United Nations: Speech by High Representative Josep Borrell at the annual UN Security Council session on EU-UN cooperation  

New York
EEAS Press Team

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Thank you. Thank you, Mr President.

Dear Secretary-General, Excellencies, Ambassadors, 

There are moments in history when [the] darkness of the world is becoming darker, and today is one of these moments. The world is even darker than usual. Black is blacker, and pain and despair become the ordinary of human condition. 

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the state of the world today is deeply worrying. But it could be worse if we did not have the United Nations which, through its Charter, remains an unsinkable compass for our humanity confronted with the surge of passions, torrents of blood, and rivers of hatred which destroy any semblance of reason around the world.

What we see is that every day the [UN] Charter is being flouted, distorted, hijacked or ignored. Ignored in some cases with a sense of impunity that is increasingly worrying.

But the United Nations is here, with all the men and women working for this organisation, and among them the Secretary-General [António Guterres] - who I mentioned at the beginning – and to whom I would like to pay tribute today, supporting him in front of many accusations and attacks he has been suffering. 

Yes, the United Nations remains a landmark in the turmoil. It is a lantern in the thick fog through which we search our way every day, trying to look for a solution. The United Nations is a ray of light, it is a sign of hope. That is why we expect a lot from the Summit of the Future.

The Summit of the Future should be a moment to reform the United Nations Security Council, to enlarge its composition in order to reflect better the world [of] today, to reform the international financial institutions, moving from some billions to the many trillions needed. 

Anyway, the future will come. The future will come anyway, so let's try to make it less bleak than our bleak present.


Going to the concrete things. [For over] two years now, we have been witnessing a flagrant violation of international law by a permanent member of this [Security] Council that deliberately launched a war of aggression against a sovereign state, Ukraine, whose security it was supposed to guarantee.

Since the beginning of this war, which is an attack on the United Nations’ Charter, the European Union has shown its full solidarity with Ukraine and granting [it] exceptional economic, financial and military aid.

The European Union has demonstrated a remarkable unity and an ability to make Europe an active and structured power in the international system.

This support, symbolised by our commitment to make Ukraine a member of the European Union, will continue.

Because it is not simply a matter of preserving a fundamental principle of international law – which is the territorial integrity of sovereign states - it also reflects Europeans’ determination to protect ourselves against the danger that Russia now represents for our peace and security.

The second major conflict we must confront is the one in Gaza. 

Gaza is just the tip of an extraordinarily serious conflict that has been raging between Israelis and Palestinians for almost a century. It is the one Hundred Years War. 

And we have condemned repeatedly - here again I will do it - the terrorist attacks that took place on 7 October and [re-state] Israel’s right to defend itself. But we have also stated, equally strongly and repeatedly, that this has to be done in full respect of International Law and International Humanitarian Law. And when you look [at] what is happening, you may doubt about it. 

I do not want to teach anyone of you about what is happening in Gaza. [More than] 30,000 people dead, 1.8 million [people] displaced, [and] 500.000 people on the brink of starvation.

We are facing now a population fighting for their own survival. Humanitarian assistance needs to get into Gaza, and the European Union is working as much as we can in order to make it possible.

But this is a humanitarian crisis which is not a natural disaster. It is not a flood. It is not an earthquake. It is man-made. 

And when we look for alternative ways of providing support – by sea or by air – we have to remind that we have to do it because the natural way of providing support through roads is being closed, artificially closed. And starvation is being used as a weapon of war.

When we condemn this happening in Ukraine, we have to use the same words for what is happening in Gaza. 

In Gaza, the United Nations agencies - Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), World Food Programme (WFP) and UNRWA - are the last lifeline for many people.  

Yes, UNRWA is facing allegations. But allegations have to be proved, that is why they are allegations. And we await with interest the conclusions of the United Nations’ independent investigation by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), an audit to be conducted by EU experts, and the findings of the Colonna Commission set up by the United Nations Secretary-General. 

But let me remind something: UNRWA exists because there are Palestinian refugees. It is not a present to the Palestinians, it is an answer to their needs. UNRWA exists because first there were Palestinian refugees. We won't make these refugees disappear by making UNRWA disappear. They will still be there.

In fact, there is only one way to make UNRWA disappear: making those refugees citizens of a Palestinian state that coexists with an Israeli state.  Almost everybody agrees on that, but how can we make this solution a reality? 

There is no magic solution. But maybe there are credible ways to try to achieve it. The two-state solution. We talked about it many years ago, and now, we talk [about] it again. But admittedly, we have never seriously tried to make it a reality. And in order to make it a reality, the first step should be a unanimous resolution by this [UN] Security Council, endorsing a two-state solution and defining the general principles which may lead to this result. And on that, the European Union is ready to cooperate. 

I think that we have a wonderful opportunity to show that our principles are not empty words.

And since we all agree on the implementation of this solution - the two-state solution - as the only viable solution to the conflict, we must act accordingly, following - in my opinion - three principles that should guide our actions. 

The principle of clear separation between the two states, since there is no viable alternative to this separation.

The principle of security, without which tragedies like the one of October 7th can only be repeated once and again, because both Israel and Palestine need to feel secure. 

And finally, the principle of regional integration, since both Israel and Palestine are perfectly capable of taking their place in a peaceful regional collective.

Today, we are dominated by the images of war and hatred. But it is not impossible to imagine a pacified region based on a complementarity between Israel and its wider neighbourhood, from the Mediterranean to the Gulf.

This was Shimon Peres’ dream. Shimon, my old friend, he was dreaming about it. Let’s try to make this dream come true. Let’s roll up our sleeves. Let’s try to engage on that. Because the world peace is at stake. 

Let humanitarian support flow into Gaza. Continue asking – and more than asking – Israel not to impede humanitarian to go through the natural way, which is by road. And in the meantime, let’s try for other solutions that will be less efficient and never an alternative to the hundreds of trucks that should come into Gaza to avoid the starvation of hundreds of thousands of people. 

This is the scenario on which we cooperate, where the United Nations and the European Union cooperate. And this cooperation is very well reflected in numbers.

I know that the United Nations faces serious financial constraints. Some contributions are not being paid. And now that everyone is talking about securing adequate financing to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), my dear colleagues and friends, numbers matter.

Let’s go from the principle to the facts and remind that the European Union and its Member States, we finance almost one third of the United Nations regular budget. One third. 

We collectively finance [almost] one quarter of all United Nations agencies. One quarter of all programmes. We pay and we pay on time.

We are the largest financial contributor to the United Nations. We are proud of it. And we are also the largest provider of humanitarian aid in the world. From time to time, it is important to remind these facts. 

But we are not only payers, we are partners. We are strategic partners - on crisis management [and] on peace operations.

We are working together in [over] 25 crisis contexts, providing peace mediation and supporting dialogue.

In the future, we would like to focus increasingly on conflict prevention, increasing our cooperation with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), analysing conflicts and preventing electoral violence.

In the Pact for the Future, I think that conflict prevention should have a prominent place. [It is] better to foresee and prevent than to try to mend the problem once the crisis has erupted. 

Our block I think is particularly committed to peace and security in Africa. 

In 25 years from now, 25% of the world population will be living in Africa. One out of four human beings will be living in Africa, a continent of opportunities where humankind will still be growing. But in order to harvest this potential, they need security. They need stability.

This is why we are working with the African Union, supporting the African-led peace support operations. I know this is a priority for the United Nations Security Council and I welcome the resolution 2719 on financing such peace support operations. 

In the last three years, we have provided almost €1 billion in military support to African partners. €1 billion in three years to support, through the European Peace Facility, our African partners. 

We have 24 missions and operations around the world. We deploy 4,300 people. 

From the maritime security in the Gulf – the recently launched [EUNAVFOR] Operation Aspides - to the Operation Atalanta to counter piracy in the Horn of Africa, supporting our partners in the Gulf of Guinea [EU Gulf of Guinea Strategy and Action Plan], our Mission in Armenia [EUMA] to support the mediation efforts in the region; an Advisory Mission in Ukraine training the Ukrainian police. In the Mediterranean, [EUNAVFOR] Operation Irini, with a strong mandate from the United Nations trying to work on the implementation of the arms embargo in Libya. In Bosnia and Herzegovina also, Operation [EUFOR] Althea.

We hope that this Security Council will renew the annual authorisations for these operations that we are implementing under your mandate. 

And more recently, and dramatically, let’s turn our eyes to Haiti, where the escalation of [violence by] criminal gangs over the past weeks has [brought] the country to the brink, and the ordinary Haitians are paying the price.

We welcome the progress by the political forces [and] commend CARICOM for its facilitation. We support the efforts for a Haitian-led political transition.

We are looking [for] a way to support the broad objective of the mission led by Kenya, and we are ready to contribute and to finance this operation.

In the Sahel, after ten years of cooperation, we are facing a deteriorating situation, with several military coups in the last years. The political landscape in the region has changed, but the challenges remain the same. We want to be engaged and support any peace initiative - supporting ECOWAS, supporting African solutions to African problems.

But I think that in Sahel the international community needs to adapt to the new threats and new actors. Be more flexible and respond better to the demand of our regional partners.

The same is true for Sudan. The world’s largest internal displacement crisis is taking place silently in Sudan. 8 million people displaced inside and outside the country. 20 million Sudanese – [almost] half of the population - [are] at risk of starvation. It is not in the headlines of the press, but it is happening. The de-facto government not allowing UN agencies to deliver aid via Chad is making the situation even worse. 

Yes, we want to support any initiative and any international response to Sudan, and we need all parties and their sponsors - because these parties are being sponsored - to silence the guns and to end hostilities without pre-conditions. 

In the Horn of Africa, in Somalia, we have been the main [financial] contributor to the African Union Missions for years, to stabilise the country. Since 2007, we provided €2.6 billion to support these missions. We increased support to the Somali security sector, and there are some positive results.

We will present a detailed proposal for a new mission to the UN Security Council, in Somalia. We stand ready to work with international partners to support the implementation, but I want to emphasise the importance of financial burden sharing.

Afghanistan. Afghanistan seems to be forgotten, but the humanitarian, economic, political and human rights situation is alarming. There is a de-facto a gender apartheid in Afghanistan. The situation cannot stand. So, we support the work of the [UN] Secretary-General and the meetings [among special envoys] in Doha. We need to push for the implementation of this [UN Security] Council resolution 2721 and continue being engaged. 

Myanmar, another priority. We fully support the mediation efforts of Laos and of the new ASEAN Special Envoy. But I think that the United Nations has also to play a more important role and speak with one voice about what is happening in Myanmar. The appointment of a UN Envoy and of a Resident Coordinator is long overdue. We have to fill in this hole. The United Nations has to be present there. 

And do not forget that we have celebrated International Women’s Day. I want to close my intervention with a few words on the human rights of women and girls. I talked about it when I said “a gender apartheid” in Afghanistan.

Yesterday was the [start of the] 68th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women. This Commission is one of a kind. It is the main global body dedicated exclusively to advancing the enjoyment of human rights by all women and girls.

I think it is the right time for the European Union to once again reiterate our firm stance against sexual and gender-based violence, wherever it happens. This kind of violence has to stop, no matter where and not matter by whom it is committed. 

To conclude, and thank you very much for your attention, let me restate the deep commitment of the European Union to the United Nations’ values and principles. Not only to the organisation, not only to the men and women who are working every day and, in some cases, losing their lives at the service of this organisation. It is about the principles and values that underpin the existence of the United Nations, with the promise that we will continue working hard on ensuring the full implementation of these values and principles, with financial support and with political commitment. 

Thank you. 

Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-254425

Closing remarks

Mr President, I think I am going to speak in Spanish. It will be for me a way of expressing myself with the heart, without having to translate what I am thinking and what I am saying.

Quiero dar las gracias a todos ustedes. A todos, por las palabras tan amables que han tenido, y por la voluntad de seguir trabajando desde las Naciones Unidas con la Unión Europea.

He empezado mi intervención diciendo que la Unión Europea es una brújula imprescindible para guiar a la humanidad a través de la dureza y la crueldad de este mundo. Y este debate ha servido para demostrar que la inmensa mayoría de ustedes comparte esta apreciación.

Yo comparto muchas de las cosas que se han dicho. Comparto en particular lo que ha dicho el representante de China [Geng Shuang] sobre la necesidad de concebir la seguridad de una manera indivisible, evitar una confrontación entre bloques, y trabajar juntos en favor de en multilateralismo efectivo basado en el respeto al derecho internacional.

La Unión Europea no tiene nada contra el ascenso de China como una gran potencia política u económica. Deseamos simplemente que este ascenso que se inscribe en la lógica de la historia se haga en esa manera que contribuya a ese multilateralismo efectivo.

[Nos encontramos] en un mundo cada vez más multipolar, [con] cada vez más polos, y, por desgracia, cada vez menos multilateral. Somos más polos y ejercemos menos en la cooperación entre nosotros.  Cada vez hay más vetos en el Consejo de Seguridad de las Naciones Unidas, y menos acuerdos. Necesitamos más cooperación porque el número de actores importantes - que no existían cuando las Naciones Unidas se fundaron - ha aumentado y lógicamente [estos] piden su lugar en la historia.

La única diferencia, obviamente, la tengo con el embajador de Rusia, que me ha parecido sarcástico. No sabe uno si reír o llorar cuando oye decir a Rusia, precisamente a Rusia, que la Unión Europea es un bloque agresivo. El país que ha lanzado la mayor agresión militar de nuestros tiempos considera a la Unión Europea un bloque agresivo. ¿Algunos de ustedes se sienten agredidos por la UE? ¿A cuántos países estamos bombardeando? Francamente, me parece sarcástico que sea Rusia el que nos considere un poder agresivo.

Por cierto, cuando uno oye las explicaciones que ha dado recientemente el candidato a la reelección, el presidente Putin – cuya reelección es “dudosa”, sin duda – acerca de las razones por las cuales Hitler invadió Polonia, diciendo que es que Polonia provocó tanto a Hitler que el pobre no tuvo más remedio que invadirla. Claro que, con esta interpretación de la historia, no me extraña que ahora se pueda considerar a la Unión Europea como un poder agresivo.

Ustedes saben que no lo somos. Ustedes saben que la Unión Europea es hoy un proyecto que intenta contribuir a la paz y la estabilidad mundial. No somos una alianza militar, pero tampoco queremos ser solo una unión económica. Tenemos la voluntad de ser un actor geopolítico, no solo económico. Y ciertamente, apoyamos a Ucrania. La apoyamos. La apoyamos porque pensamos que ese país tiene derecho a existir, y tiene derecho a defenderse. Que hay una agresión clara. Así lo reconocen la mayoría de los países de las Naciones Unidas cuando votan en la Asamblea General. Ciertamente no esperaba de Rusia que defendiese la primacía del derecho internacional, ni esperaba que defendiese la soberanía y la integridad territorial, cuando uno ve lo que ocurre [en Ucrania].

Pero no he venido a tener un cuerpo a cuerpo con Rusia, sino señalar simplemente que para nosotros el apoyo a Ucrania es una manera de apoyar el principio fundamental de integridad territorial de los países. Pensamos que ciertamente la vía diplomática tiene que estar permanentemente abierta. Todas las guerras se acaban con una paz, o por lo menos con una “no-guerra”. Pero cuando uno oye a los responsables de Rusia diciendo que mientras no consigan sus objetivos militares, la guerra va a continuar, pensamos que no es el momento de dejar de apoyar a Ucrania y que tampoco es el momento para Ucrania de levantar la bandera blanca de la rendición, porque demasiado ha pagado ya - en términos de vidas y en términos de su riqueza, en términos de sus infraestructuras destruidas, en términos de los bombardeos que soporta para acabar esta guerra de una manera que no sea respetuosa a los principios de la Carta de las Naciones Unidas.

Paz, si – pero una paz justa. Una paz que respete los principios que defendemos los que aquí nos sentamos.

Esos principios son universales y tienen que ser aplicados en todas partes. Cuando decimos que cortar los suministros a una población civil y utilizar el hambre como arma de guerra es algo que va a contra del derecho internacional, esto vale igual cuando ocurre en Ucrania que cuando ocurre en Gaza.

Tenemos que utilizar los mismos principios y valores y recordar que en este momento, hay 500.000 personas que están al borde de sufrir una hambruna que no es causada por un accidente de la naturaleza, sino por las dificultades que se imponen al acceso de la asistencia humanitaria.

Que sí, hay que utilizar las vías aéreas y marítimas, como intentamos hacerlo, pero sin dejar de señalar que lo razonable sería que se utilizasen las vías eficientes y existentes – las vías terrestres – que permiten el transporte masivo de ayuda. Y que, por desgracia, no están suficientemente abiertas.

Tenemos que abordar las causas profundas de lo que está pasando en el Medio Oriente. Tenemos que buscar una solución a este conflicto.

Quiero acabar diciendo que, si las Naciones Unidas creen, como parece que lo cree la gran mayoría de las Naciones Unidas, que la única solución es la coexistencia de dos Estados, entonces yo invito al Consejo de Seguridad de decirlo de la forma más solemne y formal posible. Que sea el Consejo de Seguridad quien proclame este principio. Que saque de ello consecuencias prácticas, para evitar la tragedia que vive el pueblo de Gaza, y para construir un futuro que evite que la tragedia se repita una y otra vez.

En eso la Unión Europea hará todo lo que pueda. No solo como el buen samaritano que acude a ayudar al que sufre, sino como el que trata de poner en marcha los mecanismos políticos que eviten las causas de sufrimiento.

Y eso pasa, sin duda ninguna, porque el Consejo de Seguridad sea capaz de llegar acuerdos que permitan el fin de las hostilidades, el desarrollo de la ayuda humanitaria, el enunciado del principio de la solución de los dos Estados como la fórmula que debe guiar el trabajo de todos y un compromiso serio y efectivo de la comunidad internacional para conseguir hacerlo una realidad.

Muchas gracias, señor presidente. Muchas gracias, señoras y señores.

Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-254515

Peter Stano
Lead Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
+32 (0)460 75 45 53