The value of Europe: Statement by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell on Europe Day

(Source: EEAS)

Like every year, we celebrate Europe Day on 9 May and commemorate Robert Schuman’s founding declaration, which launched the European project. Today, this commemoration takes on a very particular meaning. Since 24 February, Europe as a whole has seen the return of war on a large scale on its territory, with an aggressor on one side, Russia, and an aggressed on the other, Ukraine. This war affects first and foremost Europe because it is taking place on its soil. And even if Ukraine is not a Member State of the European Union, it is a very close partner, with whom we have the most comprehensive association agreement and whose European vocation is undeniable.

While for most of our citizens the EU integration process is a huge success story, some of our fellow Europeans have also been swayed by doubts about the usefulness of the European project. In the last years, an increasing number of parties have agitated against the EU and fed doubts about it, including on the EU’s role as a global security actor. The war in Ukraine reminds us now in a dramatic and striking way of the enduring value of the European Union as a peace project among Europeans and as a strong actor to uphold and promote security on our continent and in the wider world.

Let me highlight four key considerations in this regard.

First, Member States have demonstrated the strongest political unity in the face of aggression. Some would have thought this unthinkable, and for sure the Russian aggressor was doubting that we would muster such determination, despite clear warnings. We all understood the seriousness of the aggression and the dangers it carried. Hence the speed at which the Union adopted financial and economic sanctions against Russia in coordination with G7 partners.

A second key element was the decision to use – for the first time ever- the financial resources of the European Peace Facility to help a state under attack defend itself. Three tranches have already been disbursed for a total of €1.5 billion. This European support is coupled with the direct military support from the Member States. It is a further proof that far from restricting the Member States, the union multiplies the power of each of them.

Third, by collectively working towards the end of Europe’s energy dependence on Russia, the EU shows it is stronger at the sum of its parts than when Member States act alone. Not only is it a stronger player in the international energy market, it also limits the exposure of its individual Member States to energy blackmail. This will enhance the EU’s strategic resilience.

Lastly, the strength and determination of the EU’s response in support of Ukraine is not only of benefit and of interest to Europeans.  This is not a question of the ‘West’ against Russia. Upholding core international principles enshrined in the UN Charter equally concerns the North, the East, the South and the West.  No less than 141 states of the international community have explicitly rejected the Russian aggression against Ukraine at the UN General Assembly. They are defending their own territorial integrity and sovereignty against future potential aggressions and saying “no” to the return of the law of the jungle in international relations. They are saying “no” to the falsehoods from the Russian leadership and to the mantle of multilateral relativism under which they pretend to conceal their actions. Furthermore, the EU is engaged in addressing the overall international impact, including economic, of Russia’s war against Ukraine. Here also, the EU unity in exercising international solidarity will make the difference.

Through this war, Europe’s process of learning how to use the language of powers is speeding up. 9 May 2022 must underline this growing awareness: to defend the EU and the values upon which it is based; to put our collective power at the service of our partner Ukraine to defend itself and its full and complete sovereignty; to work with the international community in preserving key international norms and security and to exercise solidarity to address the global consequences of this aggression.

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