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UN Security Council: Speech by the High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell on cooperation with regional organisations


Brussels – EEAS. In his briefing to the UN Security Council, HRVP Borrell sets out the EU’s support to the work of the UN. He underlines the cost of the absence of multilateral action: reduced access to vaccines, insufficient climate action, peace and security crises that fester.

Check against delivery!

Ambassadors, ladies and gentlemen,


1.  The 2021 geopolitical landscape

I am pleased to speak to you today about the role of the EU on the maintenance of international peace and security.

We live in a world where the demand for multilateral solutions is greater than the supply. We see more divisions, more free-riding and more distrust than the world can afford. 

Rules-based multilateralism is a term that’s perhaps well understood at the UN and in Brussels. Maybe it is not a simple, nor an appealing phrase; but our job is to bring it alive.

We need global cooperation based on agreed rules. The alternative is the law of the jungle, where problems don’t get solved. Every day we see the cost of the absence of multilateral action: reduced access to vaccines, insufficient climate action, peace and security crises that fester.

The root cause is the rise in power politics and ideological contests, leading to the erosion of trust. We have to address this deficit of multilateralism and push back against selective and self-serving approaches to multilateralism.

The EU remains committed to the UN and rules-based multilateralism. The core of our strategy is to protect, reform and build multilateralism that is fit for purpose.

The world’s biggest changes stem from new technologies. They can be both disruptive and empowering. Think of Artificial Intelligence, big data and cloud computing or genetic engineering, autonomous weapons and surveillance.

One of the biggest questions we face is how to ensure that the rules we so need for these emerging technologies reflect the values of the universal declaration of human rights. If not, technology will be used against individuals and communities in a nightmarish scenario.

We all know that conflict prevention and peace building are key. We must work with countries at risk before conflict erupts; and build sustainable peace after the signing ceremony. Sustainable peace compels us to be inclusive, with a particular focus on women and youth.


2.  The second year of the pandemic

We are in the second year of the pandemic. It has underscored the fragility of a hyper-globalised and interdependent world.

We need to learn wider lessons about how human health and security and planetary health and security are linked.

Where politics gave us stalemates and divisions, science and cooperation gave us the exit strategy: vaccines. The EU is a staunch promoter of vaccine multilateralism, with COVAX at the centre.

‘Team Europe’ has contributed more than €2,8 billion. We have exported more than 240 million doses of vaccines to 90 countries, more than any other region.

We are planning to donate at least 100 million doses to low and middle-income countries before the end of the year. But even this is not enough. So we call on all players to lift export restrictions on vaccines and their components.

Africa imports 99% of its vaccines. This has to change. The EU is partnering with Africa and industry, backed by an initial €1 billion in funding, to boost manufacturing capacity in Africa for vaccines, medicines and health technologies.

Beyond the pandemic, we know that climate change and biodiversity loss have reached existential levels. Two major UN Summits later this year, in Kunming and Glasgow, must deliver decisive action.

This is a real test of the multilateral system. We need these Summits to produce real outcomes, in line with the scale and urgency of the problem.

The Security Council has an important role to play on climate, health and their links to peace and security. To give impetus to the success of the two Summits, I hope you will pass a resolution on the link between climate change and security, which is increasingly evident.


3.  The responsibility of the Security Council 

Last year I said: “At a time of global crisis, we need a Security Council able to take the necessary decisions and not one that is paralysed by vetoes and political infighting.”

Unhappily, the situation has not improved. In the past year, we have seen new conflicts erupt (in Tigray); older ones re-start (Myanmar, Nagorno-Karabach, Israel-Palestine); and chronic violence continue (in DRC, Yemen).

In all these cases, we need this Council to provide the necessary decisions. This is about real people’s lives. The price of inaction is paid in conflicts not solved, humanitarian aid not delivered and in lives lost.

Sitting on the Security Council is a serious responsibility, politically, even morally. The UN Charter gave this Council the supreme say on matters of peace and security. For the EU there is no acceptable alternative. No other organisation we can turn to.

So the Security Council must provide the support and protection that people in conflict zones depend upon.

We look to the UN Security Council to match its belated but unanimous support for the UN Secretary-General’s call for a global cease-fire with a full commitment to its implementation.


4.  The EU’s contribution to peace and security

The EU has been and remains a staunch supporter of the UN, in all three pillars. We have said it many times before and we mean it.

Our support is not just in what we say, although that matters, but in financial terms, human terms and political terms.

We work with UN missions in many theatres. We have 17 operations and missions, contributing to UN goals with UN mandates; 13 of them operating alongside UN missions. We are currently defining our next set of joint EU-UN priorities on peace operations and crisis management, to strengthen our cooperation and maximise impact.

We are fully committed to the Sustainable Development Goals. And we base ourselves on the conviction that real security depends on people enjoying their rights and freedoms.

The EU will always be on the side of those calling for their universal rights to be respected, sometimes at grave personal risks: in Hong Kong, Venezuela, Myanmar and elsewhere.

In many cases, given the refusal by those in power to respect people’s fundamental rights, we have imposed sanctions. They are never an end in themselves but a tool to push for the respect of universal rights. Our sanctions are targeted and do not hinder the delivery of humanitarian aid.


5.  Concrete cases

Now I want to highlight a few concrete areas where the EU is deeply engaged and where we need urgent results.

Israel-Palestine: Last month we saw a dramatic escalation with enormous human costs. We now need to build on the ceasefire to resume negotiations towards a two-state solution.

Let us remember that security is not the same as peace. And an untenable status quo may turn yet again into another cycle of violence. Therefore, a negotiated settlement is urgent and indeed the only way to give rights and security to both Israelis and Palestinians. To accompany the parties, we must revive the Quartet.

Syria: This year we mark the 10th anniversary of the war in Syria. The Syrian regime and its backers, have left the country in ruins. Given the dramatic humanitarian situation, it is essential that the cross-border mechanism remains open and I appeal to the Security Council members to renew it in July.

Libya: There has been important progress with the national unity government. But the ceasefire is still fragile and needs to be supported by a robust monitoring mechanism, so that elections are able to take place in optimal conditions in December.

The EU has offered support. We welcome the unanimous renewal of the arms embargo and the authorisation of inspections and the seizure of illegal cargo on the high seas. Operation Irini will continue its work on the implementation of the embargo. We need greater focus on the issue of withdrawal of foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libya, to avoid the destabilisation of the whole region.  

The Sahel and the Horn of Africa: Both regions hold the key to African security.  The revised EU strategy is built around the need for more results and greater governmental accountability. We must continue our engagement but also to take firm action against those who stand in the way of a peaceful and inclusive transition process.

Iran: We are working non-stop to revive the JCPoA in all its aspects, i.e. the nuclear activities and the sanctions lifting. I am actively engaged with all the main players, as is my team leading the negotiations in Vienna. We are making progress but the negotiations are intense on a number of issues including on the precise sequencing of steps. 


Let me end with some cases closer to the EU:

Belarus: For months, we have seen massive repression of peaceful protestors that took to the streets demanding to elect their President. Recently, the regime resorted to the scandalous forced landing of a civilian plane, travelling between two EU capitals, to arrest a leading journalist and his companion.

This is a major attack on air safety and the EU response has been firm and principled. We have closed our airspace to planes from Belarus airlines and are in the process of adopting a new package of sanctions. We have also devised a €3 billion economic support package that would be available to a democratic Belarus.

Ukraine: I regret that the situation in the country tends to be instrumentalised for political purposes here at the Security Council.

To be clear: six years after all member of this Security Council unanimously supported the Minsk Agreements, little has been done to implement them. Russia is a party to the conflict and we count on it to take a constructive stance. I welcome President Zelinsky’s initiative to convene the Crimea Platform Summit; I intend to take part with President Michel and I hope there will be the widest possible participation from UN members.

Western Balkans: the EU will not rest until all the countries of the region are inside the EU. To this end, we are fully mobilised to support reconciliation and reforms as the best antidote to nationalist rhetoric. We will host the next edition of the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue in the coming days.

More broadly in Europe we do not want geostrategic competition. We want a peaceful, prosperous and stable neighbourhood, free from so-called protracted conflicts and zones of influence.

Ladies and gentleman,

There are many other challenges I could mention. But I will stop here, also for reasons of time.

I look forward to your comments and to our debate


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Peter Stano
Lead Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
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Xavier Cifre Quatresols
Press Officer for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
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