9573rd Meeting (AM)

As World Grapples with Multiple Crises, Stronger UN-European Union Cooperation Crucial for International Peace, Security, Speakers Tell Security Council

High Representative Highlights Regional Bloc’s Support for Ukraine, Two-State Solution in Middle East, Increased Focus on Conflict Prevention

With multiple global crises threatening the foundations of international peace, stronger cooperation between the European Union and the United Nations is more important than ever, the Council heard today, as delegates highlighted the indispensable role of multilateralism. 

“There are moments in history when the darkness of the world is even darker than usual,” said Josep Borrell Fontelles, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, calling the United Nations “a ray of light, a sign of hope”.  

Speaking during the Council’s annual meeting on strengthening the European Union’s cooperation with the UN, he said that since Moscow unleashed a war of aggression against Ukraine two years ago, the regional bloc has shown its full solidarity with that country through exceptional economic, financial and military aid.  “This strong support, symbolized by our commitment to make Ukraine a member of the European Union, will continue,” he pledged, noting Europe’s determination to protect itself against the danger that the Russian Federation now represents for its security.

On the conflict in Gaza, he reiterated his condemnation of the 7 October terrorist attacks and stated Israel’s right to self-defence.  However, this must be done with full respect to international law.  With more than 30,000 dead, 1.8 million displaced and 500,000 on the brink of starvation, the very survival of Palestinians is at stake. While the bloc awaits the conclusions of the UN’s independent investigation, he underscored that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) only exists because there are Palestinian refugees. 

“We won't make these refugees disappear by making UNRWA disappear,” he asserted, noting the need to make “those refugees citizens of a Palestinian State that coexists with an Israeli State”.  The European Union will do everything possible “not just like the good Samaritan coming in to help those who are suffering”; instead, it will attempt to set up the political mechanisms to avoid the root causes.

Turning to the specifics of the European Union’s cooperation with the UN, he stated:  “Our strong support to the UN is reflected in numbers.”  Together with its Member States, the bloc finances almost one third of the UN's regular budget and nearly one quarter of all UN agencies, funds and programmes.  “And we pay on time,” he added.  This makes Europeans the UN’s largest financial contributor and the world's largest provider of humanitarian aid.  Detailing instances of strategic partnership with the UN, he noted the bloc’s intention to focus increasingly on conflict prevention.  Committed to peace and security in Africa, it is working closely with the African Union and regional economic organizations to support African-led peace support operations.  The European Union has provided almost €1 billion in military support to African partners in the last three years through the European Peace Facility.

“We have stepped up all over the world as a security provider,” he said, noting that there are currently 24 European Union missions and operations, deploying over 4,300 personnel to contribute to a more stable and safer world.  The recently launched European Union Naval Force’s Aspides operation to protect commercial vessels in the Red Sea demonstrates that the bloc is increasingly becoming “a global maritime security provider”.  He further stressed that deploying to Haiti the Multinational Security Support Mission — to be led by Kenya — is urgent to restore security and make any Haitian-led political solution viable.  Additionally, the bloc’s contributions represent a third of the total international response in Sudan.

In the following discussion, numerous Council Members — among them, the representatives of Switzerland, Slovenia and Ecuador — underscored that the partnership between the European Union and the United Nations is essential for conflict prevention, crisis management and peacekeeping.  The war in Ukraine and the crisis in the Middle East took centre stage, with many — including the representatives of Guyana and Algeria — stressing that continued support to Gaza through UNRWA is critical.

Russian Federation President Vladimir V. Putin’s aggression against Ukraine “has made clearer than ever the urgency of standing up for the UN Charter and the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity”, said the representative of the United States, spotlighting efforts by Washington, D.C., and the European Union to mitigate the humanitarian impacts of Moscow’s war.

Echoing that, France’s delegate stated that the European Union and its Member States are mobilized “more than ever” to stand ready in support of Ukraine.  Spotlighting the bloc’s response to global crises, he said that, last week, it paid €50 million to UNRWA and will contribute €82 million in 2024.  Its members also contribute nearly a third of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) staff, whose commitment to de-escalation is critical, he added.

Detailing other European Union efforts, the speaker for Malta said that, in the Mediterranean Sea, Operation IRINI continues to contribute to implementing the arms embargo on Libya pursuant to resolution 2292 (2016). “As co-penholders with France, we believe it is essential that the Security Council renews this resolution again in June,” she urged.

Recognizing the European Union’s efforts to “address the challenges that will shape the twenty-first century”, her counterpart from the United Kingdom highlighted its ambition to leverage €150 billion through 2027 for investments in the transport, digital, climate, energy, health, education and research sectors across Africa.  He also welcomed the bloc’s contribution to developing safe artificial intelligence (AI) systems, including its support of the landmark Bletchley Declaration, which will deepen international coordination on AI. 

Meanwhile, China’s delegate called for “genuine multilateralism” underpinned by the UN Charter and emphasized that the security of one State cannot be achieved at the expense of the security of another.  The European Union should do more to bring about a political solution and achieve a balanced security architecture in Europe.  As well, it should use its influence in Gaza to promote an immediate ceasefire and a two-State solution.

Many recognized the European Union’s contribution to maintaining peace and security in Africa, including the speaker for Algeria, who highlighted long-standing cooperation between the African Union and the European Union — premised on the principle of “African solutions to African problems”.  Accordingly, he welcomed resolution 2719 (2023), which opened the door for UN funding for African-led peace missions authorized by the Council. 

Also welcoming the operationalization of the resolution, Mozambique’s delegate said that European Union support to that end could be “a game-changer”.  Relatedly, he called for unconditional support to be lent to the political transition in South Sudan and the implementation of the peace agreement in the Central African Republic.

Adding to that, the representative of Sierra Leone commended the bloc’s continuous support for the African Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) and the effective implementation of the Somalia Transition Plan.

For their part, the representatives of Japan, Council President for the month, and the Republic of Korea detailed their strategic partnerships with the European Union.  While Japan joined projects mobilizing strategic investments in quality infrastructure in the Indo-Pacific and Africa, the Republic of Korea and the bloc held a summit where both sides reaffirmed their strong support for multilateralism, the rule of law, democracy and human rights.

Meanwhile, the representative of the Russian Federation countered that the European project — designed to help the wounds left after the Second World War — has completely altered its nature.  Today, “we are observing an aggressive expansionist bloc which is completely subordinating itself to the United States’ and [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] NATO’s goals and placing political interests above economic ones.”

While acknowledging that in the absence of weapon deliveries the conflict in Gaza would end, Mr. Borrell does not apply the same logic to Ukraine, he continued.  Weapons for Kyiv are being provided through the European peace fund:  “This is very Orwellian:  War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength,” he said, emphasizing that Moscow has never undertaken any aggressive actions against the European Union.  However, “any attempts to (establish) a united anti-Russian bloc will end badly for Europe”, he cautioned.

Mr. Borrell, re-taking the floor at the end of the meeting to respond, asked:  “The country that has launched the greatest military aggression in our times sees the European Union as an aggressive bloc?”  The bloc supports Ukraine because it believes it has the right to exist, he insisted, adding that the war must end in a way that respects the principles of the UN Charter.

For information media. Not an official record.