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It is an honour for me to address the Security Council in my first months as High Representative of the European Union. I would like to thank the French Presidency of the Council for this opportunity to discuss our partnership. And I would like to thank you, Mr Secretary General, for your briefing but most of all for your friendship and for the excellent cooperation we have established already during these months.
Today is my first Security Council meeting in my current capacity, but it is the fifth on UN-EU cooperation. This regularity is testimony to our deepening relationship and also to the importance the UN and the EU place on this relationship. In February 2014, the Security Council adopted its first presidential statement on cooperation between the UN and the EU, encouraging us to strengthen our institutional relations and strategic partnership. And we all know how much this is needed, in particular in these difficult times.
It has been a difficult year in the world. The hopes for a more peaceful and cooperative global order were shattered by blatant violations of international law, the spread of terrorists groups, crises with disastrous humanitarian consequences and the outbreak of diseases with the potential to destroy entire regions.
We did not resign to the challenges. We rose to them, together. And where cooperation among different forces prevailed over confrontation, things have started to change in the right direction.
Europe’s commitment to multilateralism – with the UN at its core – stems from our values and beliefs. But it is also an act of realism. The threats we face have never been so complex, as you very rightly said Mr Secretary General. They require complex, articulated responses. The time when super-powers thought they could split the world into spheres of influence is long gone – we should all realise that. The number of regional and global actors has multiplied. And none of them can realistically aspire at facing challenges, or truly benefiting from opportunities, alone. We need cooperation, more than ever. The new global order will be multilateral, or it will not be.
We see the strategic partnership with the UN as a key relationship. But I should also underline the importance of regional partners for us, notably the Arab League, the OSCE, the African Union, our regional interlocutors in Latin America, in the Caribbean, and in Asia. Multi-layered partnerships – under the guidance of the UNSC, which has the primary responsibility for international peace and security – will be the only possible foundation of the future global security agenda.
With this in mind, I will address a few issues I am sure we all put at the top of our agenda, starting with Libya. We need to put the country back on track, and there is not much time left. Libya needs a unified and effective State, or chaos will prevail. Like this Council, we strongly support SRSG Leon’s tenacious efforts to bring the parties together. Libya’s factions should know that Europe – and the whole international community – is ready to help them rebuild their country. By all possible means. The European Union is ready and willing to provide all kinds of assistance, in strong and permanent coordination with the UN and with other regional players.
But first of all, with our Libyan friends. We need the Libyan factions to take the first step. Libya's political leaders should now make every effort to find the necessary compromises, to grasp this last chance and agree on a transitional national unity government. This should happen within days, not weeks, as time does not work on our side.
With the crisis getting deeper, Da'esh franchise is spreading thousands of miles away from the Levant. Human traffickers have already put at risk the lives of too many migrants, with no State control on Libya’s coasts or land borders. And we have witnessed to the de-stabilising effects of the conflict on the whole Sahel and to the sub-Saharan region.
Terrorism, uncontrolled migrations, regional instability: a unity government in Libya will be vital for addressing all these issues. And it will be vital, first of all, for giving all Libyans the security and the decent living conditions that their country can offer, and that they deserve, after so many difficult years.
But these are not simply Libyan problems. They concern all of us. So it is our common interest and our common responsibility to contribute in all possible ways, and as a matter of urgency, to solve them. Here, a strong cooperation between the UN and the EU - as the one we have developed in these months on the Libya crisis - is crucial. I would expect that in the coming months it will become even more so.
Tackling terrorism means to close all the spaces where extremism flourishes. It is a security challenge, of course, but we should not forget its political and cultural dimensions. As I said, defeating Da'esh in Libya requires a political agreement among the country’s factions. The same applies to Syria. This is one of the reasons why the EU fully supports the UN efforts for peace: Staffan de Mistura’s work for local ceasefires can pave the way towards a political solution to the crisis. It could hopefully be the first move in the direction of a Syrian led transition, after too many years of bloodshed.
At the same time, the grave violations committed against the civilian population demand accountability and an end to impunity. The EU is united in its support for the work of this Council, in particular its Resolutions 2170 and 2178 and I call on all countries to swiftly implement these resolutions with full respect of Human Rights and the Rule of Law.
We believe that long term stability and security can go hand in hand with respect for human rights and freedoms. Respect for human rights and international humanitarian law are key factors for peace and stability and a guiding principle for the EU. I personally underlined this at last week's Human Rights Council the strong commitment of the European Union to the human rights bodies and mechanisms of the United Nations.
There is no stability without democracy. There is no security, without human rights. Stability and security cannot exist without a fair trial system, a serious commitment towards good governance, the rule of law and the fight against corruption. Stability versus democracy or security versus human rights are false dilemmas. We should never fall into this trap.
But the fight against terrorism is a battle for hearts and minds, too. Da'esh, as well as other terrorist groups, is trying to revive a fabricated clash of civilizations. We will not forget that the first victims of their attacks are Muslims, both Sunni and Shia, Arabs, Africans and Asians. This is not and this will not be a clash of civilizations, this is not a fight between Islam and the West. This is a criminal misuse of a noble religion to perpetrate terrorist attacks in a fight for power.
As we have all realised, Da’esh is very good at propaganda. We need to counter their narrative both in our home countries and abroad. We need to work on our own, European challenges, when it comes to integration, opportunities, dialogue, respect. And we need to work more with our partners outside of Europe. We will follow-up on the outcome of the Washington Summit on Countering Violent Extremism, in particular through fostering cooperation: this includes education, through engaging more with local communities, especially in the Horn of Africa region. That is where we plan to hold our Annual Plenary session of the GCTF Horn of Africa Working Group – which will take place in Kampala/Uganda on 17-20 March 2015.
We stand ready to facilitate further forms of dialogue, including the possibility of creating a Round of Eminent Persons from Europe and the Islamic world, to encourage exchanges and promote dialogue on the roots and ramification of terrorism in our societies. On education, the EU offers to host a regional experts’ meeting in early summer, to involve the EU’s Radicalisation Awareness Network and, together with the United Nations, we will explore options to host a high-level segment in the margins of UNGA next September, to promote the message for enhanced global partnerships in countering violent extremism.
We all know how war, terror and poverty force millions of people to leave their home countries in search for a better future. We need to face the phenomenon of migrations under many perspectives: international aid, crisis management, border control, integration, social inclusion. All these issues need to be tackled effectively. But there is one thing we should never forget. This is a matter of human lives – saving human lives.
We cannot let the Mediterranean, the cradle of millennial civilisations, turn into a grave for tens of thousands innocent people. Along with my colleagues responsible for internal affairs and migration, we are promoting deeper cooperation amongst EU Member States to find political and operational solutions to prevent further tragedies. At the same time, we are stepping up efforts to support the work of UNHCR and IOM and face collectively, in solidarity, our duty to provide for the needs of refugees and asylum seekers.
There is much work to be done to guarantee that refugees are welcomed in our societies. They should all be provided with an opportunity to pursue their own happiness and to contribute to the development of their new communities. Social cohesion, solidarity, the protection of human life: these values are at the core of the European project. This is a test the European Union cannot fail. But we will never succeed alone.
Addressing uncontrolled migrations is not just a task for Europe: it is a responsibility we share. Countries in the region are already doing an effort that calls for all our international support, starting from Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Tunisia, and many EU countries. I can guarantee we are doing our part, and will be doing so even more. But we need all countries to stand up to the challenge. It is a common interest, and a common moral duty. As it is the need to work together for the stability of regions that, in our world, are facing terrible threats.
Yesterday, a rocket attack on a camp of the United Nations Multinational Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) in Kidal has killed two Malian children and a Chadian UN peacekeeper and injured 11 peacekeepers and three civilians. No more than two days ago, a terrorist attack in Bamako has claimed the lives of several people, including a security officer of Belgian nationality working for the EU Delegation in Mali. This acts strengthens even more our resolve to help fight terrorism throughout the region, and to conclude a peace agreement in Bamako.
In Mali the EU is providing both civilian and military training missions for the reconstruction and retraining of the Armed Forces. This is part of a coherent medium term strategy to build up African national capacity, enabling them to replace in due course the UN peace support operation.
I'm pleased that you are traveling to Africa later today, as cooperation among the African Union, the EU and the UN is key to regional stability, and we have long-standing partnerships with both organisations. In the field of security and peace support operations, these partnerships increasingly overlap and it is time to reflect on how this trilateral cooperation works, and could work even better.
As was reaffirmed at the EU-Africa Summit in Brussels last April, the EU is committed to support Africa's efforts to manage its own security. We have supported the African Peace and Security Architecture from the outset, and aim to give practical help at all levels – national, regional and continental – to enable its implementation. The EU has put its money where its mouth is. In the 10 years since 2004, the EU has provided 1.2 billion Euro in support of AU led Peace Operations through the Africa Peace Facility. All in all, 16 CSDP missions and operations have been deployed on the African continent so far, bringing practical support and concrete results in a number of fragile or post-crisis countries.
In the Central African Republic, the EU mission EUFOR, under a mandate from this Council, has been working closely with both the AU mission MISCA and now the UN mission MINUSCA to provide vital protection for the civil population in Bangui. Indeed, we feel our co-operation with the UN in the planning and conduct of this mission has been exemplary. Off the Horn of Africa, Operation Atalanta has helped drive piracy from the seas.
But to prevent conflict, nothing works better than transparent and accountable government, where all the citizens and groups in a country feel they are represented, protected, their concerns heard, their needs taken care of, their active participation welcomed. Hence, efforts by the AU and UN to encourage good governance, the fight against corruption, and the full respect of constitutional rule are fundamental building blocks to prevent crises.
Through a strong cooperation between the AU, the UN and the EU, we can combine our efforts to the greatest effect, as we face the immediate challenges and build capacities to address the underlying causes in a comprehensive and long term perspective. But this year Africa has had to cope not only with crisis and conflicts.
Last week in Brussels we sent a message of hope but also of continued determination in fighting Ebola. This fight will not stop until we see the disease stops. And the countries, the societies, the communities affected recover. It is a fight that is based on cooperation and partnership, on trust, and ownership of the responses, first of all of local communities. It has been a fight that has been conducted primarily in West Africa by the people and authorities of the three most affected countries.
It has also been very much a collective effort. The lead role of the UN has been crucial for all of us. It has the expertise, the experience and the global convening power. And I want to pay tribute to you, Mr Ban Ki-Moon, for this work in rallying international support. It has been important, and it will continue to be so.
As we focus on the Southern border of Europe, and on the southern neighbours of our southern neighbours, we have to face the events in the Eastern part of our continent as well. What happened in Ukraine over the last year is the most serious crisis in Europe since the Balkan wars. And let me add here, that the Balkans offer us all, today, reasons to be proud, and optimist. Exactly 20 years after Srebrenica, we see how far peace, democracy and regional integration can go, if we invest in it.
In Ukraine, today, achieving a sustainable solution is urgent – not least due to the death toll and the humanitarian impact of the conflict. The cost of this crisis in human lives is huge: almost 6,000 people have been killed and many more injured. Not to mention the number of refugees and IDP.
Fundamental norms of international law, enshrined in the UN Charter, are being challenged. This cannot be left without answer: the EU condemns the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol as a violation of international law. This is also the position of the United Nations, as expressed in General Assembly resolution 68/262 of last year.
Let me say that the UN count. It was important that the Minsk Package of Measures adopted last Feb 12 was endorsed by the Security Council. This ceasefire is fragile and no effort should be spared to sustain it. The withdrawal of heavy weapons is only a first step. The swift and full implementation of all the points of the Minsk Agreements by all sides is key to bring a sustainable political solution to the conflict.
We will keep supporting the implementation of Minsk as we already do, notably through in-kind and financial contributions to the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission. I am constantly in touch with the Secretary General, and the OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier, to ensure that our respective support is effective and well-coordinated. We are also grateful to different UN agencies for coordinating international humanitarian efforts and for their objective reporting on the human rights situation.
Our policy towards Ukraine is crystal-clear. We want to put an end to the conflict. We need to put an end to the conflict. And to safeguard Ukraine’s territorial integrity. But we also have to make sure that Ukraine becomes a functional state that honours the aspirations of its people. Whoever wishes to push towards these goals will find Europe’s door wide open for cooperation. Europe was built on the principle of cooperation, both within its borders, and with our neighbours. And we want to keep this as a core principle of our policies. The conflictual, complex world we live in needs more cooperation, not less. Everywhere.
The most recent crises should not distract us from the Middle East peace process. Let us not forget that another war was fought in Gaza no more than six months ago. We should all put our best efforts in restarting the peace process. The alternative to peace is not the status-quo. If we do not mend the wound, it will only get worse. If we do not act, more violence will come.
We need action, now. For this reason, my first visit as High Representative was to the Middle East. To Gaza, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Ramallah. Europe is ready to take its part of responsibility in restarting the process. That's why we took the initiative of hosting, a few weeks ago in Europe, a Quartet meeting - the first one after more than one year, at principals level. We need to re-create the international framework that can lead to a solution. We all know that the only way to resolve the conflict is through an agreement between the parties that ends the occupation which began in 1967, that ends all claims, and that fulfils the aspirations of both sides.
There is no other solution than a two-state solution, with a secure State of Israel and an independent, democratic, sovereign and viable State of Palestine living side by side in peace and security and mutual recognition. We also know that we need to facilitate a regional framework that can support a solution. Out of the current regional crises, we could have the chance of redefining a different balance. A peaceful one for all.
But we have to start from the fundamentals: we need to protect now the viability of the two-state solution.
Israel should renew its commitment to halt all new settlements in the West Bank and should resume the transfer of Palestinian Authority revenues, in line with its obligations. The Palestinian factions should put aside their rivalries towards a real national reconciliation, and restore governmental control in Gaza.
As I said, I visited Gaza a few months ago. Let me say that the humanitarian situation faced by the population of the Gaza Strip must be addressed urgently. Urgently. Basic infrastructures and services must be restored. The EU has welcomed pledges made by members of the international community towards the reconstruction of Gaza, but these pledges now need to be honoured as a matter of urgency. The EU calls for a fundamental change of the political, security and economic situation in Gaza, including the end of the closure and responses to Israel’s legitimate security concerns.
Direct negotiations between the parties should resume as soon as possible. The international community must take its responsibility in facilitating such a resumption of negotiations. We are ready to do our part. The Quartet must redouble its efforts to facilitate a renewed peace process and, in doing so, reach out to all stakeholders, in particular in the region, to make sure that the push for peace is supported and embraced by all key actors. In this context, let me recall that the Arab Peace Initiative remains a cornerstone of any future peace.
The regional turmoil reinforces the sense of urgency. As Da’esh challenges the frontiers and sovereignty of existing States, Israel and Palestine have the chance to mutually recognise their borders and their right to security. Peace in the “Holy Places” could lay out the most resounding message against extremism, for the region and the world.
Talking of Middle East, and of cooperation between the EU and the UN, we cannot forget the European Union’s role - and my personal one - as a facilitator in the talks with Iran. Our aim is ambitious, and at the same time very realistic: we need an agreement that both satisfies Iran’s legitimate aspirations to a peaceful nuclear program, and guarantees the security of the region and the whole world.
The only possible deal is a one that guarantees the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program. There is still work to be done, and the next weeks will be crucial ones. But we have never been so close to what could be a turning point in the history of Iran’s relation with the West. And with the region. We should not waste such a historical opportunity.
Before I conclude, allow me to look ahead. 2015 is a crucial year for the United Nations. Not only will we celebrate its seventieth anniversary, we will also see crucial processes coming to their conclusion, and new ones finding their shape. Processes that will determine the global agenda for decades to come. The results will influence global security for a generation or more.
We are in the midst of the discussion for the post 2015 agenda. We must advocate a truly transformative agenda. It must address the economic, social, and environmental dimensions of sustainable development in a balanced way, and everywhere in our world. Peaceful societies and freedom from violence are crucial ingredients. And peace is not possible without development and respect for human rights. Understanding all these interdependencies should make us even more committed to supporting the efforts of the UN Secretary General on a truly transformational and comprehensive approach to poverty eradication and sustainable development this year.
2015 is also the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and the 15th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325. It is a unique opportunity for us all to support the UN in their work for the advancement of gender equality, the empowerment of women and girls and the fight against all forms of violence against women. I am pleased to have just attended the opening session of the 59th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women.
And this is an important year also for our common work on peace. When peace fails, we must be willing and able to act decisively and – often – quickly. Most often the United Nations are called upon to take the lead. The result is that UN peacekeeping is facing an ever increasing demand. The UN needs to adapt its response to crises that are ever more complex and increasingly involve a large number of non-state stakeholders. Conflicts have changed: so must the means to respond to them.
The European Union is fully supporting the review of UN peace operations the Secretary General launched last year. The review is timely and very necessary. We are looking at the Security Council to take on the leadership role as prescribed by the charter. The world is expecting the Security Council to respond decisively and timely to the crises we are faced with.
Our Union, the European Union, is built on the same values, the same vision of a cooperative world order which led to the foundation of the United Nations, seventy years ago. In seventy years, the threats to peace have evolved continuously. So must we. Our tools need to be updated to the new challenges. But our hopes and aspirations – to save the next generations from war, to fight for democracy and human rights, to promote social progress – are still the same.
The European Union is confident it can play a key role towards a more peaceful future. We look for the cooperation of others, in the world, under the guidance of the UN. We will only succeed if we all do our part. We will only succeed if the Nations of our world are truly united.