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, 

Well, once again we have a very dense agenda but unavoidably, Ukraine will be again on the table. 

We are going to listen to Foreign Affairs Minister [of Ukraine, Dmytro] Kuleba who will explain to us the situation on the ground. 

We will discuss the new – we do not say “new package” but improving the implementation of the already existing sanctions. During this week, together with the [European] Commission, I presented new proposals. The most important [one] is the ban on Russian gold, but [also] to be sure that the sanctions are effective. Because there is a big debate about “are the sanctions effective? Are the sanctions affecting us more than Russia?” Some European leaders have been saying that the sanctions were an error, were a mistake. 

Well, I do not think it was a mistake, it is what we had to do and we will continue doing. Some people say, for example, that the ban on oil has increased the price of oil. But have a look at the charts of the prices – the prices of oil, since we adopted the ban on oil, have been decreasing. So, I would like for people to put a figure behind any argument. When they say something, it would be good that they look for evidence because if not, everybody can say whatever they want.

Look at this graph, and you will see that the price of oil is at the same level than before the war, at the same level than in February [2022]. With the war, it increased a lot, and when we adopted the ban, it started decreasing. So, how can someone say that it was the ban which has increased the price of oil? Don’t they have eyes? Do they not look at the graphs? Do they not consider figures or facts? 

Well, that is important to be aware of where we are, of what we are doing, and of which are the consequences of what we are doing.

But certainly, Russia continues blocking Ukrainian wheat – they are burning it, they are destroying it – and they continue performing a war of attrition, bombing indiscriminately any kind of civilian infrastructure, killing innocent people. This is something that is a tragedy. So, we will see how do we continue supporting Ukraine. We will discuss to increase the military support to Ukraine. I am sure that the ministers will reach a political agreement about that.

Then we will discuss about Latin America, which is too much far away. We will discuss how to improve our relationship and how to deblock the trade agreements that are still being pending for years. 

We have deblocked the starting of the accession negotiations with North Macedonia and with Albania. This is a historical moment, after so many years of waiting with the status of candidate, with nothing happening, the final vote in North Macedonia’s Parliament has opened a door. And tomorrow, the intergovernmental conference will launch the process of negotiation – a long awaited process. This is good news. We do not have a lot of good news, this is a good one. I hope this is going to increase our engagement with the Balkans. 

So, Balkans, North Macedonia, Ukraine – increasing military support and improving the implementation of the sanctions with the new proposal from the [European] Commission and the High Representative both, as a Joint proposal. We will talk about digital diplomacy also, but I think the important thing continues being Ukraine. We must not forget about Ukraine.


Q. On Ukraine, or specifically in Germany, all eyes are on Nord Stream 1 now. Is this actually a good way to impose further sanctions and to strengthen existing ones?

Look, they are different things. We know that Russia can use the gas as an weapon against us. And in fact, they have already been doing that, they have been decreasing the gas supply. And on Wednesday, the Commission will discuss the prospects of the gas supply. But one thing is one thing, and another thing is another thing. We are not going to stop supporting Ukraine and [stop] putting the sanctions on Russia. There is a risk, certainly, there is a risk for the energy supply – everybody knows. And not today, but the following day, the Commission first and after the Council will be preparing all the plans in order to be able to face any possible situation.

Q. On Russian sanctions, you just mentioned that some people do not look at graphs and statistics, could you give us another example? You just mentioned oil price, but isn’t there any other example to see how Russia is targeted?

Have a look at the data of the Russian economy. Have a look at the production data: how many cars, how many engines, how many electrical appliances have been produced in Russia since the start of the sanctions. Have a look at the data. I can invite you to have a look at the blogpost I published in my blog, with all the data that you wanted to know about the performance of the Russian economy. And you will see the big toll that the Russian economy is paying.

Q. You have mentioned the discussion about sanctions. Is there any push from some Member States to consider rolling back sanctions in order to deal with the energy situation?


Q. What about the military support? You talk about more military support, what do you mean? In the end of August, you will meet Trio countries’ Ministers in Prague, Czech Republic. What will be the main issues discussed with Moldovan, Ukrainian and Georgian’s Foreign Affairs Ministers?

Yes, but this is not the agenda for today. Allow me to concentrate on my agenda for today, it is quite important. I insist – sanctions is one thing, the actions that Russia can take against us by using gas is another thing. And we have to fight on both sides. There is nothing against implementing the sanctions. We will continue implementing the sanctions. We have to have strategic patience, a strategic resilience. It is not going to finish in one day, one week, one month. It has to be continued applying everyday looking at how does it works, closing the loopholes, surveying what other countries do. This is the job, it is not just announcing the sanction. Then you need to go and implement it, and it is quite an important job to do.

Q. How hopeful are you that there will be a deal this week in Turkey on unblocking grain exports from Ukraine?

I think this might be the most important thing that the international community is facing. The most worrisome thing is the lack of food in many countries around the world. And there is no food because Russia is blocking the exports of Ukrainian grains. We are doing whatever we can in order to transport these grains through other ways, through the Solidarity Lanes, through the Black Sea, through Romania, Bulgaria. But that is not enough, so I hope, and I think I have hope, that this week it will be possible to reach an agreement to de-block Odessa and other Ukrainian ports.

The lives of thousands – more than thousands, tens of thousands of people – depend on this agreement. So, it is not a diplomatic game, it is an issue of life and death for many human beings. And the question is that Russia has to de-block and allow the Ukrainian grain to be exported. Otherwise, we will have to continue claiming that they are using food as a weapon, without any kind of consideration for human beings’ lives. It has to be said loudly. 

Thank you.

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