Press Releases Informal Foreign Affairs Council (Development): Press remarks by High Representative Josep Borrell upon arrival

Informal Foreign Affairs Council (Development): Press remarks by High Representative Josep Borrell upon arrival

We are going to take stock with the [EU] Cooperation and Development Ministers of our policy of cooperation with emerging countries. We are in the middle of the financial perspective. It has to be reviewed what we have done and what still has to be done. We have to review the financial allocations in order to continue doing in the framework of these two wars, because certainly, everything that we do is being affected by these two wars [and] the perceptions of these wars around the world.

I have been in Ukraine. I will debrief the ministers on my visit to Ukraine – where certainly Russia continues indiscriminate attacks, I could witness them – and to continue encouraging Member States to support Ukraine as much as it takes, in order to reject the invasion.

Obviously, we will discuss also about the situation in Gaza. [I am] happy to know that two hostages have been liberated, but also very much worried by the situation in the border with Egypt, where new military operations seem to be taken by the Israeli Defence Forces.

[Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin] Netanyahu has been asking for the evacuation of a 1.7 million people without saying where this people could be evacuated [to].

The situation with Egypt is very tense and we are extraordinarily concerned about what is happening there. Many ministers of the European Union have been issuing messages yesterday – me too – asking Israel not to prevent the humanitarian support to come into Gaza. If they launch a military operation at the border with Egypt, Egypt has already said that in this case, the humanitarian support will not be able to go into Gaza.

The situation with Egypt is very difficult – [it is] understandable – so, let’s see what is happening in the following hours. All Foreign Affairs Ministers are following the situation, but we have to do maybe something more than just express concern.


Q. The UN High Commissioner yesterday said that Israel actions are no longer proportionate. Do you share this assessment?

Many people say that. Even the President of the United States [Joe Biden] said yesterday that the operations are no longer proportional, that they are excessive, that the toll of people being killed is unbearable. I think this assessment more and more comes from many people around the world. Even the United States who are the strongest support of Israel, considered – by the President Biden himself – that these actions are disproportionate, that the toll of people being killed – civilians being killed – is unbearable and warning Israel not to continue this way. But my question is: apart from words, what else do you think has to be done? If you believe that the toll of death is too high, do you have any possibility to make it lower?

Q. What is your answer to that, High Representative? What can the European Union do beyond words? Do you have a proposal for what the European Union should do beyond words?

Well, the European Union is not providing arms to Israel. Others do.

Q. Others should stop if they wanted?

If you believe the death toll is too high, maybe you can do something to make it lower.

Q. On the other side, you have the people in Gaza. There are discussions right now going on about the funding to Gaza, what is your opinion?

Well, the discussions continue. My colleague and friend, [Secretary of State of the United States, Antony] Blinken, has been travelling to Israel many times, begging the Israelis to stop killing [civilians]. My colleague, the German Minister [for Foreign Affairs, Annalena Baerbock] yesterday also issued a message exactly on the same terms, [expressing] extraordinary concern for the situation at the border between Gaza and Egypt. So, we have to continue to putting pressure on Israel to alleviate the humanitarian crisis. But, if they launch an offensive against a highly populated area, with more than 1.7 million people crashed against a wall that cannot escape. You know, when there is a war, people escape. People in Gaza cannot escape. They are in closed doors. They are being bombed without being able to escape. So, this is the situation and I hope that the whole world will take stock of it.

Q. High Representative, you said that defunding UNRWA would be dangerous. There have been new allegations over the weekend about [inaudible]. Has that changed your response to the situation?

We will talk about it this afternoon. We have invited [Commissioner-General of UNRWA, Philippe] Lazzarini. One thing is sure for me: UNRWA today [does] an [irreplaceable] work. Nobody else can do what UNRWA is doing.

Second, allegations have to be verified. The presumption of innocence is valid for everyone, at any time, even for UNRWA. It is not a secret that the Israeli government wants to get rid of UNRWA. Not [just] now, for many years before, [they have] wanted to get rid of UNRWA because they believed that if they get rid of UNRWA, they get rid of the problem of the Palestinian refugees. No, it will make it still worse. You know, hundreds of thousands of people are being fed, eat, everyday thanks to the work of UNRWA. And not only in Gaza, [also] in Lebanon, in Syria, in Jordan. So, allegations? Okay. Happy to know that UNRWA has already launched a complete and comprehensive investigation about what is happening [and] if there is any problem. Let’s wait for this investigation to take place. Let’s wait for this investigation to take place. The Secretary-General of the United Nations [Antonio Guterres] – I suppose people trust the Secretary-General of the United Nations – him, personally has decided to launch a complete investigation. So, let’s see.

Q. The investigation might take months.

The investigation will take as [long] as needed and in the meantime, people have to continue eating. They have to continue going to the doctor. 30,000 medical consultations per day.

Q. We did not see it on the agenda, but do you have any comment on former President [Donald] Trump’s remarks over the weekend suggesting that, if countries do not pay enough on defence, he would encourage Russia to attack?

Let me be sarcastic. During this campaign, we will see and listen to many things. Let’s be serious. NATO cannot be an “à la carte” military alliance. NATO cannot be an alliance that works depending on the ”humeur” of the President of the United States in those days. It is not “Now yes. Tomorrow, no. It depends, who are you?”. No, come on, let’s be serious. NATO cannot be an alliance “à la carte”. It exists, or it does not exist. But I am not going to spend my time commenting on any silly idea that comes during this electoral campaign in the United States.

Thank you.

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