Borrell: EU unity towards Ukraine crisis

Strasbourg 16.02.2022 “What happens in Ukraine will mark the future of humanity. All human beings should be concerned about what happens there, because if the law of the strongest is imposed again and one country can threaten another and can attack it and disaggregate it territorially, we will go back in history” said the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell during the European Parliament plenary debate in Strasbourg.

“The great success of the European Union is, precisely, having renounced war as a way of resolving conflicts. And that’s why we have to stand with Ukraine, trying to prevent a war on our borders. That forms a fundamental part of what we call the common security and defense policy, which I have the honor to try to develop. And the presence here, today, in this plenary session, of the institutions of the Union: the European Council, with its president; the European Commission, with its president; and the Council [of the European Union], which I have the honor of representing and presiding over its foreign affairs and defense formations, marks European unity in the face of possible Russian aggression against Ukraine.

“This unity has become stronger and more apparent these days. And I think that is one of the great positive consequences of this crisis. There has been a common approximation and all the European States have responded unanimously to a response that will have to materialise in what we call sanctions or coercive measures according to the Treaty. Sanctions that must be approved by the Council [of the European Union], under the proposal of the High Representative and that will have been drawn up with the invaluable cooperation of the European Commission, to measure their costs and consequences. And certainly under the political leadership of the European Council. That will happen if Russia attacks Ukraine.

‘But let me insist on the fundamental aspect of our Union, which is the most positive consequence of this crisis. A crisis that has been based on the threat to the territorial integrity of a State. A crisis that affects the security structure in Europe, which cannot be called into question through threats. A crisis that affects the right of each sovereign State to freely choose its security structures and its international relations.

‘Allow me to talk a little bit about which has been the role of European diplomacy in these events. It has been said that Europe was missing in action. We have heard that the Europeans were missing in action and that things were happening without our presence and without our participation, led by the United States, who were negotiating over our head. I think that we have to respond to this criticism, which seems unfounded for several reasons.

‘First, because the Member States of the European Union have been consistently debating the issue of security in Europe and Ukraine and we have achieved a remarkable unity. [Secondly] Because several Member States – France and Germany – have taken a number of political initiatives to promote a peaceful settlement of the crisis. And these initiatives have been carried out in coherence with the position of the European Union and in conditions of great transparency. And third, because Russia deliberately tried to ignore the existence of the European Union by sending letters only to the United States and NATO in December. Considering that we are completely irrelevant and that we have nothing to say about the security issues in Europe. For Moscow, the security in Europe is being defined in Washington.

‘Later, when they noticed that despite this dismissive attitude, nothing was going on, Mr [Sergey] Lavrov [Minister for Foreign Affairs of Russia] finally decided to send a letter to the 27 Member States that he had ignored until now. Why such a U-turn in the Russian position?

‘[It is] For two reasons. First, because they realized that the European front was not cracked and that the Atlantic solidarity was very strong. So, he tried the manoeuvre, which was to send letters to the 27 Member States, hoping to have 27 different answers. But, in this case, Mr Lavrov did not succeed, because we sent him a single letter, saving him the time to read 27 letters, all of them equal. Just one. One letter representing the position of the European Union on behalf of the 27 Member States. And this is a good example of how we, Europeans, can work together, and together with our allies, with the United States and other like-minded countries, with which we have had a continuous and very positive coordination. So, we have been present, participating in the negotiations – if we can call them negotiations or, at least, conversations – until now.

What can we envisage next? Well, we do not know, nobody knows. There are encouraging signs, but also very worrisome events, like the vote in the Duma [yesterday] asking Putin to recognise the independence of the two, let us say, “republics” in the Donbas. We do not know what Putin is going to do. But what is clear is that we have to continue offering both things at the same time: the will to negotiate, to be ready to participate in talks – because, yes, Russia has also security concerns that have to be taken into consideration – and on the other hand, to prepare our capacity to respond, our dissuasion tools, sanctions, as the President of the Commission and the President of the Council have been referring to.

On that, we have been working, and on that, we are ready to act. But, most of all, we are ready to continue negotiations, talks, in order to look for a diplomatic solution to the worst crisis that Europe is living since the end of the Cold War.

And I repeat again, this crisis not only affects the Ukrainians, not only the Europeans, it affects the direction of humankind.

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