Press Releases Foreign Affairs Council: Press remarks by High Representative Josep Borrell after the meeting

Foreign Affairs Council: Press remarks by High Representative Josep Borrell after the meeting

Well, for the last one [Foreign Affairs Council of the year], it has been a long day. We started at 8:30 and it is 18:00. Look, long but productive [day].

First, we agreed on increasing the financial ceiling of the European Peace Facility. The Member States agreed to increase the ceiling with €2 billion more for 2023. This is an important tool to continue helping Ukraine and also our Defence policy. Because this money is not for Ukraine alone, it is to top up [the European Peace Facility] with €2 billion more.

And [they] also agreed that – in case of need, because nobody knows what is going to happen – we can increase the ceiling by an additional €3.5 billion. This is almost doubling the initial amount of the European Peace Facility, but this is just in case we need [to].

Second, we adopted a further round of sanctions against Iran for two reasons: for the ongoing violations of human rights of the Iranian people, and for the help that Iran has provided to Russia in its bloodshed against the Ukrainian people.

Third, we discussed the ninth sanctions package against Russia, against the Kremlin, for escalating its aggression against Ukraine. On that, I will give more details later. We have to continue working.

Fourth, we agreed on several steps to defuse tensions in north Kosovo. And I have asked the European Union Special Representative [Miroslav Lajčák] to travel to the region ahead of the European Council. On that, also, we will give you more details because it is a very urgent issue.

So, [we] increased the celling of the European Peace Facility (EPF), adopted sanctions against Iran, discussed – but not yet agreed – sanctions package against the Kremlin, agreed on how to defuse tensions in North Kosovo, and, additionally to that, we have reviewed our [EU] Monitoring Capacity to Armenia which will be completing its activities by 19 December. We agreed to withdraw the Mission, because it has reached [its] end, and deploy a team to explore possible further European Union engagement.

We established an [EU] Military Partnership Mission in Niger (EUMPM Niger), in response to the request from the Nigerien government. It underlines our commitment to the stability in the Sahel region.

About these six points, now some more details.

First, we were joined by Minister [for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Dmytro] Kuleba, who informed us about how Russia is weaponising winter, weaponising the low temperatures. Unhappily, today we know that 1.5 million people are without electricity just in Odesa, right after drone strikes from Russia. In Odesa, it is around 0°C cold.

It is clear that Putin is trying to freeze the Ukrainian people into submission, deliberately depriving millions of Ukrainians of water, electricity and heating.

This can be called “crimes against humanity”. These are war crimes: to put millions of people into the cold and darkness, [to be] willing to freeze them in the middle of winter. That is a war crime.

The courage of the Ukrainian people deserves respect, certainly, but more than respect and applause, what they need is support. That is what [Minister] Kuleba has asked us with a concrete list of requests, from financial, to military, to training support. We have to continue supporting Ukraine.

The Ministers [of Foreign Affairs] committed clearly to maintaining the military support to Ukraine. They agreed to increase the [financial] ceiling of the European Peace Facility (EPF): as I said, €2 billion [for next year] plus, possible [increase up to] €3.5 billion.

We will assist Ukraine in repairing its energy system. We will increase our electricity exports to Ukraine.

We will continue working to ensure accountability for all involved in this war in order to make impunity impossible.

We discussed the ongoing work on the ninth package of sanctions [against Russia] to react to the latest escalation and brutality that Putin is using in order to continue attacking Ukraine.

The agreement was not reached among the Ministers, but I hope it will be reached this week and we will be able to approve this new tough package in the upcoming hours or – [at] the latest – during this week.

What we already approved are the individual sanctions to individuals and entities. It makes about 200 individuals and entities. This is approved. It is going to hit hard the Russian defence sector and the Russian military. It is going to hit, also, their political masters in the Russian government, in the Duma, in the Federation Council, and in the judiciary.

We are targeting those responsible for looting of Ukrainian grain and for the [forced] deportation of Ukrainian people and, in particular, children.

We are imposing sanctions on news outlets, on organisations who are not an expression of free press, but of the poisoning of the public space with a systematic manipulation of information.

We believe that sanctions work. We believe that Russia’s arms production is being hampered. So, it is also thanks to our sanctions that Putin was not able to achieve his objectives in Ukraine.

Russia has already lost this war, morally and politically. Ukraine must prevail. That is what the Ministers [of Foreign Affairs of the European Union] said after having this exchange with Minister Kuleba: Ukraine must prevail.

The second big issue was the worrying situation in Iran, where the authorities continue with the repression of Iranian women and youth, Iranian demonstrators.

It is clear now that Iranian authorities have started to carry out death sentences related to the protestors. Majidreza Rahnavard – a young man in his twenties – is the second protestor executed, this time in public, after a very short trial. He was arrested less than a month ago and he has just [been] executed.

We consider unacceptable the use of capital punishment as a tool to repress the protestors.

In the new package of sanctions for human rights violations, we are targeting those responsible for this continued repression against protesters. There are 21 listings. This underlines the support of the European Union to the Iranian people.

Also, there is the [military] support of Tehran to Russia.  Responding to the delivery of Iranian drones to Russia, 8 persons and entities have been listed. Iran claims these drones were sent to Russia before the start of the war, but these sanctions represent a strong message on Iran.

Then, I debriefed the Ministers on the situation of the JCPOA, the nuclear deal. You will understand that, in this situation the JCPOA is in a very difficult situation. But I think that we do not have a better option than the JCPOA to ensure that Iran does not develop nuclear weapons. This remains in our own interest.

This is why, I still believe that we have to separate the sanctions on human rights and arms provision to Russia from the nuclear programme the escalation of which is of great concern. And in spite of the fact that the nuclear deal remains in a stalemate and the escalation of Iran’s nuclear programme is of great concern, we have to continue engaging as much as possible in trying to revive this deal.

There was a debate about it, and the Foreign Ministers have reaffirmed the European Union’s support to the effective implementation of the JCPOA. But I had to remind them that my role as Coordinator [of the JCPOA negotiations], and the work of my team, is following a tasking from the United Nations. We will continue trying to do our best.

On other issues, we reviewed our EU Monitoring Capacity to Armenia. It was set up in October. It has proved to be effective, but in line with the Agreement with both Armenia and Azerbaijan, this Capacity would complete its activities on 19 December.

Nevertheless, in order to maintain our credibility as a facilitator of the dialogue between Armenia and Azerbaijan, a team will be deployed to Armenia in order to plan a possible civilian mission to be launched, in case of agreement, for next year. But this EU Monitoring Capacity to Armenia will reach an end on the 19th of this month.

Another important issue is the deteriorating situation between Kosovo and Serbia.

The latest incidents confirm the very worrisome downward spiral in their relations, with damaging consequences for the people of Kosovo, [of] Serbia, and the whole region.

Since August, we are living a vicious cycle of confrontations, provocations and reactions that has escalated in the past few days, provoking serious security incidents – including an attack against our own mission, our EULEX Mission, and on Kosovo police.

Barricades blocking roads, armed people roaming the streets: it is not something that we are ready to accept. It is not going to be acceptable, and we do not accept that, coming from partners who aspire [to] a European future.

This situation has to end. Barricades have to be removed. Calm must be restored.  The Council clearly called on both sides to refrain from any violence and provocative actions.

I asked the Member States to be ready to send additional reinforcements for our EULEX mission. Many of them agreed and are ready to send more capacities, more effective support, more people to this mission if needed.

I know that both parties have indicated that they are ready to de-escalate – and I hope they will. And I hope that they will. And I hope they will not start escalating again.

They must return to the EU-facilitated Dialogue, once again, a tasking from the General Assembly of the United Nations to the European Union, and to me as Facilitator of this Dialogue.  This is essential for both Serbia and Kosovo on their European path.

As the EU Facilitator – I insist, implementing a tasking of the United Nations – already after the last incidents during the summer, we put on the table a proposal to both leaders, [of] Serbia [Aleksandar Vučić] and Kosovo [Albin Kurti]. And we updated this proposal in the last weeks, after the last agreement – which was supposed to be a definitive one to put aside the tensions related to [license] plates and another issue related to the Serbian municipalities in north Kosovo. We put [forward] this proposal and now we have to take it forward as a matter of urgency.

I provided the Ministers with a first outline, and I am very glad of the strong support that I received from all Ministers for this initiative, which is implementing a tasking of the United Nations but now has become a proposal of the EU27 [Member States]. It is not my proposal only. It is becoming a proposal of the EU27.

Attending to the urgent and dangerous situation on the ground, I asked our EU Special Representative [for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue, Miroslav Lajčák] to travel to the region. Tomorrow, there will be a debriefing to the Political [and Security] Committee, an in-depth analysis of this proposal and, the day-after-tomorrow, Miroslav Lajčák will be travelling to the region in order to come back before the European Council, where I will assess and inform the leaders of the situation in Kosovo.

So, we are on track: PSC tomorrow, Miroslav [Lajčák] in the region, debriefing to the European Council. A proposal that has become a proposal supported by the 27 Member States.

Before the Foreign Affairs Council, we had the annual meeting of the Eastern Partnership at the Ministerial level.

We discussed the consequences for the regional security and the stability of the region after Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, and our commitment to reinforce cooperation to improve joint resilience and to recalibrate the Eastern Partnership in order to make it more flexible and [for it to] become a more strategic tool, able to respond to the different needs of our partners. Among our partners, there is Belarus, and there is Ukraine, and there is Georgia, [the Republic of] Moldova – countries which have been granted status of candidate, with a European perspective for Georgia.

So, it has been an intense day and I am happy to see that it has also been a very productive day. Not everything has been settled, there is still work in progress but, by the end of the week, before the Christmas holidays, everything will be settled. I hope so.


Q. On the Russian sanctions package, what exactly – or who – is holding up the agreement there? Secondly, I was curious to get your thoughts on the European Parliament probe and corruption scandal. How do you think this will impact the EU’s relations with Qatar going forward?

About the first question, certainly there is not 100% agreement, so it means that some Member States do not agree. But I cannot go into details and point out and say “this one, and this one, on that and that”. Work continues but I have a certain duty of reserve. I am fully confident that we will reach an agreement. The issue is not one specific Member State, and what we are thinking about, that is not the case. It is a matter of what kind of exceptions can we implement in order to be sure that our sanctions do not have collateral effects, and at the same time that we do not empty the effectiveness of the sanctions.

Certainly, the news that we learnt during the weekend are very worrisome. I think that we have to let the judiciary and the police do their job. You know that we do not have any kind of complacency and [we have] zero tolerance with corruption – wherever it happens. But, in this case, it looks like something that has to be deeply [dealt with by] the judiciary and the police. I am fully confident [on that]. It shows that in Europe, we are not rid of this problem, but we have judiciary, police and institutions that, when something happens, they work and they combat corruption – wherever it happens.

Q. Je voulais savoir quelle était votre impression, votre sentiment, par rapport au fait que la Hongrie a refusé de se joindre au paquet d’aide de 18 milliards d’euros prévu pour l’Ukraine. Qu’est-ce que ça dit de l’unité européenne en soutien à l’Ukraine?

D’après ce que je sais, parce que ce n’était pas dans la formation [du Conseil] Affaires étrangères ce n’était pas qu’elle [la Hongrie] était contre le fait qu’on aide l’Ukraine mais la méthode avec laquelle on le fait. Je sais que les ministres ont trouvé une solution.

Q. You had a conversation with [Foreign Affairs Minister of Iran, Hossein] Amir-Abdollahian yesterday. What is their response to the EU concerns? Do you think that Iran is not taking EU concerns seriously, and continuing doing the same with the crackdown of protests? The second question, about JCPOA. You told said that there is no better option, and we are witnessing a very long negotiation on this. Can you tell us how close do you see an agreement on this – are we talking about months, years, weeks? Can you tell us about any timeline on this?

It is just because we still have strong disagreements with what is happening in Iran and that is why we take this decision on sanctions. I talk quite often with the Iranian [Foreign Affairs] Minister [Hossein Amir-Abdollahian]; it is my duty and I have to do it. We share, we disagree, but, at least, we talk to each other. I think that diplomacy is here to keep the channels of communication open in any circumstances. I think that it was good that, before the [Foreign Affairs] Council took this decision today, I could inform the Minister and he could explain [to] me what is happening and I explain [to] him my concerns. And these concerns brought to these decisions.

Secondly, [on the] JCPOA, I want to make a clear difference between the nuclear deal, in which I am acting as a Coordinator on behalf of the tasking from the United Nations, and the decision taken by the Foreign Affairs Council on the issue of human rights and supply of arms to Russia. They are two different things. Certainly, this does not create the best atmosphere to advance in any kind of issue in the relationship between the European Union and Iran. But the nuclear deal is not an issue of the relationship between the European Union and Iran: it is something that goes further, many others are involved. The JCPOA is not just the European Union and Iran. The European Union was a facilitator, it was a big success of the European Union diplomacy and, unhappily, this deal was broken by the [Donald] Trump Administration – and now we have to try to revive it. The current circumstances do not help but I think they are two different issues.

Q. My question is related to the ninth package of sanctions against Russia. We know the Duma parties and the Council Federation parties will be included in the sanctions list but, I wonder, everyone knows that there are a lot of political parties in the European Union who maintain close contacts with Russian parties. Is there any possibility those European parties from EU countries to be sanctioned for contacts with Russian political parties?


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