Press Releases Foreign Affairs Council: Press remarks by High Representative Josep Borrell upon arrival

Foreign Affairs Council: Press remarks by High Representative Josep Borrell upon arrival

Good morning,

Yesterday, we had a dinner with the leader of the Belarusian opposition, Sviatlana [Tsikhanouskaya].

[Now] I am going to have first a meeting with the Armenian Foreign Minister [Ararat Mirzoyan], because you know that after we have the Eastern Partnership meeting at the Ministerial level. So many things are happening in the whole region, it is important to continue to pay attention to them and, in particular, to Armenia, that has been in a very difficult situation and still is. So, I will start my day with the Armenian Foreign Minister.

There are three main items today on the agenda – there are many others, but I do not think we are going to have time for all of them.

First, Ukraine. Second, Gaza. Third, Sahel.

On Ukraine, we will present the state of play on the security commitments that I have to present to the European Council later this week, after the [EEAS Deputy] Secretary General for [Common] Security and Defence [Policy] Charles Fries went to Kyiv for consultation with the Ukrainians. Ministers will have to discuss how to proceed on the proposals to increase our support.

As you know, Russia has increased their attacks. Kyiv has suffered, a couple of days ago, the biggest air attack by drones since the beginning of the war. So, the attacks against the Ukrainian cities continue but at the same time, the casualties of the Russian Army continue growing. That is the moment to put all our capacity to support Ukraine. The European Council will discuss it and the Foreign Ministers have to give me guidance to present to the European Council the proposal on security commitments, which is mainly to increase the European Peace Facility capacities, and to coordinate the bilateral agreements between Member States and Ukraine, and what we do at the European Union level.

Then, we will go to the situation in Gaza. You know that the European Union members of the [UN] Security Council voted in favour of the proposal of the Secretary-General [António Guterres], that was a good idea. Many of them co-sponsored the proposal from [the United Arab] Emirates. Unhappily, the United States vetoed this proposal so, it is not a call approved by the Security Council for a ceasefire. Everybody expects in the United Nations and now, this will go to the General Assembly.

But in the meantime, the bombing continues with an extraordinary intensity. We have been saying in the G7 meetings and others that Israel should not use the same tactics in the south that they have been using in the north of Gaza. But it is the same, if not even worse.

The number of civilian casualties – innocent civilian casualties – continues increasing. The United Nations has described the situation, and we need [for] the Member States [to] agree on some kind of request for – if a ceasefire is not possible, because it has not been approved by the Security Council – a series of pauses in order to make the humanitarian situation less awful. Thousands of people are being pushed against the border with Egypt and all the prospects are really, really bleak in Gaza.

The Ministers will discuss which is going to be our answer. I presented a position paper to discuss what to do in Gaza once the attacks finish, [and] what to do with Gazan people. People continue saying that they should not be expelled from their land. But it is difficult to continue saying that when people are escaping from bombing and looking for shelters, but there are no more shelters in Gaza.

There is no secure place in Gaza, that is what the United Nations say.

During the lunch, we will discuss about the Sahel. I have a preliminary paper, and on that Member States have still different positions. I think that we have to look at a country-by-country case, because the Sahel as a region, as a unit where we could work together with all the Sahel countries – the G5 [Sahel], the Alliance for Sahel – all that has been going on. Now, we have to look case by case and especially try to avoid the spill over of the terrorist activities into the Gulf of Guinea.

On the agenda is also economic security, which is a very important issue from the point of view of external relations, but I am afraid we will not have time to discuss it.

Tomorrow in the European Parliament, there will be a debate about economic security. I will attend this debate and I will do the debate that should have been done at the Foreign Affairs Council, during the European Parliament meeting.

I think that is all.


  1. On the Eastern Partnership Ministerial.

On the Ministerial of the Eastern Partnership, I mentioned that so many things happened in this part of the world. The Belarusian seat will be empty. We continue to try to do our best to isolate Lukashenko’s regime and support the Belarusian opposition. I hear that they are going to hold elections in Belarus. I wonder what kind of elections they will do. But we have the whole Eastern Partnership in a difficult situation – Belarus, Ukraine, then the Caucasus. The good news is Georgia advancing towards [EU] membership, but the situation in Armenia requires our strong support. We will see how we can increase it and how we can continue having the Eastern Partnership on our agenda, because it is our Eastern border, and our Eastern border is the place in the world where more hotspots are growing.

  1. How worried are you about the blocking position of Hungary and how do you think the issue can be solved?

This is something for the European Council to discuss. You know that [the Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor] Orbán has been travelling around the world, visiting President [of France, Emmanuel] Macron, even going to Argentina. Yes, it is something that, certainly, will be very high in the discussions, on the agenda. But I hope that the European unity will not be broken, because this is not the moment to weaken our support to Ukraine. Just the contrary, this is the moment to increase it.

  1. Germany wants to offset its national aid against European aid. What do you think of that idea?

We have to review the way we manage our European level support. Until now, we have been financing – let’s say destocking. The already existing capacities have been transferred to Ukraine and we have been trying to compensate economically for the cost, partially.

Some Member States believe that this has to be addressed more to building new capacities, not just destocking what has already been in the barracks of the army. I think they are right. In any case, destocking has a limit because when the destock is finished, you will have to look for other solutions. So, yes, I am very much interested in taking into account the concerns of Germany, and others, who want to review the way in which we manage, and we support financially Ukraine from a European perspective. But I think it would be very much important to continue doing that from a European level, not just country by country. Someone has to coordinate.

The European Peace Facility has done a good job. It has stimulated a lot of resources for Ukraine. It is more than €26 billion of military support, and we have to look for a way in which all Member States could be on board, taking advantage of the mechanism and solving the problem that has been detected.

  1. Mr High Representative, you just mentioned that Georgia is a country advancing to become a member of this organisation, but this week we are waiting for candidate status. So, expectations? And finally, this week will be successful for Georgia?

Georgia is doing well. Until now, all the analysis and proposals from the [European] Commission have been very positive. And I encourage Georgia to continue in this path.

Thank you.

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