As More Conflicts, Problems around World Mount, European Union High Representative Tells Security Council World Must Invest in Revitalizing Multilateral System
Warning of a “deficit in multilateralism”, the European Union’s foreign affairs chief told Security Council today that the proliferation of conflicts and problems around the world are mounting as the collective capacity to find solutions declines.
Josep Borrell Fontelles, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said he feared the rise in power politics has led to more distrust, more point-scoring and more vetoes. The price being paid by the world is more unsolved problems, festering conflicts and people left at the mercy of events.
“This we cannot afford,” he said, adding the Secretary-General’s proposal, Our Common Agenda, has the potential to deliver the reforms the world needs at the Summit of the Future. “But only if all of us invest in revitalizing the multilateral system”, he said. “It will not just happen by itself, sitting on your position, expecting others to do the job. Nor will it happen if countries stick to narrow, nationalist agendas.”
At a periodic meeting convened to discuss the European Union’s cooperation with the United Nations, Mr. Borrell assured delegates that the bloc will do its part as a strong supporter of the United Nations, investing in the Organization politically and financially. The Union and its member States are the largest collective contributor to the United Nations budget and it has always backed the Organization’s three pillars: peace and security; sustainable development; and human rights. He cited the bloc’s support for regions around the world, from helping African countries fight terrorism to aiding people suffering from the devastating earthquake in Syria and Türkiye to supporting peace in the Western Balkans. Until the Russian Federation withdraws all its forces and military equipment from Ukraine, the European Union will give Ukraine all the support it needs to defend its population, he said.
Many delegates voiced their support for the European Union’s steady work and the essential role that multilateralism plays in an increasingly interconnected and troubled world.
Olta Xhaçka, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of Albania, said cooperation between the United Nations and the Union is indispensable for international peace and security and global social and economic development. In the face of European and global challenges, there is a need to strengthen cooperation for a common agenda and bolster multilateralism. The European Union’s response to the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine shows what solidarity is. Albania has joined the bloc in a wide range of policies meant to reduce the Russian Federation’s ability to finance the war and help the economy and functionality of Ukraine.
Japan’s delegate stressed the indispensable role of regional organizations in enabling the Council to fulfil its primary responsibility to maintain peace and security. She said the European Union has consistently demonstrated leadership on current issues on a global scale, such as its Global Gateway initiative. She said the Union and Japan have conducted more than 25 joint anti-piracy exercises in the Gulf of Aden.
Noting that mutual challenges must be addressed collectively, the representative of the United Arab Emirates described the European Union as a key geopolitical actor, playing a constructive role in a myriad of issues on the Council’s agenda — from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in Colombia to the Middle East Peace Process. As the war in Ukraine rages on, the international community must redouble efforts to bring it to a just end, she said, warning against ignoring other crises.
Echoing this concern, the representative of Ghana said that as the war in Ukraine takes centre stage in international affairs, it is vital not to lose sight of other situations that could worsen conditions on the continent. He drew attention to the renewed war between Armenia and Azerbaijan and the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Turning to the security landscape in Africa, he highlighted the European Union’s continuous support for the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS).
The representative of China urged the European Union to support the United Nations and take the lead in practicing true multilateralism with the Charter of the United Nations and the Organization’s principles at its core. It should not intervene in the internal affairs of other States and should respect each country’s social system and development path and cooperate with all parties. The Union should work towards the goal of a stable international security environment. He expected the bloc to work in the direction of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals as developing countries face many challenges.
Also speaking at today’s meeting were Malta, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Japan, Russian Federation, Mozambique, Gabon, United States, Ecuador, Brazil and France.
The meeting started at 10:13 a.m. and ended at 12:20 p.m.
JOSEP BORRELL FONTELLES, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said during each of his three briefings, he has warned about a “deficit in multilateralism”. He described how a rise in power politics has led to more distrust, more point-scoring and more vetoes — including at the Security Council. The price was being paid in terms of problems not solved, conflicts that fester and people left at the mercy of events. “I fear the situation this year is even worse. The United Nations and the multilateral system are under threat like never before,” he said, pointing to the Secretary-General’s recent remarks that the international community must act decisively to avoid a meltdown.
A proliferation of conflicts and problems are mounting yet the collective capacity to find solutions is declining. “This we cannot afford,” he said, adding the Secretary-General’s proposal, Our Common Agenda, has the potential to deliver the reforms the world needed at the Summit of the Future. “But only if all of us invest in revitalizing the multilateral system”, he said. “It will not just happen by itself, sitting on your position, expecting others to do the job. Nor will it happen if countries stick to narrow, nationalist agendas.”
He said the European Union will do its part as a strong supporter, investing in the United Nations politically and financially. The Union and its member States are the largest collective contributor to the United Nations budget and the bloc has always backed the Organization’s three pillars: peace and security; sustainable development; and human rights. Each depends on the other two for success and the international community must address both old and new security threats and counter the worsening human rights situation seen in so many countries. Noting that 2023 marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, he said it is a good moment to recall that human rights are universal and indivisible and apply to everyone, everywhere. He urged the international community to renew its commitment to the sustainable development agenda and said the upcoming Sustainable Development Goals Summit is a crucial moment to accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
On specific international challenges, he first turned to the one-year anniversary of the Russian Federation’s illegal war against Ukraine, which remains a clear-cut case of aggression and breach of the Charter of the United Nations. No one is safe in a world where the illegal use of force — by a permanent Council member — would somehow be “normalized”. That is why international law must be enforced everywhere to protect everyone from power politics, blackmail and military attack.
A just, comprehensive and lasting peace in line with the Charter is needed. Until the Russian Federation withdraws all its forces and military equipment from Ukraine, the European Union will give Ukraine all the support it needs to defend its population. At the same time, it will continue to help the rest of the world cope with the fallout of Russia’s aggression. He advocated for the renewal of the Black Sea Grain Initiative when it is up again in mid-March.
Turning to climate change, he said it is a test case for multilateralism as well as a security issue. The climate crisis is a textbook example of where effective multilateral action is needed but is not occurring. As the climate and security nexus dominate the global agenda, the Council will have to take up its responsibilities.
Regarding the European Union and United Nations cooperation on peace and security, he said all European crisis management operations work with the Organization as their partner. This strategic partnership on peacekeeping and crisis management dates back two decades. He said helping African countries fight against terrorism is another key priority for the European Union and several European missions currently provide military and civilian support to those countries, the latest example being the European Union Training Mission in Mozambique.
The European Union is committed to continue its support to African-led peace support operations and to the ongoing discussions to use United Nations assessed contributions for operations authorized by the Council. Regional organizations, like the African Union and the European Union, play a key role in preventing and addressing crises. He stressed that the European Union will remain fully engaged in all crises around the world, financially and politically. He referred to the devastating earthquake in Syria and Türkiye and situations in Afghanistan, the Sahel and the Western Balkans.
He thanked the Council for the opportunity to explain the many crises beyond Ukraine and said the European Union remains committed to help people around the world and is doing its best to improve peace and security everywhere.
IAN BORG, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Malta, Council President for February, speaking in his national capacity, underscored that the European Union’s strategic relationship with the United Nations must continue to strengthen the respect for international law, including human rights, the rule of law and the peaceful settlement of disputes. Towards this end, he welcomed the Secretary-General’s comprehensive vision which outlines the necessary steps in renewing a multilateral approach. Criticizing the inability of the European Union to come together to address global challenges — including climate — he emphasized that “a unilateral failure today will translate in collective ramifications for the many during the years to come”. Regional cooperation is indispensable to the proper functioning of today’s interconnected world, he said, drawing attention to the existing comprehensive United Nations–European Union approach to crisis management, mediation and peace operations, including the support in different regions. In this context, he welcomed the Union’s contribution to the African Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS).
OLTA XHAÇKA, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of Albania, said Mr. Borrell’s participation in the meeting shows that cooperation between the United Nations and the European Union is indispensable for international peace and security and global social and economic development. In the face of European and global challenges, there is a need to strengthen cooperation for a common agenda and to strengthen multilateralism. The two organizations have a crucial role to play in a wide range of issues, from humanitarian needs to climate change to respect for international law. The Russian Federation’s unprovoked military aggression against Ukraine is on a scale that has not been seen since the Second World War. The European Union’s response shows what solidarity is and her country has joined the bloc in a wide range of policies meant to reduce the Russian Federation’s ability to finance the war and help the economy and functionality of Ukraine and support accountability. A comprehensive and just peace cannot be built on impunity and perpetrators should be held accountable. The European Union’s security architecture needs to be strengthened and the expansion of the bloc in the Western Balkans needs to be sped up as it will produce a more secure continent. The Union and United Nations should increase their regional cooperation in conflict resolution in the region beyond dialogue. Albania is not yet a member of the Union but is a candidate and is engaged in negotiations. Albania wants to join the bloc because it belongs there and shares its values. The Union is the most brilliant project human history has ever known. It has been proven to be efficient in preventing conflict.
KWAKU AMPRATWUM-SARPONG (Ghana), citing rapid deterioration of the security situation in Europe and worldwide, stressed that the aggression against Ukraine by the Russian Federation has spurned new crises. Apart from the humanitarian burden on neighbouring countries where millions of Ukrainians have sought refuge from the war, the energy crises threaten political stability in Europe. Against this background, he encouraged closer cooperation between the United Nations and the European Union towards the immediate cessation of hostilities. As the war in Ukraine takes centre stage in international affairs, it is vital not to lose sight of other situations which could further plunder conditions on the continent, he said, drawing attention to the renewed war between Armenia and Azerbaijan or the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Turning to the security landscape in his continent, he highlighted the European Union’s continuous support for the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) and the effective implementation of the Somalia Transition Plan. Moreover, he recognized the European Union’s contribution to humanitarian needs arising in areas of conflict, particularly in Afghanistan, Myanmar, Syria and Yemen. He also welcomed the European Union’s mobilizations of aid in communities affected by the recent earthquakes that struck parts of Syria and Türkiye earlier in February.
LANA ZAKI NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates) recalled that 25 years ago, hundreds of Emirati troops were deployed to Kosovo to support stabilization efforts. This initiative complemented the role of the United Nations and the European Union to ensure post-conflict recovery in the Balkans, she said, noting that mutual challenges must be addressed collectively. She described the European Union as a key geopolitical actor, playing a constructive role in a myriad of issues on the Council’s agenda — from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in Colombia to the Middle East Peace Process. As the war in Ukraine rages on, the international community must redouble efforts to bring it to a just end, she said, warning against ignoring other crises. Turning to security, she said emerging risks to collective stability — such as food insecurity, tech-enabled extremist incitement and nuclear sabre-rattling — require international cooperation. In a moment of unprecedented displacement — from Syria to the Sahel — she called for a change of paradigm in managing the flow of those fleeing instability. Promoting sustainable peace and economic opportunities in countries of origin should be a key element in addressing this issue. She also stressed the need to ensure that civilians from Afghanistan to Yemen receive life-saving aid, “based on needs and not on politics”. In this context, she emphasized that the European Union is one of the United Nations largest donors, providing critical financial and political support to front-line humanitarian efforts.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom) said the Russian Federation’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine saw the return of war to Europe. The knock-on effects have made it harder to tackle the most pressing global challenges, exacerbated food insecurity and prolonged the damage wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic. The United Kingdom worked alongside the European Union to establish Energy Transition Partnerships which has helped coal-dependent emerging economies make a just energy transition. She also welcomed the Union’s support for the United Nations Education Cannot Wait fund. In addition, she highlighted the bloc’s cooperation with United Nations peace operations and peacebuilding in Mali and Somalia. She predicted that the European Union Partnership Mission to Niger will play a vital role in supporting stability in the Sahel. Turning to Ukraine, she pointed out that the Union has given vital humanitarian assistance and helped tackle global food insecurity by supporting the Black Sea Grain Initiative.
PASCALE CHRISTINE BAERISWYL (Switzerland) commended the joint efforts of the European Union and the United Nations to promote peace and prevent armed conflicts in the world, spotlighting initiatives such as the tripartite project of the African Union. Turning to the protection of civilians and respect for international humanitarian law, she stressed the importance of protecting children in armed conflicts, as well as persons hors de combat such as the wounded and sick, whether in Ukraine, Syria or elsewhere. Supporting justice for all victims, she reiterated her country’s commitment to the fight against impunity and stressed that there can be no lasting peace without accountability. Noting that security risks must be addressed in a broader sense, she described food insecurity and conflict as “a vicious circle” that affects many parts of the world, such as Yemen, Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa. This includes the fight against climate change, which exacerbates food insecurity and can thus have implications for international peace and security, she noted.
SHINO MITSUKO (Japan) stressed the indispensable role of regional organizations in enabling the Council to fulfil its primary responsibility for the maintenance of peace and security. The European Union has consistently demonstrated leadership on current issues on a global scale, she stressed, highlighting the importance of the European Union’s Global Gateway initiative in tackling the world’s most pressing challenges. Japan is willing to work with the Union to promote international connectivity as well as green and digital cooperation. Moreover, she said, the Union and Japan have conducted more than 25 joint anti-piracy exercises in the Gulf of Aden.
DAI BING (China) said he supports the United Nations in its work with the European Union to uphold the principles of the Charter and to maintain global peace and security. He expects the European Union to support the United Nations and practice true multilateralism and help to transform conflicts. It should take the lead in practicing true multilateralism with the Charter and United Nations principles at its core. It should not intervene in other countries internal affairs and respect each country’s social system and development path and cooperate with all parties. The Union should work towards the goal of a stable international security environment. No State can cope on its own or remove itself from the security concerns of all countries. He expected the Union to work in the direction of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals as developing countries face many challenges. He expected the bloc to leverage its advantage in resources and provide targeted financial and technical support to developing countries that can dovetail with its needs. The Ukraine crisis is creating an enormous challenge for Europe. It must balance sustainable security architecture in Europe. He called on the Russian Federation and Ukraine to stop fighting and start peace talks. The European Union, the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) should engage with the Russian Federation to achieve common security on the continent.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said thanks to the efforts of Brussels, the relationship between his country and the European Union “plummeted to rock bottom”. When historians describe the years 2022–2023 in the chapter dedicated to the European Union, the words most commonly used will probably be the following: “degradation, helplessness, short-sightedness and Russophobia”. Despite being explicitly prohibited in European legislation, the Union delivers weapons to conflict zones, he said, adding that much of the deliveries are paid for from the European Peace Fund. He pointed to events in European capitals and institutions dedicated to discussion of how best to destroy the Russian Federation amid measures to cancel its culture, art and athletic achievements. Highlighting the desire to shut the door until this Russophobic turmoil comes to an end, he said the Russian Federation has been labelled as a sole threat to the European security and discussions are only allowed about collective security against his country. The West signed an agreement on mutual security assurance which was arrogantly rebuffed, he recalled. Since 2009, the European Union followed a completely different logic about the need for severing ties with Moscow, placing their shared neighbours before a choice: “Russia or the European Union”. The 2014 coup detonated acute Ukrainian crises, whose final phase the international community is now bearing witness to. “All of these tales about good neighbourliness, partnership and a common space were a mere smokescreen for a confrontation with Russia,” he asserted. “Today’s world is balancing on a verge of a suicidal conflict” where the European Union — alongside the rest of the West — is raising weapons deliveries to the Kyiv “regime”, increasing its complicity. The Union is losing its own legal standing and becoming a spineless appendage of another military bloc whose true goals and intentions are well known. On 10 February, a Joint Declaration on European Union-NATO Cooperation was signed, reaffirming the full subordination of the former to the goals set out by the military alliance, including its geopolitical ambitions of global domination. Washington, D.C., stands behind Brussels, he asserted, noting that for every invested dollar, the European Union has to pay with independence and sovereignty.
PEDRO COMISSÁRIO AFONSO (Mozambique) registered that since 2004, the European Union has been a contributing partner to African Union conflict prevention efforts, through the African Peace Facility, a fund managed in partnership with the African Union’s Commission. Between 2007 and 2019, the European Union has dispensed €2.7 billion in support of the African Union’s peace and security activities. Since 2021, the European Peace Facility has been enabling the European Union to channel assistance directly to the regional Economic Communities — such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC) — towards regional peace and security support operations. Noting that the partnership between the European Union and the African Union must be based on a shared interest in tackling the root causes of conflicts, including promoting sustainable development, he stressed that that “African problems require African solutions first”. He welcomed European Union’s support to the African Union’s Agenda 2063 implementation, the African Peace and Security Architecture, the African Governance Architecture and Silencing the Guns, a programme now extended to the year 2030. Turning to counter-terrorism, he commended the European Union’s support to SADC’s initiatives to operationalize the SADC Regional Counter Terrorism Centre, launched in February 2022 in the United Republic of Tanzania.
MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon) said the United Nations and the European Union have a positive relationship that keeps growing. It is a benchmark partnership and has helped the United Nations address many challenges, from combating terrorism to promoting human rights and humanitarian aid. The European Union is working to combat climate change. The commitment of the Union is very important to bolstering multilateralism by reaffirming the key role played by the United Nations. The European Union also helps ensure peace and security by financing conflict-prevention missions and peacebuilding missions in many parts of Africa. Furthermore, it helps in the Western Balkans and Ukraine. Many global crises are being exacerbated by climate change, and collaboration between the United Nations and European Union are important to tackling this issue. The increasing regional nature of crises also means there should be greater cooperation among regional organizations. This is necessary to fight extreme terrorist groups on the African continent. The European Union and African Union have worked together, for example, on incidents of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. He supported greater trilateral cooperation between the United Nations, African Union and European Union to address cross-cutting concerns, such as terrorism. He added that women and children should be involved in creating solutions to peacemaking challenges.
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) thanked the European Union for its invaluable contribution to international peace and security around the globe through its cooperation with the United Nations. The United States and European Union have built a strong partnership based on shared values and are steadfastly committed to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations. These principles have been put to the test by the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine, the biggest threat to European security in decades. The Russian Federation thought the invasion would divide the international community. But the international community will remain with the Ukraine. The dream of a Europe that is whole and free must not be just an aspiration and empty words, but something that can be enjoyed by all. The United States and the European Union are working with United Nations agencies to mitigate the humanitarian impact of the war. This war has exacerbated the food crisis around the world. In September 2022, there was a global food security summit and more than 100 Member States responded to the world food crisis. This commitment must be backed up with financial assistance. She said the United States and European Union are among the largest donors to world food agencies. She noted the ways in which the European Union-United Nations cooperation and partnership has helped to maintain peace and security around the world, including in Haiti, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Afghanistan and Africa. She welcomed its efforts to work with the African Union and United Nations to promote stability in Africa. The European Union is a critical partner to the United Nations and the Council, a partnership that must be strengthened.
HERNÁN PÉREZ LOOSE (Ecuador) said he recognized the European Union’s contribution to multilateralism and acknowledged the commitments of its members to achieve an international order based on international law. The Union is working to promote peace and security where it is most needed. Ecuador and the European Union recognize the urgency of many challenges, such as protecting women and children, preventing armed conflict and addressing emerging threats such as cyberspace risks and the loss of biodiversity. Ecuador, like the European Union, condemns the military aggression against Ukraine, he said, noting the draft resolution the General Assembly is considering this morning on Ukraine. He commended the efforts of the European Union in other areas, such as the Western Balkans and the European Union-led peacekeeping force in that area that helps maintain in peace. He noted the Union’s support for ATMIS as well as the bloc’s work in the Sahel region. He backed the European Union playing a greater role in a world free of nuclear weapons. He trusted there would be continued cooperation between the Union and Latin America in many areas, such as combating money laundering and drug trafficking. He encouraged the Union to provide more support to Haiti as it transitions in order to ensure a safe region and world and acknowledged the bloc’s role in the peace process in Colombia. The European Union is a strategic partner of the United Nations and he hoped the partnership would continue to grow.
LUÍS GUILHERME PARGA CINTRA (Brazil) underscored that the complexity of the crises the worlds faces today places enormous pressure on global governance structures. It is high time the United Nations is reformed to offer more legitimate responses to the multiple challenges to peace and security and the demands of the developing world. Recognizing the important role of the European Union in security issues, he drew attention to its contributions to the peace operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and its support for the sustainability of the Palestinian Authority. He encouraged the Union to redouble its efforts in the search for a negotiated solution to the conflict in Ukraine. He also highlighted the need to reflect on the unforeseen consequences of unilateral sanctions, citing their limited effect on actors whose behaviour they intend to influence, while invariably harming civilian populations.
ISIS MARIE DORIANE JARAUD-DARNAULT (France) said the European Union has been working alongside the United Nations to ensure the primacy of law over force. The Union is at the forefront when it comes to defending the Charter of the United Nations, she said, pointing to the war of aggression which has been waged by the Russian Federation on European soil, in contempt of international law. Member States of the European Union have deployed more than 5,000 personnel in peacekeeping operations. In Syria and Turkey, the Union has mobilized to deliver emergency assistance to the populations victimized by the earthquake. In Afghanistan, the bloc is among the leading donors, maintaining its assistance to the Afghan population while continuing to demand that the Taliban stops violating the freedoms of women and girls. She also underscored that the Security Council should be more representative and welcome new non-permanent and permanent members.