European Union External Action

Remarks by the High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell at the joint press conference with Heiko Maas, German Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs

Berlin, 27/01/2020 - 17:08, UNIQUE ID: 200127_15
Remarks

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Dear Minister, lieber Heiko [Heiko Maas, Foreign Affairs Minister of Germany].

I am very happy to start my first official visit to Germany in my new role as High Representative/Vice-President of the Commission with the meeting we just had. Thank you very much for receiving me in such a beautiful place. 

Thank you for hosting me, in this place, to talk about the major crisis around the world: from Libya, Iran, Iraq, Syria, to the Sahel or Venezuela, we have a lot of challenges to preserve the key multilateral systems and agreements. For me, after this meeting especially, one thing is clear: we need a more united European Union approach. We need to be more united, we have to share a common understanding of the world in order to develop a stronger common foreign and security policy. 

It is true that sometimes we have been allowing vacuums to be created and these vacuums have been filled by other countries as it is the case in Libya.

I want to stress the fact that Germany has to play a leading role and assuming a bigger, stronger and more assertive foreign policy for Europe. Nothing can be done without Germany. 

And I know very well that my work will be successful only if I can count on your support. We have a strong personal friendship, a good personal relationship, which is the basis of political understanding. And I thank you for the possibility of working together.

I want also to congratulate you, dear Heiko [Heiko Maas, Foreign Affairs Minister of Germany], and Germany, for the diplomatic success achieved a week ago at the Berlin conference on Libya. It was a very important step forward. And the fact that you were able to gather here all of the relevant people to solve the crisis, was an important success that nobody was able to do before. But now, we have to follow the developments on the ground. Some of them are quite worrying, because it seems that the ceasefire is not completed. We have to continue working on that.

We will do our best to implement the ceasefire and to support the United Nations arms embargo. I hope also that in the next Foreign Affairs Council after our talks we can revive some of the operations that the European Union has been developing in the Mediterranean. 

On Iran, I think that it is very clear for me, after talking with the German minister, that we share one clear common goal: to preserve the nuclear deal. The launch of the dispute resolution mechanism is not a way of taking it to the Security Council, but on the contrary - to look for a diplomatic field to preserve this deal. 

In respect to the Western Balkans, we stand together in our vision on how to deliver stability and security in this important region of our immediate vicinity. 

We will try to do our best in order to facilitate the Dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo. I informed the Minister of my plan to visit both at the end of this week. 

I am sure I can count on the support the cooperation of Germany in order to build this stronger and united foreign policy for Europe. 

Thank you Minister. 

 

Q&A

Q. Wie enttäuscht sind Sie, dass mehrere Teilnehmer der Berliner Konferenz nach wie vor das UN-Waffenembargo brechen? Kann man angesichts dieses anhaltenden Bruchs des UN-Waffenembargos noch von einem Erfolg der Berliner Konferenz sprechen? Und wie wollen Sie die Teilnehmer der Berliner Konferenz dazu bringen, ihre Zusagen auch einzuhalten in Bezug auf das UN Waffenembargo?

Everybody knew that the results of the Berlin conference not be automatically implemented. Everybody knew that it was not an agreement that we was going to enter into force tomorrow, but it was the first step. This kind of problems cannot be solved overnight but we needed a starting point and the Berlin Conference provided this starting point. Now we have to follow the events closely, the military meeting that Minister [Heiko Maas] referred to will be the second step and we have to put pressure on all parties in order to fulfil the agreement first, and in order to influence their proxies in order for them to also fulfil it. So let us be a little bit patient, active but patient, because it is not going to be solved tomorrow, but we are on a much better track than before the Berlin Conference.

Q. Meine Frage betrifft die Ausbreitung des Corona-Virus in China. Erste westliche Länder haben jetzt erklärt, dass sie ihre Staatsangehörigen aus der betroffenen Region herausholen wollen. Welche Haltung haben Sie dazu? Und welche Maßnahmen werden womöglich erforderlich sein im Hinblick auf die weitere Ausbreitung?

Now I am taking off my hat of High Representative and I put on my hat of Vice-President of the European Commission and speaking on behalf of the Commission, to say that the Commission has been closely monitoring the situation, since the first cases in China were reported, as early as last December. And there is a strong coordination with the Member States and the European Union Early Warning and Response System (EWRS). The Commissioner for Health [and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides] has been keeping touch with the World Health Organisation last week and there is going to be a health Ministers meeting of all EU countries to coordinate and report on all the suspected cases. The Commission is closely analysing the situation and coordinating the answers from the Member States.

Q. Frage an Herrn Borrell: Eine Jüdin, mit der wir gesprochen haben, hat gesagt, Deutschland sei das beste Land in Europa für Juden, um dort zu leben, weil in ganz Europa der Antisemitismus zunehme. Hat sie Recht, und was kann man dagegen tun?

You know that the so-called “Jewish question” is something very important for me and I am very sensitive to this issue. I started my adult life working in a kibbutz in Israel and since then I have been following very closely these things. I would like to be in a situation where this kind of classification, this kind of ranking, ‘the best country’, ‘the worst country’, would not be necessary anymore, it would not be relevant. It should not be the ‘best country in Europe for the Jews’, or the ‘worst country in Europe for the Jews’, the Jews should be able to live in all European countries without any kind of difference for them because it should not be an issue to be or not to be a Jew.  This is the important thing. The important thing is not to be the best or the worst, because it does not make any kind of difference.

The other day I was in New York talking with an American Jewish community representative and I was explaining to them how in Europe and in many countries especially in my country, in Spain, we honour the Jewish heritage, the cities that the Jews build, the neighbourhoods in the Spanish cities which have been rebuild, there is even a ‘road of the Jewish cities’ in Spain. You tell me ‘to honor the dead Jews is good’ but it would be much better to safeguard the Jews that are alive today. In that way we should all engage and to fight any kind of attitude against a human being just because he belongs to any kind of ethnic classification. This is the heritage that the very dramatic history of Europe requires from us and one of the things I will do today is to pay a visit and walk through the Holocaust memorial because I am not going to be able to go to Auschwitz. I was there fifteen years ago for the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the camp when I was President of the European Parliament and I think that all Europeans have to be engaged in the fight against any kind of discrimination against any human being because he belongs to a certain kind of ethnic or other group.

Q. You have been mentioning how important it is for the European Union to stay united, to be strong together, but one of its Members just violated sanctions imposed by the European Union on Venezuela, I am referring to José Luis Ábalos, Minister of Transport of Spain, meeting Delcy Rodríguez, Vice-President of Venezuela in Madrid. The name of Ms Rodríguez is in the list of sanctions imposed by the European Union. Have you called Spain, are you planning to call Spain? Is an investigation planned or will you let Spain be the judge? On Morocco planning to extend its territorial water beyond the Canary Islands, will the Commission take part in this issue if Morocco decides to go ahead and expand unilaterally their territorial water? 

I am no longer the Foreign Affairs Minister of Spain, let us be clear. I am not here in this capacity. We have been talking about the problems of the European Union from the German perspective. I can assure you that the problem of [territorial] waters between Spain and Morocco has not been on our agenda. I cannot say anything [about] that because we have not been talking about it [in this meeting]. And I am fully confident that Spain and Morocco will be able to solve these differences by bilateral talks among them. If this is not the case we will see what will happen. But I know very well the Foreign Affairs Minister of Morocco [Nasser Bourita], the Foreign Affairs Minister of Spain [Arancha González Laya], I am fully confident that this problem will be solved with a bilateral approach.

You say ‘there has been a violation’, this is what you say, you are not in charge of determining if there has been a violation or not. I do not know whether there has been a violation or not because I do not have the details but according to our rules it is the national authorities of each country who are in charge of implementing the sanctions and making sure that the sanctions are rightly implemented. So it is up to the national authorities of Spain, in this case the Foreign Affairs Minister of Spain, to deal with what has happened. I do not have any specific information and it is up to the national authorities to ensure and safeguard the implementation of the sanctions.

Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-183646

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