December 10, 2023


European Union External Representative Josep Borrell – How the “volcanic” man was introduced in Moscow

After the poor performance of the chief European diplomat in the Russian capital, there is great disappointment. The European Union appears weak.

EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell told a news conference in Moscow on Friday that he did not want to open the dispute.

Photo: Keystone

Josep Borrell expected that no one would be satisfied after his trip to Moscow. The foreign representative of the European Union had left without any apparent unexpected results: he wanted to seek dialogue, again demanding the immediate release of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and speaking to civil society. Before leaving, he said: “We cannot say: I do not love you, so I will stay in my corner.”

Yet Russian President Vladimir Putin is still not approaching the European Union by one millimeter. While Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday afternoon Speaking to Borrell, it became known that Russia was expelling diplomats from Germany, Poland and Sweden for their participation in the pro-Navalny protests. That was offensive and it made the wing spin Disaster.

Ice cold diplomacy

The press conference held by Lavrov and Borel after the exchange of harsh blows on Ukraine, Belarus and the human rights situation in Russia also contributed to this. The 50 minutes confirmed those who do not trust that the 73-year-old will be the chief diplomat of the European Union. Since Lavrov had been Minister of Foreign Affairs since 2004, his appearance was predictable: he coldly denied Moscow’s responsibility for poisoning Navalny with a chemical warfare agent, accused the West of “double standards” and called on the European Union to impose sanctions on the “illegal” annexation of Crimea.

It was no coincidence that Borrell failed to correct these lies. He did not want to open the dispute publicly. Usually a trained engineer and experienced politician knows exactly what he is doing. He served as Minister of Infrastructure and Transport in his home country. In 2004 he became President of the European Parliament. His time at the helm of the European University Institute in Florence ended prematurely when he was accused of receiving 300,000 euros a year as a member of the Supervisory Board of an energy supplier. In 2018, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez appointed him Foreign Minister, which turned out to be a starting point: Because their first candidate, Frans Timmermans, did not get a chance to head the European Union Commission, the Social Democrats got another job in the European Union.

European Union diplomats describe Borrell as “dangerously naive” and complain that he is primarily interested in Latin America.

The fact that Borrell’s office as “the highest representative of foreign and security policy” is challenging as much as it is ungrateful is not only due to the fact that each of the 27 EU members has a veto power. Foreign policy is also an area in which European Union Council President Charles Michel and President Borel Ursula von der Leyen compete. Germany and the nuclear power France also know how to enforce and use their interests and economic power, even if this conflicts with the often cited “unifying aspect of Europe”.

Regarding Russia, this is almost impossible if you have to balance Putin’s friend Viktor Orban with the suspicious Poles and Palatine. EU diplomats do not deny this, who describe Borrell as “dangerously naive” and complain that he is primarily interested in Latin America. They expected the Kremlin to use this press conference for propaganda purposes due to domestic political pressure. Many of Lavro’s claims have been refuted by European Union experts – and they are working for Borrell. He’s not short of a reconfiguration: he articulates more clearly than his predecessor Federica Mogherini and loves to argue with journalists. The Spanish newspaper El Mundo once attributed her “volcanic character”.

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Borrell had indicated that there had been no foreign representative of the European Union in Moscow since 2017 and that his talks were supposed to attend the discussion of heads of state and government on relations with Russia in March. Borrell had announced before the meeting with Lavrov that they were “at their lowest levels.” Now there is a huge disappointment, the European Union appears weak.