Press Releases Russia/Ukraine & 6th EU – AU Summit: Remarks by High Representative Josep Borrell upon arrival

Russia/Ukraine & 6th EU – AU Summit: Remarks by High Representative Josep Borrell upon arrival

Once again, in a quick meeting, the European Union Council has been considering the situation in the Eastern borders of Europe, in the border between Ukraine and Russia. We have gotten news about some withdrawal of troops, but we do not have evidence of it.

I am just coming from a NATO Ministerial meeting to talk about the coordination between the European Union and NATO. And, certainly, nobody has evidence of this withdrawal of troops.

But on what we have evidence, and we are very concerned and worried, is about the increasing fighting and heavy shelling in some parts of the contact line [in the eastern Ukraine], exactly the part that I was visiting at the beginning of January, where there was not any military activity on the last month. On the last hours, there has been heavy shelling, heavy bombing, fighting, and also we noticed a lots of disinformation from Russian sites in order to create an atmosphere of alleged attacks against Russian people in this part of Ukraine.

If you add to that the fact that the Duma has voted to ask President [of Russia, Vladimir] Putin to recognise the independence of these two separatist Republics, the whole package increases our concerns. Certainly, we are very worried.


Q. Do you still believe in Minsk? Is it still possible to be implemented and be successful?

In the current situation, we are not talking about Minsk, we are talking about the security concerns on the border [contact line in the eastern Ukraine]. Shelling has started: heavy shelling, bombing, disinformation campaigns. We still believe in the diplomatic process, and we will concentrate all our efforts on diplomatic activity. But on the other hand, and the Council today has been informed about it, we have already prepared a full package of sanctions. We have been working on that. I have been in touch with the United States, with all our like-minded countries, with the technical support of the Commission. We have a very tough package prepared. And, as High Representative, I am ready to present this package to the Council, because it is the Council who has the responsibility and the capability of approving sanctions and it is up to me to present the package of sanctions and I will do it as soon as needed. If there is an aggression, I will immediately call the Foreign Affairs Council to propose the package of sanctions. And I am sure that even if unanimity is required, the Council will approve them.

Q. So you are saying that the fighting has intensified in the eastern border in Ukraine, is not this the time to actually impose new sanctions?

When the moment comes, we will act decisively.

Q. But when is that moment, High Representative?

When the level of intensity of the aggression requires [it].

Q. You are talking about a broad package of sanctions, which is the role that energy plays in it?

Energy will be one of the most important issues in this package, but I cannot tell you the content of the package, neither which will be the moment to implement it

Q. [inaudible]

Europe is completely united about it. Sanctions require unanimity with the Member States. But today at the European Union Council, everybody has insisted on agreeing. And this unity is there in order to use it.

Q. Even Hungary?

I said all.

But remember one thing: we are here today and tomorrow to talk about Africa. It would be a pity that what is happening on the Eastern border of Europe makes us forget about this important Summit with Africa.

Q. Do you want to be Africa’s best friend? More than China?

We are the Africans best friends. The biggest investor, the biggest helper, the biggest trade partner. And we have a lot to work with Africa because African problems are our problems. Yesterday I was at the Elysée with President [of France, Emmanuel] Macron and a group of African and European countries talking about the military presence in Sahel. You know that it has been news this morning that France is going to withdraw – not only France, France and other Members States who are helping France. They will withdraw from Mali, but we are not abandoning Mali. We are not abandoning Sahel. We are just restructuring our presence. We will continue supporting the people in Sahel and Malian people. But it is important that this support has to be implemented in accordance with the political situation in Mali. But we are not abandoning Sahel, we are not abandoning Mali. We are just restructuring our presence in order to face the new political situation.

Thank you.

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