should concentrate our efforts in trying to avoid the next step of this drama. And the next step of this drama is a big wave of hunger in the world.
And this is going to happen if Russia continues to block the exports of wheat from Ukraine. And certainly, it is not the European Union who is blocking these exports. It is certainly not us who are bombing the storage of wheat, certainly not.
So I call here on everyone, and in particular the private actors, to do whatever they can in order to avoid the dramatic situation that millions of people could be suffering in the next months - a big wave of hunger.
From our side, we will do everything we can in order to explain to the economic actors that there is nothing in our sanctions that prevent the export of wheat and fertilizers from Russia - any kind of overinterpretation, any kind of market avoidances, have to be corrected it. And we will do our best in order to dissipate any kind of misinterpretation, and it would be good if others do the same thing and stop spreading disinformation about that.
But it is a common responsibility for all of us to avoid a dramatic situation, in the weeks to come, of millions of people being deprived of basic food - and this may happen. And the United Nations is working hard in order to avoid it and we are supporting the United Nations to avoid it. And I ask all of you to contribute to this. Some can act, others can put pressure. But among all of us, there is the responsibility to avoid what may happen if things continue the way they are. I think this is a very important warning and just that justifies this meeting.
Thank you very much for your attention.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-226908