European Union Committed to Partnership with United Nations Despite Regional Conflicts, Bloc’s High Representative Tells Security Council
Despite the growing “deficit in multilateralism”, exacerbated by the rise in power political competition, the European Union remains mobilized to work closely with the United Nations, which has kept functioning even at the height of the cold war, the bloc’s foreign affairs chief told the Security Council today.
“The multilateral system is under pressure like never before,” observed Josep Borrell, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the European Union, noting that the bloc, with multilateralism in its DNA, has invested in the United Nations both politically and financially. Bloc members back United Nations initiatives like the Sustainable Development Goals, Paris Agreement on climate change and work on human rights, he added.
However, with the return of power politics, the “deficit in multilateralism” has deepened, he said. The Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine has compounded global problems, with tens of thousands of dead and over 5 million refugees — the fastest growing refugee crisis since the Second World War. This is not a European war, he declared, adding: “This is an attack on the foundations of the UN and this Security Council, by a permanent member of the Council.”
The European Union is fully mobilized to keep Ukraine economically afloat and militarily able to defend its people, he continued, stressing that bloc sanctions are not the cause of food shortages and target only the Kremlin’s ability to finance the military aggression — not the conduct of legitimate trade.
Elsewhere in the world, the European Union continues to help prevent and solve conflicts and crises, he noted. Over 4,000 people are deployed by the European Union in 18 crisis‑management missions and operations on three continents, always working in close cooperation with the United Nations, including operations in the Mediterranean, off the Somali coasts and in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In the ensuing discussion, members stressed the importance of the United Nations-European Union partnership, outlining the bloc’s contribution to the world body’s initiatives, including peacekeeping, sustainable development, climate action and human rights. They also exchanged views on the European and global security arrangement, as well as European Union sanctions against the Russian Federation.
Albania’s Foreign Minister, Olta Xhaçka, said Moscow’s aggression “poses a challenge to the values of freedom, democracy and justice that bind Europeans together”, pointing out that increased insecurity will always result in increased defence spending, which could lead to a decrease in investments in other areas, such as innovation, education and public services. She also noted that Western Balkan States made a choice to invest in their future — for more development, increased security and stronger institutions accountable to their citizens. “This is the value of European Union enlargement,” she stressed.
France’s delegate highlighted the European Union’s contribution to the United Nations peacekeeping, noting that the bloc’s member States collectively deploy nearly 5,300 personnel in those missions around the world, also paying tribute to 683 European personnel who were killed in these operations since 1948. She added that Brussels’ sanctions have only one objective — to bring Moscow back to adherence to the Charter of the United Nations.
Echoing that, the representative of the United States said the European Union clearly demonstrated its support of the values of the Charter through its actions to uphold the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity after the Russian Federation’s unjust, unprovoked and illegal war against Ukraine.
However, the Russian Federation’s representative refuted such claims, reporting that the relations between the European Union and his country have now completely collapsed, as the bloc adopted a policy of strategically pressing his country out of Europe. Despite his country’s warnings, the Union went down a path towards the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and undertook geopolitical absorption of space around it, pitting the East against the West. It also adopted a policy of transforming the economic alliance into a military and political one. Given the obvious hostility of the Union towards his country, the Kremlin has no choice but to reconsider basic approaches to the development of relations with the bloc.
Injecting an African perspective, Gabon’s representative highlighted the importance of burden-sharing in crisis management and said the partnership between the United Nations and the European Union is illustrated in Africa, where the two bodies work side by side in Somalia, Central African Republic and Libya. In Africa, security risks flowing from repeated abuses by extremist groups undermine shared values of liberty and democracy, he said, voicing support for trilateral cooperation among the African Union, European Union and the United Nations.
China’s delegate urged the European Union to play an active role in international relations by resisting the revival of confrontation by camps and blocs, respect the legitimate security concerns of all countries and help establish balanced, sustainable global and regional security mechanisms. He also called on the bloc to be more attentive to the needs of developing countries and increase donations to the United Nations humanitarian and development work.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Ghana, Mexico, Ireland, Norway, India, United Arab Emirates, Brazil, Kenya and the United Kingdom.
The meeting began at 10:03 a.m. and ended at 12:16 p.m.
JOSEP BORRELL, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the European Union, in its capacity as an observer, via video-teleconference, recalled that the United Nations was created 72 years ago to prevent war, build global cooperation, safeguard the sovereign equality of all and protect the rights of both States and people. Gradually, the Organization developed into a system of rules, norms and organizations addressing the full range of international relations. Even at the height of the cold war, the United Nations kept functioning. All States, no matter their size or political orientation, committed to respect international law and core principles, above all the non-use of force in international relations. For its part, the European Union with multilateralism in its DNA, has invested in the United Nations both politically and financially. Bloc members back United Nations initiatives like the Sustainable Development Goals, Paris Agreement on climate change and work on human rights, among others.
However, the multilateral system is under pressure like never before, he observed. Science and technology are advancing, but diplomacy and rule-making are not — or not enough. With the rise in power political competition, the “deficit in multilateralism” he talked about at last year’s briefing has since worsened. The Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine has amplified these problems, with tens of thousands of dead and over 5 million refugees — the fastest growing refugee crisis since the Second World War. “But, make no mistake; this is not a European war. This is an attack on the foundations of the UN and this Security Council, by a permanent member of the Council,” he declared.
The European Union is fully mobilized to keep Ukraine economically afloat and militarily able to defend its people, its territorial integrity and its democracy, he continued, calling on every United Nations member, big and small, to help Ukraine by doing the same. In the face of aggression, no one can be neutral. No one can live safely in a world where the illegal use of force is normalized or tolerated. This war is sending ripple effects throughout the world and has compounded a pre-existing food crisis with yields already suffering because of climate change. The Russian Federation is blocking at least 20 million tons of Ukrainian grain that cannot reach global markets. That is the equivalent of 300 massive ships that should be docking at ports all over the world. Instead, Moscow is bombing Ukraine’s ports, infrastructure and farmland. Indeed, just after President Vladimir V. Putin spoke with the Chair of the African Union, Russian forces bombed Ukraine’s second largest grain silo in Mykolaiv.
The bloc fully supports United Nations efforts to re-open Ukraine’s ports and resume deliveries of grain to the world, he stated. “Team Europe” stands by its partners and supports the United Nations role, including the Global Crisis Response Group. The European Union has already increased its support for some of the most affected regions, pledging €1 billion for the Sahel and Lake Chad regions and over €600 million for the Horn of Africa. Rejecting the Russian Federation’s disinformation, he pointed out that European Union sanctions are not the cause of food shortages. They target the Kremlin’s ability to finance the military aggression — not the conduct of legitimate trade. These sanctions do not prohibit the import and transportation of Russian agricultural goods, nor for fertilizers, nor for payment for such Russian exports. Furthermore, European Union financial sanctions only apply on the bloc’s territory.
The European Union continues to help prevent and solve conflicts and crises around the world, he noted. Over 4,000 people are deployed by the European Union in 18 crisis management missions and operations on three continents, always working in close cooperation with the United Nations, including operations in the Mediterranean, off the Somali coasts and in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He also outlined how the European Union engages in other places, including Syria, Iran, the Sahel, Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Myanmar, Yemen and Venezuela.
OLTA XHAÇKA, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of Albania and Council President for June, speaking in her national capacity, noted that the unprovoked, unjustified war in Ukraine has entered its fourth month. Its consequences are not only felt in Ukraine; it has also seriously affected global trade and induced sharp food insecurity worldwide. Further, she stressed that this aggression “poses a challenge to the values of freedom, democracy and justice that bind Europeans together”. Underscoring the need to keep trade open for food, fuel and fertilizer, she called for an immediate end to the blockade of Ukrainian ports. She also pointed out that increased insecurity will always result in increased defence spending, which could lead to a decrease in investments in other areas such as innovation, education and public services.
She went on to say that the European Union is a central actor in global political, development and humanitarian issues. It is the largest financial contributor to the United Nations — not only to the regular budget, but also to official development assistance (ODA) and peacekeeping missions — projecting its humanitarian, development and conflict-resolution actions worldwide. This is particularly important for Western Balkan States, all involved in various stages of Euro-Atlantic cooperation. Such States have made that choice to invest in their future — for more development, increased security and stronger institutions accountable to their citizens. “This is the value of European Union enlargement,” she stressed, adding a call for the bloc to speed up its efforts to facilitate dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo, which should lead to mutual recognition.
NATHALIE BROADHURST ESTIVAL (France) highlighted the European Union’s contribution to the United Nations peacekeeping, noting that the bloc’s member States collectively represent the second-largest share of the peacekeeping budget and deploy nearly 5,300 personnel in those missions. Since 1948, 683 European personnel were killed in these operations. The European Union is present on all fronts, deeply engaged in the Sahel, off Libyan shores, Somalia, Gaza, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Mozambique. Since the start of the Russian Federation aggression, the bloc has mobilized more than €4.6 billion to help Ukraine. European Union sanctions have only one objective, which is to bring Moscow back to adherence to the Charter of the United Nations. The fight against terrorism cannot serve as a pretext for non-compliance with international humanitarian and human rights laws. Also expressing concern about disinformation in cyberspace, she stressed the need to apply the human rights-based approach to the governance of the digital space.
RICHARD M. MILLS, JR. (United States) welcomed the European Union’s significant security engagement in Africa, where 11 of its current 18 missions are either in or off the coast of the continent. Further, the European Union clearly demonstrated its support of the values of the Charter through its actions to uphold the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity after the Russian Federation’s unjust, unprovoked and illegal war against Ukraine. The Russian Federation’s actions are spiking global food insecurity. International sanctions do not target agricultural exports, despite that country’s misinformation suggesting otherwise and European Union efforts to address this crisis are welcomed. He also noted that Ukraine’s European Union neighbours have opened their borders to refugees, spotlighting the bloc’s temporary protection directive that affords social and protection benefits to all fleeing the conflict. Recalling the High Representative’s words regarding statements suggesting that all sides bear responsibility for the conflict, he said that such statements “may be diplomatically clever but are morally indefensible”.
DAI BING (China) said that, amid the complicated changes to the international landscape, his country supports the United Nations-European Union partnership. The bloc should take the lead in upholding the principles of the Charter and observing international law and universally recognized norms for international relations. It should also respect the sovereignty and political independence of States, as well as non-interference in domestic affairs. As well, it should play an active role in international relations by resisting the revival of confrontation by camps and blocs under the banner of multilateralism. Humanity is an indivisible security community, he stressed, urging the bloc to respect the legitimate security concerns of all countries and help establish a balanced sustainable global and regional security mechanisms. He called on the European Union to be more attentive to the needs of developing countries and increase donations to the United Nations humanitarian and development work.
HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana) welcomed the European Union’s new consensus on the role of development cooperation which has strengthened the nexus among security, development and humanitarian aid, adding his hope it will have a transformative impact on fragile situations in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel. The Sahel region has become a breeding ground for terrorists and violent extremists who are making in-roads into other parts of Africa, he said, welcoming renewed commitment in support of the counter-terrorism efforts in the region, among other efforts. Also acknowledging cooperation between the European Union and the United Nations in Syria, Yemen and Myanmar, to name a few, he encouraged an enhanced partnership of the European Union in the Middle East Quartet for a negotiated solution to the Question of Palestine. He also noted that the war against Ukraine has created Europe’s worst security and humanitarian crisis since the end of the Second World War. The ramifications of the war on the rest of the world have been severe, with millions of people experiencing new levels of food insecurity, rising cost of living across the world, and widespread sociopolitical instability in several countries. “The war in Ukraine must stop,” he stressed, urging support for the bloc in exploring solutions to the supply chain disruptions for food, energy and global financing as a result of the war.
JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMÍREZ (Mexico) pointed out that, while the affront to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity generated a strong cohesion within the European Union, the military escalation did not generate conditions to reduce tensions or establish a possible ceasefire. He expressed hope that all available dialogue and mediation tools are used to move towards a negotiated solution. Mexico shares the principles of the Charter with the European Union and all Member States, since all agreed to respect them without exception, he said. He also stressed that it is also essential to share in efforts to mitigate the multiple consequences triggered by the conflict in Ukraine. The global increase in food prices — and resulting food insecurity — has a greater effect on developing countries which do not have the resources to respond. Further, 19 of the 69 economies identified as being at the greatest food risk because of the crisis are in the Latin America and Caribbean region. He expressed hope that agreement on an exit route for grain can be reached with the necessary urgency and that, when the time is right, the Council will speak with a single voice.
GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland) stressed that the European Union’s strategic partnership with the United Nations is a cornerstone for the bloc’s policy and actions in support of international peace and security. A key priority for the European Union-United Nations partnership must continue to be on United Nations missions and operation transitions, ensuring that any reconfiguration takes place in a responsible, planned and gender-responsive manner. She also underlined the need to ensure addressing climate-related security risks in the prevention and peacebuilding work across the European Union and the United Nations. Noting that the bloc is the world’s leading humanitarian and development assistance donor and a key partner to the Organization in crisis management, she stressed that both now have a crucial role to play in ensuring a rapid and effective response to the deepening global food security crisis driven by Russian Federation’s senseless war in Ukraine. There are around 20 million metric tons of grain trapped in Ukraine, she noted, stressing that European Union sanctions do not affect the trading of food, between the Russian Federation and third countries. She also noted that, the bloc and its member States are making an overall contribution of more than €5 billion in humanitarian and development assistance for global food security, up until 2024.
TRINE HEIMERBACK (Norway) pointed out that the war against Ukraine has caused the largest humanitarian crisis in Europe since the Second World War and is threatening global food security. She commended the European Union’s leading role in Europe’s response to the Russian Federation’s attack, and for defending fundamental global principles and international law. “The [European Union] has played a historically important role in transforming Europe from a continent of war to a continent. Now, when peace again is broken in Europe, we need a strong [European Union],” she said. She went on to note that EUFOR Althea’s contribution to maintaining peace and stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina is vital, as is the bloc’s commitment to the peace and security architecture on the African continent, including through the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM), African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) and the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel). She also spotlighted its leading role in the fight against climate change and its action plan on women, peace and security. The Russian Federation’s war on Ukraine has consequences way beyond European soil, she said, calling for rapid global action to increase food security, and to prevent the threat of a worldwide wave of hunger.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said that, with each passing year, the European Union’s global policies depart from the post-war ideals of its founding fathers. Further, the relations between the Union and his country have now completely collapsed, he said, blaming Brussels. Sharing the vision for a common European future, the Russian Federation, in 1994, signed an agreement on partnership and cooperation with the European Union, which Moscow implemented. Citing the Charter for European Security, which enshrines, among others things, the principle of indivisible security and the 2005 road map setting out that Russian Federation-European Union cooperation aimed at contributing to the establishment of a greater Europe without dividing lines, he noted: “There were hopes that this will permanently end geopolitical competition in Europe,” he said, Rather, it quickly became clear that the ideals of the bloc’s founding fathers were consigned to the past.
The bloc, instead, embraced a policy of strategically pressing the Russian Federation out of Europe, he pointed out. Despite his country’s warnings, the Union adopted a path towards the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and undertook geopolitical absorption of space around it, pitting the East against the West. It also adopted a policy of transforming the economic alliance into a military and political one, including recent calls by the Polish leadership to build a defence system in Europe targeted at the Russian Federation. In addition, the association agreement between Ukraine and the European Union required Ukraine to break ties with the Russian Federation. The European Union and the United States staged an anti-constitutional coup that started a bloody civil war in Ukraine, which has lasted the past eight years. In addition, the Union turned a blind eye to violations by the Kyiv regime in Donbas of the Minsk agreements. Given the obvious hostility of the European Union towards the Russian Federation, his country has no choice but to reconsider basic approaches to the development of relations with the bloc, describing it as degenerating into NATO’s “geopolitical shadow”.
MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon), highlighting the importance of international burden-sharing for crisis management, said that the partnership between the United Nations and the European Union is illustrated in Africa, where the two bodies work side by side in Somalia, Central African Republic and Libya. In Africa, security risks flowing from repeated abuses by extremist groups undermine shared values of liberty and democracy. He voiced his support for trilateral cooperation among the African Union, European Union and United Nations. He further called for strengthened dialogue between the African Union’s Peace and Security Council and the European Union’s Political and Security Committee, noting that, while Africa must provide African solutions to African challenges, the support of international partners is necessary for more effective action. The increasingly regional nature of crises calls for the United Nations to be better connected to realities on the ground, he added, stating that the involvement of regional actors allows for more effective stabilization processes and a better understanding of persistent threats.
RAVINDRA RAGUTTAHALLI (India) noted that, in the Balkans, the European Union is at the forefront in promoting economic prosperity and peace. It is also an important member of the Quartet in the Middle East Peace Process and in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The role of the bloc has also been growing in Africa, alongside the African Union and League of Arab States, with complementary efforts addressing conflict resolution and security challenges, including terrorism. As well, the European Union has a critical role to play in addressing challenges to the security environment. However, it is also natural to expect the bloc to do much more to advance the comprehensive reform agenda of global multilateral architecture, including in the Security Council. Stressing that the Ukraine conflict is having a destabilizing effect with broader regional and global implications, he called for the European Union to play a leading role in alleviating the adverse impact the crisis on people living in vulnerable countries and further urged it to step up efforts to make the fight against terrorism a collective one fought with “zero tolerance” and without any double speak.
MOHAMED ABUSHAHAB (United Arab Emirates) cited the European Union’s contributions to peace and stability in the wider European region, facilitating the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, as well as implementation of the Dayton Agreement in Bosnia and Herzegovina through EUFOR-Althea. Noting more than a quarter of Ukraine’s population remains displaced and nearly 5 million Ukrainian refugees have been recorded across Europe, he commended the bloc’s work in assisting countries hosting those fleeing their homes in search of safety. In the meantime, its support to humanitarian organizations and civilians in need with €373 million in assistance has been a crucial lifeline for civilians. He further highlighted financial support for the World Food Programme (WFP) cash-assistance programme, as developing countries face new pressures due to increases in the price of basic food materials. Welcoming the donation of more than 400 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX Facility as part of the European Union member States’ deliveries of more than 1.4 billion doses worldwide, he nonetheless affirmed that the pandemic is ongoing, and the bloc and other key donors must work to ensure that vaccine equity is achieved across the globe.
RONALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil) noted that the European Union has launched 37 Common Security and Defence Policy missions since 2003, with 211 ongoing civilian missions and 7 military missions/operations across Europe, Africa and the Middle East. He also highlighted the bloc’s commitment to the Western Balkans, especially in facilitating dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina — although the Brussels Dialogue still seeks to achieve a comprehensive normalization of relations, an objective of paramount importance to the stability of the region. As well, the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo Mission also contributes to the stability in that territory, while in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the bloc launched the military Operation Althea, following the decision by NATO to hand over its own peacekeeping mission in the country in 2004. Calling for European Union missions to always be aligned with the mandates established by the Council and the principles enshrined in the Charter, he urged the bloc to consider in advance the possible unintended consequences of unilateral measures, such as sanctions.
JAYNE TOROITICH (Kenya), drawing attention to the European Union’s historical strong partnership with the African Union and its subregional organizations, welcomed the outcomes of the sixth European Union-African Union Summit in February, which focuses on commitments to combat instability, radicalization and terrorism. Similarly, support for African-led peace support operations was demonstrated during the recent reconfiguration of AMISOM to ATMIS. These collaborative efforts have also been instrumental in facilitating Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) initiatives, including the South Sudan peace process. She called for support for adequate training, capacity‑building and equipment to scale up autonomous peace operations of African defence and security forces, African-led Peace Support Operations and for ongoing discussions on the use of assessed contributions for operations authorized by the Council. While the international community must make active use of efforts by regional and subregional organizations, the principle of national ownership and priority for regional leadership should remain the guiding pillar in maintenance of international peace and security.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom) noted that 2022 has been a challenging year for Europe, the international community, United Nations, the multilateral system and the rules-based international norms due to the Russian Federation’s illegal, unprovoked war in Ukraine. She welcomed the positive role played by the European Union and other regional organizations in promoting diplomacy and multilateralism and in supporting the Security Council on matters of international peace and security. The United Kingdom supports an outward-looking European Union, she said, praising the bloc’s efforts towards restoring the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, its partnership with the African Union, its contributions to United Nations peacebuilding and its efforts in the Western Balkans. Seven months have passed since the 2021 United Nations climate change conference, and the European Union and the United Kingdom are coordinating efforts to deliver a net-zero climate-resilient transition. At a time of global instability — with increasing inflation, debt and food insecurity — she said that the bloc and her country are united in their determination to deliver on the Glasgow Climate Pact.
Mr. BORRELL, taking the floor a second time, echoed the words of many speakers — particularly Ghana, Gabon and Kenya — who highlighted the important role of regional and subregional organizations in addressing global challenges. He also agreed with China’s representative regarding avoiding a world organized around opposing blocs, as this would breed greater insecurity. He welcomed the representative of India’s comments on the Indo-Pacific strategy. Turning to Ukraine, he thanked the Russian Federation’s representative for lecturing him on the historical role of the European Union and how it was conceived by its founding fathers. However, he noted: “I think I have better interpreters of my history.” The European Union is not a military union, but it cannot be indifferent to what is happening in its neighbourhood and the aggression from which Ukraine — one of its most important partners — is suffering. While the causes of the war can be endlessly discussed, one thing is clear: there are Russian troops in Ukraine, but there are no Ukrainian troops in the Russian Federation, making the aggressor clear. He urged concentrated efforts to avoid the next step of this drama — “a big wave of hunger in the world” — which will happen if the Russian Federation continues blocking the export of wheat from Ukraine. It is not the European Union who is blocking these exports or bombing the storage of wheat, he added.