Friday, March 24

Borrell’s applauded speech in defense of Ukraine in the European Parliament

(This text is the transcript of the speech by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, this Tuesday in the extraordinary plenary session of the European Parliament to debate the Russian invasion of Ukraine).

President of the European Council [Charles Michel]Madam President of the European Parliament [Roberta Metsola]Madam President of the European Commission [Ursula von der Leyen]President [de Ucrania, Volodímir] Zelensky; Speaker of the Parliament of Ukraine [Ruslan Stefanchuk],

Dear Members of the European Parliament,

I will try to share with you my reflections on the meaning of the tragic events we are experiencing and the provisional lessons that we can draw from them, especially for the Common Security and Defense Policy, which I have the honor to try to develop and which remains an intergovernmental policy . A policy that remains in the hands of the Member States, but which cannot be effectively implemented without the strong cooperation of the Commission’s powers. I believe that this is the moment when geopolitical Europe is being born.

This is the birth certificate of geopolitical Europe. The moment in which we become aware of the challenge we face. The moment when Europe must face up to its responsibilities. The moment when we realize that, for the first time since the end of World War II, one country is invading another and that country has nuclear weapons, increasing its ability to intimidate. It makes me sick to think of the historical analogy with the events at the start of World War II.

But, in reality, it is the return of the tragedy, which Europe is facing today. The return of tragedy, far from frightening us, should galvanize us.

First of all, it dismisses the idea that the European project had lost its momentum because the horizon of war had vanished. Unfortunately it is not. This reminds us that evil, tragedy and war never go away. And it is about the relationship with war, with the use of force, with violence, about which we have been debating for years, to see if Europe can counteract it. That is why in recent years we have talked more than in the past about defense issues and we have begun to establish joint military programs. That is why the European Parliament itself has voted to create this European Defense Fund, and the Member States have created this European Peace Fund that we are now mobilizing to provide weapons to Ukraine.

The European Council, in the coming weeks, will adopt the Strategic Compass. And with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, we must broaden our thinking, adjust our means, and anticipate our responses. Because one of the lessons we have had to learn from the invasion of Ukraine is that, more than ever, Europe must think strategically about itself, its environment and the world. It is no longer a luxury, it is a necessity. Europe must broaden its reflection on security issues, and the European Parliament has played an important role in this regard. We must reflect on the instrument of coercion, retaliation and counterattack against reckless adversaries, because the only thing that must be understood is that to make peace there must be two, but to make war it is enough to be one. This is exactly what Putin tells us. And that’s why we have to greatly increase our deterrence capacity. We have to increase our deterrence capacity to avoid war. And it is clear that our deterrence has not been strong enough to stop Putin’s aggression. And since this aggression began, we have reacted in recent days in a way that Putin did not expect. And we are showing him that we will never sacrifice our freedom, and that of others, on the altar of our well-being and prosperity.

As President of this Parliament in 2007, I had the opportunity to say to Putin, face to face, after the murder of a journalist, Anna Politkovskaya: “We are not going to trade human rights for your gas.” And this is the time to repeat it, and to act accordingly. We are not going to share, we are not going to abandon the defense of human rights and freedom because we are more or less dependent on Russia. And we have to start working quickly, as the Commission has proposed, to undo this dependency.

Last Saturday, after having held another Foreign Affairs Council and attending the debate in the Council of the European Union, I was talking to you, President Michel, and you said: “Are we doing everything we can? Is there anything else What can we do? Is it enough? Are we so powerless?” And you said to me: “Think, do, act. We have to put pressure on the Member States to take decisions on SWIFT and get Russia out of the financial system. Think about how we can arm Ukraine. Not country by country, one after another uncoordinated.” And he encouraged me to talk to the Member States again, and within a few hours we agreed to use this European Peace Fund to provide financial assistance and coordinate the Member States to arm the Ukrainian army and people. In less than 24 hours, another taboo had fallen.

And the President of the Commission immediately showed strong leadership and began to work for an agreement with our international partners, in order to make it possible to disconnect Russia from the financial system. And you know what? Now half of the reserves of the Central Bank of Russia are completely out of its control, they are frozen. Can you imagine it? This is coercive capacity. Three days ago it was impossible, and now it is possible, and Russia is beginning to feel the consequences in terms of inflation and the fall of its currency.

Yes, we have capabilities. We have mobilized these capacities and we must continue to do so, pooling the capacities of the Member States and the European Union.

I want to remind you that the European Fund for Peace is not part of the budget that you vote for. It’s another budget. It is an intergovernmental fund, managed by the Member States. Because we affirm that we, the European Union, are a force for peace and that we cannot provide arms to anyone else. If we can. Yes, we have. In the next budget, think about it. When you vote on your next budget, use the budgetary capacity of this institution to provide the means to deal with the next crisis and the next Russian aggression.

We are also working internationally to create a coalition to condemn Russia at the United Nations. Russia did not get a single vote in favor [en el Consejo de Seguridad]. Everyone was in favor of the resolution and there were some very significant abstentions.

There have been countries, traditionally allies of Russia, that have not voted in its favor, they have abstained. And now we have to build an international coalition so that in the next General Assembly of the United Nations it is the whole world that condemns the aggressor. No one can look the other way.

When a powerful aggressor unjustifiably attacks a much weaker neighbor, no one can invoke the peaceful resolution of conflicts. No one can put the victim and the aggressor on the same footing. And we will remember those who are not by our side at this solemn moment.

Yes, we have used our coercive capacity, the ability to impose, not necessarily using weapons. When I say that Europe has to be a hard power, people think only of military power. Noel hard power It is exercised in many other ways. The ability to condition the coercive capacity, the ability to impose another behavior on the other is not done only with weapons. It is done as the Commission has proposed in an extraordinarily effective way, thank you Madam President [Ursula von der Leyen]and as you have promoted in the debates of the European Council, thank you, Mr President [Charles Michel].

Take measures like this, which seem to be made of paper, which of course do not mobilize missiles, but which have a transcendental effect on the solvency of a country and prevent Russia from spending the money we pay for its gas to fuel the war.

This is, I believe, ladies and gentlemen, the most important lesson that we have to draw from these tragic circumstances. We cannot continue to trust that appealing to the rule of law and developing trade relations will make the world a peaceful place where everyone will evolve towards representative democracy.

The forces of evil, the forces that struggle to continue using physical violence as a way of resolving conflicts, are still alive and we have to demonstrate a much more powerful, much more consistent and much more united capacity for action against them than the one we we have been able to do so far.

We have done a lot and we have, without a doubt, astonished the world and surprised Putin with a united and rapid reaction capacity. We must continue on this path.

And this act, this parliamentary moment where you, with your applause, want to encourage the European institutions to continue on the path that we have learned, could be the moment in which Europeans understand that the world they live in is a dangerous world and for confronting it requires that they strengthen their Union.

The pandemic opened the door to innovative actions. The pandemic has propelled us down the path of coming together more to tackle viruses. This tragic moment must prompt us to unite more to confront those human actions that also threaten the life, security and prosperity of all.

Thank you very much.