United Nations: Address by the High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell to the UN Security Council on EU-UN cooperation
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Security Council [of the United Nations], distinguished delegates, Ambassadors, ladies and gentlemen,
This is my third briefing as EU High Representative [for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy], but it is the first time that I am able to join you in person.
And every time I participated in the briefings, I warned about a “deficit in multilateralism”.
I have described this and how a rise in power politics has led to more distrust, to more point scoring, more vetoes - including here at the Security Council. More vetoes and less agreements.
And that the price was being paid in terms of problems not solved, conflicts that fester and people left at the mercy of events.
I fear that the situation this year is even worse and will become worse.
The United Nations and the multilateral system are under threat like they have never been before.
Earlier this month, [the] Secretary-General [of the United Nations, António Guterres] sounded the alarm bell and he was right in doing so.
[The] Secretary-General warned that time is running out for the world to avoid a meltdown. He called on everyone to act decisively before it is too late. And indeed, we are facing a global emergency.
We see a proliferation of conflicts, the climate crisis, systematic attacks on democracy and human rights and ever deeper global inequalities. The problems are mounting and our collective capacity to find solutions is declining.
And if the problems are mounting and the capacity to solve them is decreasing, certainly we are facing a bigger crisis and we cannot afford it.
The proposal of the Secretary-General, in ‘Our Common Agenda’, has the potential to deliver the reforms that the world needs, at the Summit of the Future.
But this will only happen if we - all of us - invest in revitalising the multilateral system. It will not just happen by itself, sitting in our position and expecting others to do the job.
No, it will not happen if countries stick to narrow, nationalist agendas.
The European Union is trying to do its part. We do our part. We have always been a strong supporter, investing in the United Nations, both politically and financially.
Allow me to say that the European Union and its Member States are the largest collective contributor to the United Nations’ budget.
We have always backed the three pillars of the United Nations: peace and security, sustainable development and human rights.
What a beautiful set of words: peace and security, sustainable development, and human rights. We know that each [objective] depends on the other two for success. They are not isolated objectives. They are extraordinarily interlinked.
Peace and security [are] a pre-condition for sustainable development, but without sustainable development we will not have peace and security, and without both of them we are not going to have human rights.
That is why we need to address all security threats - new and old - in a holistic approach.
But equally, that is why we must counter the worsening human rights situation we see in many countries. We remain committed to all human rights: individual and collective, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.
Especially this year. This year – as you know – marks the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Universal. “Universal” means that human rights do not belong to any specific culture, they are universal.
It is a good moment also to recall that human rights are not only universal but indivisible. That they apply to everyone and everywhere.
In the same vein, I think that we need to renew our commitment to the sustainable development agenda. Precisely because we see global inequalities rising.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Summit later this year will be a crucial moment to accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
As a sign of our commitment, the European Union will submit in July its Voluntary Review of the SDGs at the High-Level Political Forum.
This will be an opportunity to share with the broader United Nations membership our efforts to support the achievement of the SDGs, at home and around the world. And also, to point to the challenges as we see them.
So let me summarise how do we see them.
First, there is one year of war against Ukraine plus global consequences.
As I said yesterday at the [United Nations] General Assembly, this war was and remains a clear-cut case of aggression, in breach of the United Nations Charter.
And it is not a “European issue”. It is not about “the West versus Russia”.
It is about the kind of world in which we want to live. A world where no one will be safe, and where the illegal use of force would somehow be normalised.
That is why international law must be enforced everywhere to protect everyone from power politics, blackmailing and military attacks.
In one sentence: we need to ensure that aggression fails, and that international law prevails.
Many people are asking about peace. Yes, certainly.
But the real questions are: what kind of peace? what kind of peace are we talking about, and how to achieve it?
Yes, we need peace and the Ukrainian people deserve peace.
But not just any peace. We need a just, comprehensive and lasting peace, in line with the United Nations Charter.
The first and obvious step for peace is for the aggressor to stop its attacks [and] withdraw its forces from Ukraine.
Until then, the European Union will continue to give Ukraine all the support it needs to defend its population. And we will do it as long as it takes.
The two tracks – supporting Ukraine and looking for peace - go hand in hand. It is not “either/or”. It is both things.
We count on the entire United Nations membership to show its support for these principles in Ukraine and elsewhere. It is a moment for countries to take a stand and be counted.
Meanwhile, the European Union will continue to help the rest of the world to cope with the fallout of Russia’s aggression.
That is what we have been doing for one year now - and successfully so.
Look, food and energy prices are now declining, partly thanks to the Solidarity Lanes and thanks to the vital Black Sea Grain Initiative, brokered by the United Nations, have [enabled] the export of 50 million tonnes of grain from Ukraine.
And let me remind you that this Black Sea Grain Initiative is coming up for renewal in mid-March. It needs to be prolonged. It is the food for millions of people around the world that is at stake.
Jointly with the European Union Member States, we have increased our financial contributions to handle the fallout of the war.
We have provided €18 billion to tackle food insecurity until 2024, and half of these resources are going to go to Africa and the Middle East.
We know it is not going to be enough, but maybe I can say that there is a strong support for these people who are suffering the shockwaves sent by this war of aggression affecting the whole world.
It is the war and its consequences which is putting millions of people at risk from the point of view of their livelihoods, facing prices of energy and food [that] they cannot afford.
Let’s talk about climate. Climate as test case for multilateralism, but it is also a security issue.
Let’s look beyond the war in Ukraine.
Looking beyond the war in Ukraine, we see the climate crisis as a textbook example of where we need effective multilateral action but – [I am] sorry to say – we are not getting it. We need it, but we are not getting it.
We see unprecedented floods, droughts and heatwaves. And every scientific report concludes that time is running out and that we need far more ambitious climate action.
This means accelerating the green transition, but again, in a just way. The green transition will be a just one, or it will not happen.
Because those least responsible for causing the problems are the ones that will be most affected by it. That is why we want to contribute to this just transition.
We are the world’s biggest contributor of public climate finance worldwide with €23 billion per year.
And as I said, climate change is also a security issue.
More and more, the climate and security nexus will dominate the global agenda.
This also means the [United Nations] Security Council will have to take its responsibilities on that issue.
Let me continue discussing on peace and security beyond the war in Ukraine. It is not the only conflict in the world, unhappily.
Let me turn to the specifics of the European Union and United Nations cooperation on peace and security.
Indeed, all European Union crisis management operations work with the United Nations as their partners, and we are proud of it. We are proud of being a strong partner of the United Nations in any crisis management. Because our strategic partnership on peacekeeping and crisis management dates back at least two decades.
A few weeks ago, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of our first civilian mission, the European Union Police Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (EUPM), [which started] 20 years ago.
And 20 years later, the European Union has 21 civilian and military missions deployed around the world, mobilising more than 5,000 people working for peace and security.
The most recent ones include our Military Assistance Mission in support of Ukraine (EUMAM Ukraine) – obviously – but also [our civilian mission] in Armenia (EU Mission in Armenia), and more recently, a military partnership mission in Niger.
Let me stress that this mission in Niger demonstrates our willingness to remain engaged in the Sahel. The European Union is not abandoning the Sahel, it is working with its partners as much as they want.
This explicit partnership approach of the mission, built on clear demands from Niger’s authorities, aims at increasing its effectiveness in this area, which is one of the most endangered area in the world.
Let’s go to the Mediterranean [Sea] and talk about the naval operation [EUNAVFOR MED] IRINI.
[Operation] IRINI contributes to the implementation of the United Nations arms embargo. It is the United Nations that has declared the embargo, but the embargo has to be implemented, not just declared. Someone has to take care that it takes place, really, effectively, on the ground.
[Operation] IRINI is one of the toughest ways of providing support for this arms embargo through inspections, in the high seas off the coast of Libya, of vessels suspected of breaking the embargo. [Operation] IRINI remains the only actor doing so.
Let’s talk about terrorism, and how terrorism affects African countries, and how helping African countries in the fight against terrorism is another key priority for the European Union.
We have several missions that provide military and civilian support to African countries, the latest example being our Training Mission in Mozambique (EUTM Mozambique).
And five of our civilian missions include a counter-terrorism mandate.
As United Nations peacekeeping marks its 75th anniversary, we must use this opportunity to maximise the impact of United Nations operations.
We support the [United Nations] Secretary-General’s call for a New Agenda for Peace. We are committed to continue to support African-led Peace Support Operations and the ongoing discussions to use United Nations assessed contributions for operations authorised by the United Nations Security Council.
Regional organisations, like the African Union or the Arab League, together with us, play a key role in preventing and addressing crises.
I think that we are well-placed as a peace actor by virtue of its wide array of policies and instruments.
Combining mediation, prevention, diplomatic, security, trade, development cooperation and humanitarian tools. All of us together, all these tools together allow us to engage throughout all phases of a conflict if prevention does not succeed in avoiding it to happen.
We are currently providing such support in 20 conflicts across the world. We are there supporting civilian people and trying to make the situation better. And we will reinforce our capacities in doing so.
So, it is not only Ukraine. We are paying attention to everything that matters in the world, maintaining our global engagement.
Because we know that yes, war has returned to Europe, but it has not stopped elsewhere.
I want to stress that the European Union will remain fully engaged in all crises around the world, financially and politically.
Let me end my briefing by addressing some specific cases and regional crises.
I want to start with the devastating earthquake in Syria and Türkiye with more than 40,000 victims and hundreds of thousands whose houses are destroyed.
The European Union is providing assistance to both countries in close cooperation with the United Nations.
We immediately sent medical teams and we will organise a Donors’ Conference next month to finance the reconstruction.
At the same time, we were sending also people to fight the incredibly big fires in Chile.
We try to make sure that assistance reaches people in need both in regime-controlled and in non-regime-controlled parts of northern Syria. Because human beings deserve assistance whatever [whether] the regime controls or does not control territory.
In the wake of the earthquake, we have decided to introduce an additional, although time limited, humanitarian exemption to our sanctions regime in order to make sure that humanitarian aid can reach the Syrian population as quickly as needed and possible.
In Afghanistan - do not forget Afghanistan, two years ago in Kabul fell, but Afghanistan is still there. Developments have gone from bad to worse, because of the Taliban’s actions and inactions.
The systematic – can I say – "gender apartheid” that the Taliban are putting in place against women and girls. This “gender apartheid” in the public life of half of the population is fully unacceptable.
So, we cannot continue business as usual.
But at the same time, we need to avoid punishing Afghan women twice by stopping assistance where it still could be delivered. First the Taliban punishes them, and then we come and punish them again by cutting the assistance? No, if the assistance can be delivered in full respect of key principles and values, we will continue doing that.
I thank the United Nations for its high-level engagement and coordination on the ground, including with us [the European Union].
In the Sahel, I want to approach the situation in the Sahel from the point of view of the security situation.
Allow me to switch to French, because I know how important the situation in the Sahel is for France.
Oui, au Sahel, la situation sécuritaire continue de se détériorer dans un contexte politique chaque fois plus complexe.
Mais là aussi notre volonté d'engagement demeure. Parce que nous savons que quand nous agissons, nous le faisons de manière à répondre à la sécurité, mais aussi à la gouvernance et aux besoins humanitaires.
Nous nous sommes adaptés à l'évolution de la dynamique, en agissant avec prudence et précaution là où il est nécessaire, au Mali et au Burkina Faso, en rééquilibrant notre action bilatérale avec les partenaires qui sont plus disposés et prêts à travailler avec nous. J’ai déjà cité le Niger et j’ajoute la Mauritanie.
Moving to the Western Balkans, on Bosnia and Herzegovina, I welcome the unanimous extension of Operation EUFOR/Althea’s executive mandate for another year.
Thanks for this decision, because this ensures that Althea can continue to support authorities in maintaining a safe and secure environment for all citizens.
And I know how appreciated is the Althea [Operation] by the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The EU candidate status provided a clear signal that the country’s future is in the European Union. I met the political leadership last week and stressed the need to deliver on the necessary reforms in order to advance quicker on this path which is the best way to ensure peace, stability, democracy, freedom and progress for Bosnia and Herzegovina.
I am working on the EU-facilitated Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue, as coordinator of this dialogue mandated by the United Nations, on the normalisation of relations. We are at a crucial juncture, and I hope that in the next weeks I can offer positive results.
The European Union has presented a proposal to the parties that would put the normalisation process on a solid, forward-looking track.
On Monday, we will have a high-level meeting with the two leaders in Belgrade and Pristina, the President of Serbia [Aleksandar Vučić] and the Prime Minister of Kosovo [Albin Kurti], in order to see if this engagement is serious, solid and presented a clear way for the normalisation of relations between the two of them.
There are many more countries and crises I could mention but let me leave it here. I have been talking for too long.
Thanks for giving me this opportunity on behalf of the European Union to explain to the world that, beyond [Russia’s war against Ukraine], we remain committed to many crises, many people around the world, doing our best in order to improve the [global] peace and security situation.
And I am looking forward, Mr President [Ian Borg, Minister for Foreign and European Affairs and Trade of Malta], for the comments of the Ambassadors.
I thank you for your continued cooperation.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-237350