Press Releases Informal meeting of Foreign Affairs Ministers (Gymnich): Remarks by High Representative Josep Borrell upon arrival

Informal meeting of Foreign Affairs Ministers (Gymnich): Remarks by High Representative Josep Borrell upon arrival

Good morning again.

We learned this night that Mikhail Gorbachev passed away. I was a member of the Spanish government when the Iron [Curtain] fell and when the coup d’état in Moscow [happened] – I remember very well those historic days. Mikhail Gorbachev sent a wind of freedom for the Russian society. He tried to change the communist system from inside – which became impossible. He started an era of cooperation with the West, stopping the Cold War.

Unhappily, the hopes have vanished and this brings me to the current situation in which the [Foreign Affairs] Ministers will continue discussing our relationship with Russia on and above [all] the Ukrainian war.

We have to continue doing the three things: supporting Ukraine, putting pressure on Russia and addressing the wider fallout of this war that affects the whole world. So, we will continue working in these three directions.

We will have to discuss about the visa for Russian citizens. It is the most important [and] concrete topic on the table. It has been widely discussed during this week. You know that there are different positions among different Member States. I will be working for unity, for a united position, for a common position. We cannot afford to appear disunited on such an important thing which is the people-to-people relations, between the Russian society and the European people.

We will have to study also the consequences of this war not only on us. Yesterday, we discussed about the consequences on Africa. This war is bringing to the world a systemic energy crisis, a food and energy crisis. It is affecting the European society every day, more and more, but other people, other countries, especially in Africa but also in Southeast Asia and Latin America, are suffering the effects of this war.

We have to think about the future relationship with Russia: How do we deal with Russia in the future after what is happening today in Ukraine.

So, we have in front of us a wide agenda, a very important meeting – an informal meeting [so] just discussions and no decisions. But certainly, on the issue of visas, we will have to reach an agreement on a political decision.


Q. Inspectors are accessing the [Zaporizhzhia] nuclear power plant in Ukraine. Do you have a sense of relief? 

It is part of this systemic crisis. They [Russians] are playing games. They are gambling with the nuclear security. Currently, the mission of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in going to Zaporizhzhia. We are supporting a lot Mr Grossi [Director-General of the IAEA] and his team. Let’s see what is the result of this mission. We have been asking for an immediate demilitarisation of the neighbourhood of this atomic central – the biggest atomic power plant in the whole Europe. We cannot play war games in the neighbourhood of a site like this. So, I hope that the [International] Atomic Energy Agency will be able to restore the situation. And certainly, we have to continue putting pressure for the complete demilitarisation of this part of Ukrainian territory.

Q. The selective engagement, which is one of the five principles decided after the Crimea annexation by Russia. Can this continue to be a policy of the European Union? 

At the moment, there is no engagement, as you could perfectly understand, but we have to think about the future. The future, the relationship with Putin’s Russia will be very difficult after what is happening. There is a Franco-German paper, there is also a Czech paper – we have a lot of food for thought. This informal meeting is a good occasion to study how do we address our relationship with Russia.

But I want to stress the importance of the wider world. It is not just the Russians and the Europeans. This crisis is affecting millions of people. Millions of people in the Horn of Africa – which have nothing to do with Ukraine – are suffering hunger as a consequence of this war. The gas market around the world is absolutely tied to this, look at the prices of the gas. It has a lot to do with that, not only in Europe, but also in Africa.

Q. [inaudible] 

Not only energy, but certainly at this moment, energy is at the core of our relationship with the African people. We need them; they are producing gas [and] they need us. This is the moment to strengthen our partnership with Africa. Africa is a collateral victim of this war.

Thank you.

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