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European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations
News article16 February 2022Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations

Russia/Ukraine: Speech by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell at the EP debate

HRVP Ukraine speech

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Señora presidenta del Parlamento Europeo [Roberta Metsola], señor presidente del Consejo Europeo [Charles Michel], señora presidenta de la Comisión [Europea Ursula von der Leyen], señoras y señores diputados y diputadas,

Lo que ocurra en Ucrania marcará el futuro de la humanidad. Todos los seres humanos deberían estar preocupados por lo que allí ocurra, porque si de nuevo se impone la ley del más fuerte y un país puede amenazar a otro y puede atacarlo y desagregarlo territorialmente, echaremos marcha atrás en la historia.

El gran éxito de la Unión Europea es, precisamente, el haber renunciado a la guerra como forma de resolver los conflictos. Y por eso tenemos que estar con Ucrania, tratando de prevenir una guerra en nuestras fronteras. Eso forma una parte fundamental de lo que llamamos política común de seguridad y defensa, que tengo el honor de intentar desarrollar. Y la presencia aquí, hoy, en este pleno, de las instituciones de la Unión: Consejo Europeo, con su presidente; la Comisión Europea, con su presidenta; y el Consejo [de la Unión Europea], al que tengo el honor de representar y presidir sus formaciones de asuntos exteriores y de defensa, marca la unidad europea frente a la posible agresión de Rusia contra Ucrania.

Esta unidad se ha hecho más fuerte y patente en estos días. Y creo que es una de las grandes consecuencias positivas de esta crisis. Ha habido una aproximación común y todos los Estados europeos han respondido unánimemente a una respuesta que deberá concretarse en lo que llamamos sanciones o medidas coercitivas según el Tratado. Sanciones que deberá aprobar el Consejo [de la Unión Europea], bajo la propuesta del Alto Representante y que habrán sido elaboradas con la inestimable cooperación de la Comisión Europea, para medir cuáles son sus costes y sus consecuencias. Y, ciertamente, bajo la dirección política del Consejo Europeo. Eso ocurrirá si Rusia agrede a Ucrania.

Pero déjenme que insista en el aspecto fundamental de nuestra Unión, que es la consecuencia más positiva de esta crisis. Una crisis que se ha basado en la amenaza a la integridad territorial de un Estado. Una crisis que afecta a la estructura de seguridad en Europa, que no puede ser puesta en cuestión a través de amenazas. Una crisis que afecta al derecho de cada Estado soberano a escoger libremente sus estructuras de seguridad y sus relaciones internacionales.

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 deliberatively 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 realised 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.

Thank you very much.

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