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

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

Today, is the [Informal] Foreign Affairs [Council]. Yesterday, we studied [and] discussed about Niger, Sahel, Ukraine, from the point of view of the Ministers of Defence. Today, we are going to do the same thing with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs.

I want to remind you that today we are going to have these discussions together with Minister [for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Dmytro] Kuleba who came here personally to debrief the Ministers on the situation, and in particular how [following] the talks in Jeddah and [at] the next UN General Assembly in New York, we can push the Peace Plan of President [of Ukraine, Volodymyr] Zelenskyy.

Yesterday, it was more the military and defence side. Today, it is more the diplomatic [side] – not just about the war, but about how to end the war from the point of view of the Peace Plan presented by President Zelenskyy.

Then, we will have a look at what is happening in the world, the Russian influence, the consequences of the war, and certainly focus on Niger and the Sahel. And for that, we have here with us the President of the ECOWAS [Commission, Omar Touray] – the President of the Economic Community of West African States – and also the Foreign Minister [of Niger, Hassoumi Massaoudou] of the Bazoum government.

[The President of Niger, Mohammed] Bazoum is still retained. He is still, not in prison, but detained in the presidential palace, but his Foreign Affairs Minister escaped from Niger, went to Nigeria, and he is here today together with the President of the ECOWAS [Commission].

Today, it would be a good occasion to talk about ECOWAS, to know more about their plans, to see how the African people [and] states react – African solutions to African problems. But it is also an occasion for us to review our African policy.

This is the menu for today. The same as yesterday, but from another dimension, and with three special guests: [Minister Dmytro] Kuleba, the president of ECOWAS and the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Nigerien government. When I say “Nigerien government” certainly I am talking about the Bazoum government.

Q&A

Q. You said there will be more about the diplomatic questions today. Recently, Ukrainian President Zelenskyy talked about Crimea, in the context of negotiations. Do you have any knowledge that their stance on what could be negotiated has changed or is changing?

Once again, I cannot tell you the [outcome of the] meeting before the meeting. So, we have to listen to [Dmytro] Kuleba. The meeting in Saudi Arabia was certainly a diplomatic success because of the number of countries attending. I think that internationally Russia is more and more isolated. And the fact that Putin did not want to renew the plan to export grain from Ukraine [Black Sea Grain Initiative] has certainly weakened the position of Russia. Because people start understanding that the problems of food in the world are not created by our sanctions, but by the actions of Russia not letting the grain from Ukraine being exported.

Q. You said that the European Union should support ECOWAS. Did you mean only through sanctions, or did you also mean, for example, with military aid if ECOWAS would decide to take military action?

As I said yesterday, we will consider any proposition that ECOWAS presents to us. You say: “African solutions to African problems”. You say that you support ECOWAS, but support [them] on what? Support what they decide to do. They have decided a strong package of sanctions, and we have already started working on a specific framework for sanctioning those responsible for the coup in Niger. So, we will apply a strong package of sanctions following the ECOWAS’ path. Any other measure has to be studied. I cannot say “it depends”. What I am saying is that we will seriously take into consideration, we will consider any proposition. But we need to have propositions.

Q. ¿Hay planes para evacuar a los ciudadanos europeos tanto en Gabón como en Níger? ¿Cuántos soldados hay? ¿Hay aviones preparados, etc.?

En Gabón, no hay por el momento ninguna previsión de evacuación. La situación es calma. No vemos ningún riesgo de violencia, de una situación que pueda provocar peligro. Hay unos 10.000 ciudadanos europeos en Gabón, pero ningún país ha manifestado preocupación por su situación. De momento no está previsto la evacuación en Gabón, como ya se hizo en Níger. En Níger, ya los evacuamos.

Q. Y los diplomáticos y embajadores?

Ah, esos hacen su trabajo y eso – a las duras y a las maduras. Están allí porque tienen que estar allí.

Q. ¿En Gabón, están haciendo un esfuerzo diplomático de mediación? ¿Hay algún tipo de contacto o solo los países africanos en este caso?

Bueno, no tenemos noticias concretas, la situación – como puede imaginar – ocurrió hace 24 horas. Pero la situación es radicalmente distinta. No vemos que haya ningún motivo para pensar en evacuaciones. Naturalmente, los golpes de Estado militares, pues no son la solución, pero no hay que olvidar que en Gabón antes había habido unas elecciones llenas de irregularidades. Hay golpes de Estado militares y hay golpes de Estado institucionales, que no hace falta usar las armas, pero si yo truco unas elecciones para conquistar el poder, pues también eso es una manera irregular de llegar a ejercer el poder.

Q. You said that you also have to discuss, or to review, the EU-Africa policy. What went wrong and what has to be improved?

Está claro que las cosas no han ido bien. Está claro que no se puede decir que se haya sido un éxito porque [vemos] la proliferación de golpes militares y la presencia del [grupo] Wagner en República Centroafricana, Malí, Burkina Faso – [que están] llenos de los mercenarios rusos en manos de militares que han llegado al poder. No es una situación ciertamente exitosa. Vamos a tener que revisar a fondo nuestra política. Es una voluntad de cooperación que siempre ha sido la nuestra. Vamos también a escuchar con mucha atención lo que nos digan desde ECOWAS. Porque creo que la primera cosa que hay que hacer es señalar nuestra voluntad de que las soluciones a esos problemas tienen que venir de las instituciones africanas.

Q. Is it the right moment to talk about sanctions against Niger? There are still soldiers on the ground.

That is the right moment. We have to do what we have to do. We have to sanction the junta in Niger. We need to be very strong in that.

 

Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-244843

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