EU will react to Russia's aggression against Ukraine, Borrell tells PAP


The EU will act decisively if Russia commits further acts of aggression against Ukraine, Josep Borrell, the EU's foreign policy chief, has told PAP.

Borrell travels to Ukraine on Tuesday, where he will stay until Thursday. The visit, according to the EU diplomatic services, is intended to emphasise the EU's strong support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity at a time when the country is facing Russian military action and hybrid operations.

Accompanied by the Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, Borrell will first visit the east of Ukraine and the "contact line" where Ukraine's armed forces face Russia-backed separatists. From there, he will go to Kiev, where he will meet the Ukrainian authorities.

Speaking to PAP, Borrell said the current situation is a threat to the stability and security of not only Ukraine, but also of the region and it cannot be discussed "without all the relevant actors around the table."

His comments appear to play down a suggestion by Joe Biden, the US president, that the largest Nato allies - USA, France, Germany and Great Britain - should consult Ukraine's situation in talks with Russia, thus bypassing Ukraine and Poland itself.

"The EU cannot be a neutral spectator in these negotiations if Russia really wants to discuss Europe's security architecture. We are building a Common Foreign and Security Policy and a Common Security and Defence Policy precisely for that purpose," Borrell told PAP.

He said that the EU is "in regular contact with its Ukrainian counterparts," and that the purpose of his first foreign trip in 2022 is to talk to the EU's Ukrainian partners about their concerns and about what can be done to address them.

"I also want to stress that Ukraine, like any other country in the word, is entitled to, and free to, choose its political or security alliances and partnerships. No one will be deciding about things related to Ukraine without Ukraine," Borrell told PAP.

Asked whether the European Union is planning any additional financial assistance for Ukraine in connection with the situation in the east of the country, Borrell spoke of the "unprecedented support to Ukraine" of over EUR 17 billion provided by the bloc since 2014.

"The EU-Ukraine Association Agreement is the most comprehensive agreement that the EU has with any another third country," he said. "Enhancing Ukraine's internal resilience includes sustained reform efforts, it is equally important in strengthening Ukraine's capacity to resist external challenges," he added.

According to Borrell, the recent tensions created by Russian military build-up at the borders are "an escalation of continuous pressure."

"In this context, we stand ready to consider also other forms of support, such as the EUR 31 million the EU just adopted in support of Ukraine's armed forces, to help among other issues with cyber defence, or building the armed forces' capacities," he said.

"Let me make very clear two things: the EU is the closest partner of Ukraine and we firmly support Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty, and the need to respect international law, rules and principles," Borrell added.

Asked whether he intends to take up the topic of Nord Stream 2 during the talks in Ukraine, Borrell said that the issue "is now in the hands of the German regulatory authorities."

But he reiterated that his visit would focus on the political and security situation in Ukraine.

"I want to convey a message of strong European support and also stress, that any provocation or aggression against Ukraine would have serious consequences." he said.

Referring to possible sanctions in the event of Russia's further aggression against Ukraine, he said that the EU "continues to be in close coordination and consultations with our transatlantic and like-minded partners in this regard."

"We are focusing now all our efforts on defusing the tensions and preventing things from deteriorating. But if Russia decides to commit further violations or aggression against Ukraine, we stand ready to react decisively," Borrell said.