European External Action Service

11/11/2023 | Press release | Archived content

Congress of the Party of European Socialists in Malaga, Speech of the High Representative Josep Borrell


Congress of the Party of European Socialists in Malaga, Speech of the High Representative Josep Borrell

Malaga, Spain
Strategic Communications

Colleagues, I would like to congratulate Stefan [Lรถfven] on his re-election as chairman of our party and thank you for letting me share with you some thoughts on Europe's foreign policy at this time and its main problems. There is no shortage of problems. As the year draws to a close, it is at least a double test for Europe.

First in Ukraine, where the prospect of victory over Russia is not immediate, and where we Europeans who have the means to do so, have to be politically and materially ready to help Ukraine, to continue to help it and even to take over from the United States if, as is perhaps likely, its support diminishes.

And on Gaza, where a humanitarian tragedy is taking place and over which Europe has taken its division to the United Nations. What is happening in Gaza is the consequence of a political and moral failure of the international community, which has not done everything it should have done, 30 years after the Oslo agreements, 30 years!, to make the two-state solution a reality. And today the number of Israeli settlers in the occupied territories, because yes, that's what they are called, occupied territories, is four times bigger than 30 years ago and the Palestinian territory has been divided into an archipelago of unconnected areas, which certainly makes it much more difficult to implement the two-state solution, which we have been repeating over and over it was the solution.

In Europe, we are the area closest to most of the world's major imbalances. We can say that we are in the eye of a hurricane. Be it wars, conflicts, inequalities, overpopulation and not at home, but in the immediate environment. And obviously migrations that are the consequence of instability, inequality, overpopulation, in many countries around us, particularly in Africa. And all this causes fear in European society. Fear. And fear is not a good advisor. But this is the harsh reality that we will have to face on the eve of the next European elections, the importance of which I need not tell you.

Yes, the fire has been burning in Ukraine, on the eastern border of Europe, for more than a year and a half, much longer than Putin thought, who believed that in two weeks he would be in Kyiv and would set up a puppet regime there like the one in Belarus. This conflict is lasting thanks to Ukraine's resistance and the support we have given it, without which Ukraine would not have been able to defend itself. And yes, Europe has lived up to its responsibilities. Europe has supported Ukraine economically and militarily, even more than the United States. And above all, Ukraine is already a candidate country for membership of the Union, in a position to obtain solid security guarantees. We are not a military alliance. And therefore the greatest security guarantee we can give Ukraine is to make it a member of the European family. But for that, we must remain united and prepare for a longer conflict than Russia thought and which Russia can never win, but whose end it can delay.

Because Putin's regime has become addicted to war, it needs war. War is an instrument of his political survival, in the face of a population that also suffers but is muzzled and, with the prospect of a US election, which could, he thinks and hopes, negatively affect US support for Ukraine. He believes that democracies are weak and will falter and we cannot prove him right. We have to continue to support Ukraine.

Then there is of course the emergence, the revolt, the vindication, let's call it what we want, of what we like it or not is called the Global South, a heterogeneous group of countries that are increasingly reluctant to support us in Ukraine because they consider that there is a double language, the famous double standard on the part of Europe in view of what is happening in Gaza and our reaction.

And this naturally leads me to speak of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which is the great tragedy of our time, of today, for the Israelis and the Palestinians, and also for Europe, but the dead have been and are being laid by them. It is clear that we must support Israel in the face of the terrorist attacks it has suffered and which nothing justifies. It is clear that we must reject and condemn them, we have done so and we must do so as many times as necessary, but it must also be clear that, as President Obama says in an inspiring text, the way in which Israel defends itself matters, of course it matters. It must respect international humanitarian law and try to minimisecivilian casualties and we must say that cutting off water and food and electricity and fuel to an entire besieged civilian population is not acceptable. Because a strategy that ignores the human costs in the end is not going to work and is going to make peace impossible. And peace is the best and perhaps the only guarantee of security for Israel.

And it must be possible for progressive people like us to defend with equal emphasis the rights of the Palestinians to their freedom, their security and their dignity as much as that of the Israelis. And it must be possible to criticize the government of Israel, the government of Israel, without being accused of anti-Semitism.

Now we must work to achieve an immediate de-escalation and for that we must ensure that the flow of humanitarian aid enters and reaches the people who need it, because there are too many trucks at the border queuing up and there is no lack of money, what is needed is that they can enter with access corridors. And, of course, the International Red Cross must also be able to gain access to the hostages held by Hamas, which Hamas has the imperative to free. To achieve humanitarian pauses to limit the suffering of civilian populations, one, several, cease-fire, cessation of hostilities, call it what you will, and also to make it possible for the Israeli hostages to be released, because all lives matter. The competition between the number of victims is obscene, but we cannot fail to be sensitive to the fact that in Gaza there are already more than ten thousand victims, half of whom are children.

And once the humanitarian truces have been consolidated, which is obviously far from being the case at the moment, we will have to move from aid to politics, from aid to political action. And the immediate political transition will have to be based, I think, on at least three principles that are of my own making. We will have to see what we agree in the European Union, but I think there are three noes and three yeses.

No to the return of Hamas to Gaza. I was in Gaza in 2008, after the first major bombings and since then there have been at least thrice more. Hamas cannot return to Gaza.

No to the amputation of Gaza territory or its reoccupation by Israel.

No to the dissociation of the solution for Gaza from the rest of the Palestinian problem as a whole. This is what our Arab friends tell us when they tell us that they do not want to talk about the day after because it distracts attention from the basic problem, which is the solution to the Palestinian problem as a whole.

Yes to the installation of an interim Palestinian authority in Gaza, under terms of reference and legitimacy defined by a unanimous and unambiguous resolution of the Security Council and guaranteed by it. We can think of a renewable solution that encourages the two sides to reach an agreement, first for Gaza but then also for the West Bank.

Yes to a greater involvement of the Arab states. In some of them, both Israel and the Palestinian Authority can rely on for an interim management of Gaza.

And yes to greater involvement of the European Union in the region. In particular, on how to build a Palestinian state and not only on how to rebuild Gaza, which we have done several times, but on how to build a peaceful Palestinian state, capable of restoring the dignity of the Palestinians and of making peace with Israel. This has to be our goal and our commitment. Otherwise, we will enter into a spiral of violence and we will repeatedly go from funeral to funeral and our security will be more and more threatened. And that is why we Europeans, out of self-interest, but also out of our moral and political responsibility, have to commit ourselves more to peace between Israel and Palestine, which can be a cancer that can metastasisein the entire world and create a new situation of serious instability.

Thank you very much for your attention.

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