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,

This week marks one year of the [start of the] aggression of Russia against Ukraine.

One year later, what do we see? Thousands of people being killed, mass destruction, continuous bombing and [the] sending [of] shockwaves to the world economy, tumbling energy prices, food crisis.

Putin is guilty of creating a lot of pain: not only to the Ukrainians, but to the whole world. But especially to the Ukrainians. You see what is happening: continuous bombing, destruction of civilian infrastructures, killing of civilians.

This week will be focused on giving an answer to this aggression.

First here, at the Foreign Affairs Council, we will discuss about the situation in Ukraine. We will discuss about the 10th package of sanctions. Everybody is talking about sanctions, and everybody want sanctions but in the end, it is the Council who makes the decision, and we will continue discussing.

I cannot assure you that we will have a final agreement today, but we will continue working on it. The Ministers [for Foreign Affairs] have to agree on the package being discussed.

Then, [at the] United Nations. I will fly to New York and participate in the debate at the Security Council and at the General Assembly on the resolution against Russia, on the resolution defending Ukraine’s right to keep living as a sovereign country and [restore] its territorial integrity.

It is a very important vote at the United Nations. Remember, 143 votes. Let’s see which is the level of support by the whole world for Ukraine and [in] condemning Russia’s aggression.

Then, tomorrow, I will go to NATO together with Minister [for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Dmytro] Kuleba. We will have a meeting [with] the Secretary-General of NATO [Jens Stoltenberg], Minister Kuleba from Ukraine and myself, and the issue will be – as today also – how can we provide quicker arms to Ukraine, especially ammunitions.

You know that the most important, pressing issue today for the Ukrainian army is to have a continuous flow of ammunition of 155-caliber – also of 152-caliber, but 155-caliber is the most important one.

The Russian artillery shoots about 50,000 shots a day. A day. Ukraine needs to be at the same level of capacity. They have canons but they lack ammunition.

So, we do everything we can, using the European Peace Facility to provide financing, looking for the ways in which the European Defence Agency (EDA) and the [European] Commission, all together, we can do common purchase, asking the Member States to give part of their stockpiles to the Ukrainian army. It is the most urgent issue. If we fail on that, really, the result of the war is in danger.

So, today at the Foreign Affairs Council, tomorrow at NATO, and in two weeks in Stockholm with the Defence Ministers. At the end, it is the Defence Ministers who have to take these kinds of decisions. Defence is a Member States’ competence, and it is the Defence Ministers who are the “masters” of these kinds of decisions.

So, I will present several proposals to them and see which is the best one, and the best one has to be implemented quickly.

So, Ukraine, United Nations, Foreign Affairs Council, new package of sanctions, NATO and Defence Ministers. Full weeks [ahead].



Q. You said clearly that no peace except if Ukraine wins the war. But how long is this going to take?

I do not know, you do not know, nobody knows. But Ukraine is not the only point in the agenda. There are other pressing issues: [the Republic of] Moldova. We will receive the Foreign Affairs Minister/Deputy Prime Minister of Moldova [Nicu Popescu]. You know the critical situation which Moldova is [in], and the pressure from Russia. We will study with Moldova the regional security, keeping in mind that soon Moldova will be hosting the Conference of the Political Community for Europe [the European Political Community]. We are providing support to Moldova, through our European Peace Facility tool.

And then, two more issues – which are maybe not as much on the agenda as they should be.

[On] Afghanistan, we have to give an answer to the decision taken by the Taliban to forbid women to participate in the work of the Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO). We have to do something against it. At the same time, we have to [be careful] not to create more harm for the Afghan people. So, our support has to be calibrated, keeping a balance between answering the Taliban’s decisions and not creating more pain for the Afghan people who are depending on our support – especially in the fields of health and education. There has been a pause in our support.

We will have a

conference with Amina Mohammed, the Deputy Secretary-General at the United Nations, to discuss about the right answer. But keep in mind: to ban any kind of financial support, it will be against the Afghan people. To continue business as usual, means that we do not care about the Taliban decisions. So no, we have to send a message to the Taliban, but we have to continue supporting the Afghan people. Let’s see what the Ministers and the [European] Commission propose about it.

And then [on] Iran, we are going to approve a new package of sanctions, based on [Iran’s violations of] human rights. A new and important package against Iran’s responsibility in what has happened in the past days in the crackdown of demonstrations and the use of capital penalty.

Yesterday, I had a phone call with the Iranian Minister [for Foreign Affairs, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian], to announce [warn] him that we were going to take this decision, and asking him to stop the repression, and fulfill the obligation with respect to International [Atomic Energy] Agency because there are some worrisome news on the enrichment of uranium by Iran.


Q. On Ukraine, you said it is important for Ukraine to get a steady influx of weapons. Now they ask for cluster ammunition. What do you think about that? 

Look, I cannot go into the details of what kind of ammunition. We will see. The Ministers will decide. The important thing is to go quicker to provide 155-caliber ammunition.


Q. High Representative, US Secretary [of State, Antony] Blinken say that he is worried that China is going to start giving weapons to Russia. Do you share those concerns? What would be the consequences from the EU if China started giving weapons to Russia?

I heard this statement from the US Secretary [of State, Antony] Blinken.

I had a long conversation – me, too – with the [Chinese] State Counsellor Wang Yi – the former Minister for Foreign Affairs [of China], which has now been nominated [to be] – let’s say – responsible of the Central Committee of the Communist Party for foreign relations. I had a conversation with him, and I expressed our strong concern about China providing arms to Russia and asked him not to do that – and expressing not only our concern but the fact that for us, it would be a red line in our relationship. He told me that they are not going to do it, that they do not plan to do it – but we will remain vigilant.


Q. Why do you think the Commission has done enough on sanctions? Is it sufficient since Russia’s economy has only shrunken by 2.5%?

Well, look. There are three parameters on which you can have a look at the consequences of the sanctions approved by the Council. First, the public deficit. In January [2023], it is 14 times bigger than last January [2022]. Second, the trade deficit: much bigger. Third, the income coming from hydrocarbons: half in January 2023 than in January 2022. In 2022, the sanctions were not in full implementation, the energy prices were very high, and we were still dependent on gas from Russia.

Today, the prices have gone down. Russia is selling its oil at $40 a barrel when the market is at $80 – so they get half of the market price –, and we have gotten rid of our gas dependency. So, this year is going to be a very bad year for the Russian economy.


Q. It is a very bad year for all other countries, even the European and some Arabian countries. They are suffering much more. 

I said: this war has been sending shockwaves to the whole world. Everybody is paying for the consequences of this war. Not only Ukraine.


Q. ¿De qué estamos hablando de la compra conjunta y, sobretodo, espera usted un impulso definitivo para eso? Eso es importante para Ucrania. 

Hoy lo vamos a hablar, pero quien tiene que tomar la decisión son los ministros de defensa, los días 7 y 8 [de marzo].


Q. ¿De qué cantidad estamos hablando?

No lo sé, pero desde luego muchas.


Q. ¿Está preocupado por la situación en Irán y el suministro de drones letales?

Pues claro que sí, ¿cómo no voy a estarlo?


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