The demand for multilateral solutions in the world today is exceeding supply, and while “rules-based multilateralism” may not be an appealing phrase, the United Nations and the European Union must bring it alive, the bloc’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy told the Security Council today.
“We need global cooperation based on agreed rules. The alternative is the law of the jungle, where problems don’t get solved,” said Josep Borrell via video-teleconference as the Council held its annual debate on strengthening relations with the 27-member group under its agenda item on cooperation with regional and subregional organizations.
In a far-ranging briefing that touched upon topics as varied as Middle East hotspots to the global distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, the High Representative said that the bloc’s staunch support for the United Nations is reflected not only in words, but also in financial, human and political terms. Spotlighting the Council’s own responsibilities, he said that it must take decisions to support and protect people living in conflict situations.
Among other things, he recommended the lifting of export restrictions on COVID-19 vaccines and their components; the adoption of a Council resolution on the link between international security and climate change; the renewal of the humanitarian cross-border mechanism for Syria; the deployment of a robust monitoring mission in Libya; and the revival of the Middle East Quartet to facilitate fresh dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians.
Turning to situations on Europe’s doorstep, the High Representative said that the Union is developing additional sanctions in response to the forced diversion on 23 May of a commercial airliner to Belarus and the ensuing detention of a leading journalist. He regretted that the situation in Ukraine is being instrumentalized for political purposes in the Council, adding that the European Union expects the Russian Federation to assume a constructive stance. More generally, he said that the bloc deploys sanctions not as an end in themselves, but as a tool to promote respect for universal rights.
The ensuing debate saw Council members voicing strong support for ever-closer cooperation between the United Nations and the European Union, as with other regional groups such as the African Union. But it also exposed fault lines over several long-standing issues which have failed to garner consensus in the 15-member organ.
The representative of the United States, speaking ahead of a meeting in Brussels on 15 June between President Joe Biden and top European Union officials, said that his country’s relationship with the bloc is built on shared values. Going forward, Washington, D.C., will work closely with its European partners on crises in Tigray, Myanmar, Syria and Venezuela, he said, adding that the Council can and must do better in responding to those same situations.
The Russian Federation’s representative said that relations between his country and the European Union are at the lowest ebb in years. He expressed grave concern about the bloc’s use of arbitrary coercive measures, adding that while the Union is an important regional player, its actions should not go beyond Council mandates.
France’s representative said that the mid-air “hijacking” over Belarus on 23 May demonstrated how human rights violations can have a direct impact on European security. He added that within the Normandy format, France and fellow European Union member Germany are sparing no effort to revive the political process to resolve the conflict in Donbas.
China’s representative called the European Union a model for multilateralism that should take the lead in renouncing double standards and working towards shared goals. He refuted the High Representative’s remarks about human rights in Hong Kong, saying that matters pertaining to the Special Administrative Region are his country’s internal affair.
The United Kingdom’s representative, whose country left the European Union on 1 January, said that an international rules-based system, with the United Nations at its centre, is the foundation for coordinated and collective action in the face of global challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic. He acknowledged the bloc’s contribution to resolving key issues on the Council’s agenda, including bringing Iran back into compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Tunisia’s representative said that cooperation between the United Nations and the European Union is particularly visible in Africa, where the bloc is contributing to many peacebuilding initiatives. Going forward, the two organizations must strengthen their cooperation to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and to put into place a plan to reduce the threat of climate change as a driver of conflict, he added.
Also speaking today were representatives of Kenya, India, Ireland, Viet Nam, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Mexico, Norway, Niger and Estonia.
The meeting began at 10:03 a.m. and ended at 12:16 p.m.
JOSEP BORRELL, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, speaking via video-teleconference, said that demand for multilateral solutions in the world today exceeds supply, and while “rules-based multilateralism” may not be an appealing phrase, the United Nations and the European Union must bring it alive. “We need global cooperation based on agreed rules. The alternative is the law of the jungle, where problems don’t get solved.” Reduced access to COVID-19 vaccines, insufficient action on climate, and festering peace and security issues are examples of the cost of the lack of multilateral action. Emphasizing the European Union’s commitment to the United Nations and to rules-based multilateralism, he said that the world’s biggest challenges stem from new technologies that can be both disruptive and empowering. Without rules that reflect the values of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, technology will be used against individuals and communities “in a nightmarish scenario”.
Focusing on the COVID-19 pandemic, he said that wider lessons must be drawn about the ways in which the health and security of people and planet are connected. The Union, a staunch supporter of vaccine multilateralism and the COVAX facility, plans to donate at least 100 million doses to low- and middle-income countries before the end of 2021, but that is not enough. All players must lift export restrictions on vaccines and their components. On climate change, he said that the upcoming United Nations summits in Kunming and Glasgow must produce decisive action and real outcomes. To give impetus to their success, the Council should adopt a resolution on the link between climate change and security. Spotlighting the Council’s own responsibilities, he said that it must take decisions to support and protect people living in conflict situations. The bloc is also looking to the Council to match its belated support for the Secretary-General’s call for a global humanitarian ceasefire with a full commitment to its implementation.
He emphasized that the European Union’s staunch support for the United Nations is reflected not only in words, but also in financial, human and political terms, with 13 of its external missions and operations working alongside the Organization’s own missions. A fresh set of joint European-Union priorities on peace operations and crisis management are currently being drawn up. The bloc will always be on the side of those in Hong Kong, Venezuela, Myanmar and elsewhere who demand respect for their rights, he said, adding that the Union uses sanctions not as an end in themselves, but as a tool to promote respect for universal rights.
Turning to concrete cases, he said that a negotiated settlement in the Middle East, based on the two-State solution, is the only way to ensure the rights and security of both Israelis and Palestinians. To help the two sides, the Middle East Quartet must be revived. On Syria, he appealed to the Council to renew the cross-border mechanism for humanitarian assistance in July. On Libya, the fragile ceasefire must be supported by a robust monitoring mechanism so that elections can go ahead in December. The European Union Naval Force Mediterranean Operation IRINI will continue to implement the arms embargo, he said, calling also for a greater focus on the withdrawal of foreign fighters and mercenaries.
On the Sahel and the Horn of Africa, he said that firm action must be taken against those standing in the way of a peaceful and inclusive transition. On Iran, the European Union is working non-stop to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in all its aspects. On Belarus, the European Union’s response to the forced landing of a commercial airliner, and the ensuing arrest of a leading journalist and his companion, was firm and justified. Having closed its airspace to Belarusian aircraft, the bloc is working on a new package of sanctions. On Ukraine, he regretted that the situation is being instrumentalized for political purposes in the Council. The Russian Federation is a party to the conflict and the European Union counts on it to take a constructive stance. Finally, on the Western Balkans, he said that the European Union will not rest until all countries in the region are inside the bloc.
MARTIN KIMANI (Kenya), underscoring the values shared by his country and Europe, said that the increasing centrality of regional and subregional organizations in the maintenance of international peace and security makes Chapter VIII of the Charter of the United Nations more relevant today than ever. The European Union should continue to deepen its cooperation and partnership with the African Union and other subregional mechanisms in Africa, he said. He underscored the ways in which trilateral cooperation between the African Union, the European Union and the United Nations has reinforced synergies and coordination in responding to various situations in Africa. He also stressed the need to reinvigorate dialogue between the African Union Peace and Security Council and the European Union Political and Security Committee; for a renewed focus on conflict prevention and peacebuilding; and to give Africa the chance to proffer solutions to African challenges that can be supported by international partners. The European Union should also support Africa during the COVID-19 pandemic by mitigating the challenges to vaccine access, including through supporting efforts for local vaccine production and distribution, he stated.
JAMES PAUL ROSCOE (United Kingdom) said that an international rules-based system, with the United Nations at its centre, is the foundation for coordinated and collective action, including through regional organizations, to address big challenges such as the pandemic. The United Kingdom looks forward to continued cooperation with the European Union on post-pandemic recovery and preparations for future outbreaks, including through shared supports for a global pandemic treaty. Noting that his country is hosting the Group of Seven summit and the twenty-sixth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, he said that multilateralism remains important on such European issues as Ukraine, Belarus and the Western Balkans. He also recognized the bloc’s contribution to resolving issues on the Council’s agenda, including bringing Iran back into compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) said cooperation must align with relevant General Assembly resolutions, and regional structures should complement United Nations efforts. While supporting some existing joint European Union projects, he said true multilateralism maintains the United Nations central role. Imposing bloc approaches and attempts to portray experiences as a “golden model” often leads to blatant interference in some States. Russian Federation and European Union relations are at the lowest ebb in a long time, he said, expressing grave concerns about the bloc’s negative, arbitrary coercive measures whose targeted nature lead to declines in the standard of living among ordinary people and not to a change in States’ policies. Even in the context of the pandemic, the European Union did not heed to the Secretary-General’s call to suspend such sanctions. The bloc is an important regional player, however its actions should not go beyond Security Council mandates. Pointing to Operation IRINI as an example, he cautioned the European Union to “tread carefully” with regards to the impact the mission has on Libya. Regarding the Union’s involvement with Pristina and the Balkans as a whole, he called on colleagues to carefully consider ongoing proceedings. Raising other concerns, he said the bloc presents its approaches on a variety of topics as “universal”, a practice his delegation will adamantly fight against. The Russian Federation is interested in dialogue with its neighbours, based on mutual respect, he said, adding that the European Union should not promote negative rhetoric. In a modern world, there is no place for hegemony and dominance. Concerned about the spread of Russiaphobia and the illegal coup in Ukraine, he expressed trust that his European colleagues will overcome these and other unfortunate trends.
T. S. TIRUMURTI (India) said the role of the European Union has been growing in Africa, stressing that its complimentary efforts to resolve conflict and counter terrorism has contributed positively to the United Nations efforts there. The bloc has broken new ground in developing effective tools for conflict prevention, peacebuilding, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation. The India-European Union Strategic Partnership is guided by shared interests. India’s desire to work constructively with the Union is reflected in the newly instituted dialogues on maritime security as well as climate change. India and the Union recently concluded a successful leaders meeting in May 2021, launching a “connectivity partnership” and agreeing to intensify economic engagements, including by resuming negotiations on trade and investment agreements and working together on World Trade Organization (WTO) reforms.
GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland) said that as the world’s leading development donor, the European Union has enhanced its capacity to support the United Nations. From Kosovo to the Middle East and throughout Africa, European Union missions are deployed alongside United Nations peacekeeping operations or special political missions. As such, the Council should support the Union’s cooperation and utilize its support for the United Nations where appropriate. Welcoming trilateral cooperation between the United Nations, European Union and the African Union, and partnerships with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), she said challenges remain. Efforts must continue to make real progress on delivering on the women, peace and security agenda, and climate-related security risks must be addressed. Greater cooperation is needed to improve mission transitions and for enhanced coordination on peacebuilding and the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund. The multilateral system must deliver in response to COVID-19 by building back better, which means debt relief, equitable access to vaccines and to sustainable financing, she said, adding that it must include a green recovery to meet the challenge of climate change.
DINH QUY DANG (Viet Nam) said that strategic cooperation between the United Nations and the European Union has advanced in areas such as peace and security, sustainable development and economic growth. The European Union’s significant financial and personnel contributions to peacekeeping remain vital, and he called for closer cooperation on issues including mediation, confidence-building and the promotion of multilateralism. In South-East Asia, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has helped to build a region of peace, stability and development, and in December 2020, the relationship between ASEAN and the European Union was elevated to a strategic partnership. This is an important milestone, he added, which builds on achievements and enhances efforts to effectively implement the joint plan of action for 2018 to 2022.
TAREK LADEB (Tunisia) said that cooperation between the United Nations and the European Union is particularly visible in Africa, where the bloc contributes to many peacebuilding initiatives alongside the League of Arab States and the African Union. He commended the European Union’s support for the two-State solution and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in the Middle East, also praising its support for development and economic cooperation, human rights and basic freedoms, and the protection of civilians in armed conflict. Going forward, the United Nations and the European Union must strengthen their cooperation to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change while also putting into place a comprehensive plan to reduce the threat of climate change as an exacerbating factor in conflict.
RODNEY M. HUNTER (United States) recalled that the relationship between his country and the European Union is built on a foundation of shared values which include democracy, the rule of law, human rights, economic opportunity and the pursuit of transatlantic prosperity and security. Together, they have pledged funding for the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, he said, adding that the United States appreciates the bloc’s contributions across the globe, including its cooperation with the United Nations. Going forward, the United States will keep working closely with its European Union partners on crises in Tigray, “Burma”, Syria and Venezuela, he said, adding that the Council can and must do better in responding to those situations. The United States greatly appreciates the European Union’s critical role in holding the Russian Federation accountable for its violations of international law, he said, emphasizing that Moscow’s actions in Ukraine remain a threat to European security. Both the United States and the European Union will stand with their allies and partners in calling on the Russian Federation to stop destabilizing Ukraine and Georgia. The two sides will also enhance their efforts through the coordination of sanctions to ensure that authorities in Belarus are held accountable for the forced diversion of a commercial flight between two European Union member States, he said.
DIANI JIMESHA ARIANNE PRINCE (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) said her country, as a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), recognizes the vital role of regional and subregional organizations in promoting economic integration and social development. The European Union has a significant presence on the Security Council and is a feature in the peace and security landscape across all regions. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines particularly values the bloc’s cooperation on matters affecting conflict in Africa. “When Africa speaks, we should all listen,” she said. Looking ahead, she expressed hope for progress with European Union partners on issues such as unilateral coercive measures that often do far more harm than good, as well as the reversal of unfair financial blacklisting practices that hurt developing economies.
ALICIA GUADALUPE BUENROSTRO MASSIEU (Mexico) said regional and subregional organizations play critical roles in the United Nations work, with diverse mandates and capacities. Recognizing the importance of having road maps to guide strategic associations between the European Union and the United Nations, including in peacekeeping operations, he highlighted several points about this partnership. While some existing efforts have clear mandates, he raised concerns about effective consideration of migrants with relation to Operation IRINI. Turning to the European Union’s critical role in the Sahel, its technical training mission in Mali and its role in the Middle East Quartet, he stressed the importance of continuing to make progress in advancing gender equality. Only through an interconnected network can sustainable peace be established and maintained, he said.
GENG SHUANG (China) said the pandemic demonstrated that all States are intertwined with a shared future, making multilateralism imperative. The European Union is a model for multilateralism and should take the lead in renouncing double standards and working together towards shared goals. Responding to remarks made earlier, he said Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China, and any matter related to this is an internal affairs issue. The European Union should be a champion of multilateralism, including by playing its coordinating role in advancing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme and in promoting a just and lasting solution to the Palestinian question. Achieving sustainable and inclusive development is the most effective way of tackling the root causes of conflict, he said, expressing hope that the European Union will place a greater focus on eradicating hunger, promoting education and constructively supporting post-pandemic recovery.
TRINE SKARBOEVIK HEIMERBACK (Norway) said that cooperation with the European Union is at the heart of his country’s foreign policy, as reflected in their shared common vision of a free and democratic future. She cited Norway’s frequent alignment with the bloc’s positions in the Council, adding that the European Union and the United Nations must continue to join forces in response to COVID-19, climate change and other global challenges. She went on to welcome the European Union’s action plan on women, peace and security and its strong focus on gender equality, human rights, and peace and security within and beyond its borders.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) said that the European Union provides concrete and effective solutions to threats to international peace and security. Among other examples, he cited its response to the pandemic and support for the COVAX facility; the participation of its member States in peacekeeping and humanitarian operations in the Sahel and Syria; its work on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and the resumption of Middle East peace talks; Operation IRINI in the waters off Libya; and its contribution to inter-Afghan political negotiations. The hijacking of a commercial airliner on 23 May by the authorities in Belarus demonstrated that human rights violations can have a direct impact on European security. In Ukraine, the European Union responded to renewed tension in March and April, he said, adding that within the Normandy format, France and Germany are sparing no effort to revive the political process. The bloc also plays a key role in stabilizing the Western Balkans and hopefully will continue to be involved in intercommunal talks in Cyprus led by the United Nations, he added.
ABDOU ABARRY (Niger) noted the ways in which the United Nations and the European Union are working hand in hand in the areas of conflict prevention and sustainable peace, as well as the bloc’s political, financial and operational assistance to peacekeeping and peace processes. In Africa, this can be seen in the support given to countries in fragile situations, including in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa. Hopefully, the new European Union naval operation in the Mediterranean will do even more to counter the influx of weapons into Libya while also addressing the migration crisis. He also noted how the bloc is working with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on the best ways to address climate-induced displacement. He concluded by saying that the Organization should continue to benefit from its partnerships with the European Union, the African Union and ASEAN, making the most of their comparative advantages to achieve international peace and security.
SVEN JÜRGENSON (Estonia), Council President for June, speaking in his national capacity, said a strong European Union equals a stronger United Nations, and vice versa. Raising several concerns, he strongly condemned the Belarusian authorities’ blatant attempts to silence all opposition voices and demanded the immediate release of all political prisoners. On the situation in Myanmar, he expressed strong support for the ASEAN 5-point consensus and the work of the United Nations Special Envoy. He condemned the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine in Donbass, illegal annexation of Crimea and occupation of territories in Georgia. He also regretted to note that the Russian Federation, a party of the conflict, has chosen to use Arria-formula meetings to extensively spread false and divisive narratives about Ukraine. Turning to the European Union’s contributions, from cyberspace security to crisis management, he drew attention to Operation IRINI, the Middle East Quartet, efforts in the Sahel region and humanitarian relief for Syria. Regarding Afghanistan, he commended peace efforts and urged the Taliban to immediately end violence and commit itself to the negotiations. Regarding embargoes, he said European Union and United Nations sanctions are targeted and do not obstruct in any way the fight against the pandemic or the delivery of humanitarian aid. Going forward, the Security Council must do more to fully understand climate-related security risks and integrate this knowledge into all aspects of its work.
ANNA M. EVSTIGNEEVA (Russian Federation) said that the statement by the United States was more aggressive compared to those of most European Council members, possibly because it is on the other side of the ocean and does not mind what is happening in Europe. However, it must understand how dangerous such rhetoric can be. Those Europeans who demonstrate common sense should be guided by their common interests, stop looking for partners across the ocean, and choose constructive cooperation on an equal footing, without mentorship and with respect for the sovereignty and internal affairs of neighbouring States. They should also work to impartially address delicate and dangerous situations on their borders and to respect people’s choices, including those in Donetsk and Luhansk, without which it will not be possible to resolve the situation in Donbas, she said.
Mr. BORRELL, taking the floor a second time, said that he was coming out of today’s meeting feeling even more encouraged than he did when it started. The European Union is working hard with Council members to contribute to global security and prosperity, he said, adding that he was grateful that so many speakers had acknowledged the bloc’s contributions to a safer and fairer world and for being the tool that helped turn Europe from a continent of war to a continent of peace. “We are living at a dangerous point in world history” and to survive and prosper, States must recognize their common interests and common goals.
Turning to specific issues raised by speakers, he said that sanctions imposed by the Union comply with international law, including obligations stemming from international human rights law and international humanitarian law. Sanctions are key tools for addressing breaches of international law, the proliferation of weapons into conflict areas and targeting those who seek to undermine peace processes. The principle of non-intervention in a country’s internal affairs is not a license to disregard human rights concerns. He emphasized that the bloc’s sanctions are proportional and reversible, and that they aim to limit as much as possible any humanitarian impact or unintended consequences on civilians.
On Libya, he hoped that the upcoming Berlin meeting will create new impetus for a political settlement. Hopefully, those who harbour doubts will demonstrate equal zeal in effectively implementing the arms embargo. He stressed how much the European Union values its relationship with China and agreed with its representative’s views on the importance of multilateralism, adding however that the one-country, two-systems formula in Hong Kong stems from an international agreement and that the bloc is very much concerned about recent changes in the Special Administrative Region. He concluded by saying that the future of mankind depends on its capacity to cooperate, work together, overcome conflict and build a shared future for all. In that regard, the Council plays an important role.