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I would like to thank this hemicycle for having the opportunity to debate an issue that has not often been on the agenda of our work here in the European Parliament, but has been very much at the centre of our European Union work in diplomatic terms in the last years.
I would also like to start by thanking the UN Security Council and all its Members for the new Resolution [2375 (2017)] on North Korea that was just adopted hours ago.
I believe that in tough moments like this – and it is quite clear the level of threat that the region and the world are facing in this moment – against the unprecedented threat posed by North Korea, only a united international community can help build effective solutions. And this is needed because we are still far from the goal of a complete, verifiable and irreversible de-nuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. Yet, the international community has done the right thing a few hours ago: strengthening the pressure on North Korea, while calling at the same time for a peaceful solution to the crisis through a meaningful, credible political dialogue.
Strengthening economic pressure – sanctions, and keeping the door of dialogue open, as I said, encouraging a meaningful, political, diplomatic, peaceful solution to this crisis.
This is the way that the European Union has been advocating for in a very consistent manner over all the months that are behind us with all our means: through the European members of the UN Security Council, in what has been perfectly-coordinated approach. We always highlight where Member States differ or where the European Union is not united; let me tell you that this has been an excellent exercise of unity of our Member States and an excellent exercise of coordination of the European Union Member States that are members of the Security Council, but also through our contacts with all our global partners and all our regional interlocutors.
I spent part of August in Asia discussing with the Foreign Ministers of the United States [Secretary Tillerson], China [Wang Yi],the Russian Federation [Sergey Lavrov], Republic of Korea [Kang Kyung-wha], Japan [Taro Kono], exactly on how to do this: trying to prevent a further escalation of the tensions; trying to open a political track; increasing the economic pressure but also keeping the political door open.
First and foremost, our points of reference are the regional players, our partners, our strategic partners in the region – the Republic of Korea and Japan. But also, as I mentioned, China, the United States, the Russian Federation. And sometimes we are among the few to mention them, but they are key players in what is for us the fundamental, global, non-proliferation regime: the relevant international organisations, the ones that constitute the backbone of the non-proliferation regime globally.
I met just last week with the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, [Yukiya] Amano, and the Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty Organisation, Dr [Lassina] Zerbo. And we will meet again next week in New York. The European Union is also strongly united and active in this field - to support the organisations that are, on a daily basis of their technical work, allowing the international community to work on non-proliferation.
To all of them, I have expressed the European Union’s willingness and readiness to seek international unity and stronger economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea, also to avoid the risk of a military escalation.
Through all these contacts, and the work also of our European Union delegations on the ground - that I would like to thank, for the tireless work they have been doing over the summer - we could count on the unity of all our Member States, on our request for maximum pressure and critical political engagement.
Last Thursday, just a few days ago in Tallinn, I gathered the meeting of the 28 EU Member States' Foreign Ministers and we agreed to support, together, calls for the United Nations Security Council to take further measures in terms of economic restrictions on North Korea, including on the import/export of crude oil.
I also invited Ministers to consider new, additional, autonomous European Union sanctions.
So, 3 elements to this work of pressure:
We now will implement the new UN sanctions, as we have always done before.
Second, we will work to make sure that all our international partners do the same – to ensure the maximum level of efficiency for the economic measures.
And third, we will continue the discussion we have launched last week on additional European sanctions, to complement the action decided by the Security Council and put maximum pressure on North Korea.
Of course, sanctions are not a goal in themselves, but an instrument to open the way for a political process to start – a way that today, unfortunately, is not working. Our objective is not the pressure alone; our objective is to open the political path for a solution of the crisis. And for us, for the Europeans, economic and diplomatic pressures are always aimed at opening channels for credible, meaningful and fruitful dialogue.
Our goal of a de-nuclearised Korean Peninsula can only be achieved through diplomatic and political means. There is no military way out of this crisis. We have said it loud in the European Union, from the very beginning, and I was glad to see that the UN Security Council has reaffirmed this in its discussions and in its deliberations a few hours ago. An attack - a military attack - would be useless and harmful, as it could easily spiral into a large-scale conflict. The consequences would be totally unpredictable and certainly dramatic for the people of the Korean Peninsula, for the region and, most likely, for the entire world.
We will continue to work to open a credible political path towards the de-nuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. It will be one of the core issues also of my agenda in New York next week, at the UN General Assembly ministerial week. To all my interlocutors I will express the EU's unity, determination and readiness, first of all to assist our partners to ensure North Korea engages in a credible and meaningful process, in a credible and meaningful dialogue, aimed at the peaceful, verifiable denuclearisation of the peninsula.
On top of that, we will also continue our work for non-proliferation worldwide. We believe this has to be part of the credible, united response the international community can put in place in these difficult months. The support we give to the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency]; the support we give to the CTBTO [Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation]; and clearly, the support we give and will continue to give to the full implementation of the Iran nuclear deal that has shown to the world that with patience, perseverance, diplomacy and political will, nuclear non-proliferation is indeed achievable.
Merci beaucoup, Madame, la Présidente,
I am happy to see that there is a broad support in this hemicycle for the approach the European Union has taken - and again, I have to say, the European Union approach, which brings together our diplomatic service, the work we have been doing with the Member States, in the relevant countries, in New York and we will continue to do that.
First of all, increasing the economic pressure. I have seen that all of you are very much aware of the fact that when you do not have a situation where political will is expressed in a credible manner, or in any way at all, there is the need for more pressure to be put on the economic and political side and here the key is the unity of the international community. This is why the vote in the UN Security Council yesterday night was so important, because it sent a message to North Korea that the unity of the international community - from China that, yes, indeed, plays a crucial role, to the Russian Federation, to the United States, to the European Union, to all the other members of the UN Security Council - so the entire international community, is strongly investing in this path: more pressure to open diplomatic channels. North Korea has to feel the diplomatic pressure of a united international community.
The European Union will now do two things: on the economic path we will implement the UN Security Council Resolution, as we have always done, in the most strict and complete manner. We will also do a second thing that is very important, because as you know very well, the economic relations between the European Union and its Member States, on one side, and the DPRK are not that relevant to have an economic impact, that is, let's say particularly impacting on the regime: we will work to make sure that others implement the UN Security Council Resolutions. Because some of you asked the crucial question that would probably come later but it is useful to put it on the table now: how come we are today in the situation that we are, in terms of developments in the DPRK's nuclear programme, under quite a severe regime of sanctions from the UN system? Here we have, together with our partners in the international community, a responsibility to work towards all third parties to make sure that the UN-based decisions, the UN Security Council sanctions are implemented by all in the international scene.
Third, as many of you supported, the work will go on in defining together in the European Union additional sanctions or additional autonomous measures that could complement the ones adopted by the Security Council. But I think the message the UN Security Council sent powerfully yesterday night was also the choice of diplomacy and of the political way rather than the military escalation. And also on this the international community was united. And also on this the European Union brought its weight, its proposal. This was our line from the beginning: economic pressure also as a way to prevent the risk of a military spiral.
On the diplomatic side, what are we going to do as the European Union from today onwards? First of all working to keep the international unity. This is essential. Many of you referred to the risk of having to face a third world war. Well, the unity of the international community, the unity of the P5 [China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States], the unity of the UN Security Council, is the best guarantee we can have that that tension, that crisis will not develop in that direction.
The UN system is our point of reference. We have to prove that we trust the UN system, also for preventing major wars from happening. So, first, we will continue to work with all - with all - to keep the unity of the international community. And again when I say all I mention the United States, I mention Russia, I mention China - with whom we have been working very well in the past and with whom we have constantly in these months worked at my level, with their foreign ministers, in New York and locally, to think together on how to open diplomatic channels.
Not diplomatic channels because diplomatic channels including with the DPRK are open, we have seven Member States that have embassies in Pyongyang. We have humanitarian programmes run by some Member States in Pyongyang and in the DPRK. When I say diplomatic channels, I mean a system of mediation of diplomatic talks that can guarantee a credible engagement. Because talks for talks are not necessarily a good idea. What we need is to create the conditions in the international community with all our partners, including with the European Union, to create the conditions for credible and meaningful diplomatic negotiations.
This is the second thing we will do: coordinate with our partners, starting from China, Russia, the United States and our regional partners – the Republic of Korea, which needs to feel ownership and to lead the way. [The] President [Moon Jae-in] has shown wisdom and determination and I think we have a privileged access and channel of exchange. We have regular contacts with the Foreign Minister [Kang Kyung-wha] and again we will continue this very frequently - and with Japan - to make sure that there is a concerted, united understanding of how to best open this credible diplomatic path.
Many of you referred to the experience, the knowledge that the European Union has in these kind of situations. We have obviously quite a deep knowledge and know-how and experience when it comes to nuclear negotiations, when it comes to nuclear negotiations linked to sanctioned regimes. We have been running the Iran negotiations [leading to the JCPOA] for quite some years with a successful result. There, the unity of the international community was key. But there was another element there that was essential and that we do not have at the moment in the situation of the DPRK which is the political will.
You cannot mediate or offer the goodwill of an honest broker, unless you see real determination, the real political will to engage in a negotiation. That door, that little space still needs to be open. This is where we need the unity of the international community to push for that little space to be opened. Then we can definitely, yes, work for a diplomatic negotiation that might take a lot of time but is always possible.
Again, I do not particularly like the parallels between the situation in Iran and in the DPRK: the political systems are very different; the histories are very different; the two countries are completely different. I do not think it is a good service to the reality of history and of the current situation to make a parallel between the two. But for sure, yes, the competence, the know-how, the skills, the experience of the European Union in this field are ready to be used to accompany such a process, provided we start to see an opening in the political will to seriously engage to find a peaceful solution to this tension. Thank you.
Link to the video: http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I143181