I thank the delegation of Lithuania for having organized today’s debate, and its Minister for Foreign Affairs for participating in it. Together with my colleague from the United Kingdom, I note that today — Valentine’s Day — happens to be the day when the United Nations and the European Union get together. It is obviously a sign.
I salute the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. The European Union is endowed with original tools and a proactive policy based on a comprehensive approach to crisis resolution. It is more than ever in Africa, which occupies nearly 70 per cent of the time and energy of the Security Council, that the European Union plays its role in promoting peace and security, most often in cooperation with the United Nations.
In Mali, for example, the European Union has given its support rebuilding the defence force, working in perfect complementarity with the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali. The deployment of the European Union training mission in Mali to train the Malian armed forces contributes to the same goal of restoring Malian sovereignty as that of the Blue Helmets. The Security Council was recently able to meet the Commander of the training mission in Mali, and we took note of the effectiveness of the Mission’s efforts.
Clearly, today it is the crisis in the Central African Republic that compels our attention. Since December, the international military presence has grown stronger in the country. The size of the African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic has increased from 2,000 to 6,000 soldiers in a few weeks. We are grateful to the African Union for that. The force is supported, as members of the Council know, by the 1,600 French soldiers of Operation Sangaris. Earlier today, the President of the French Republic decided to strengthen those 1,600 on the ground with an additional 400 soldiers. It will soon receive the support of the European Union force to the Central African Republic, as was decided by European Foreign Ministers on 10 February. The operation will make an important contribution to the efforts made to provide security and protection of civilians in the region of Bangui. It is crucial that the European force be in a position to be deployed quickly and that States members of the European Union go into action to help. The involvement of the High Representative and the Secretary-General in convincing still reluctant Member States to join in is essential in that respect. Any delay by the European Union would be difficult to understand.
Until now, thanks to the Africa force supported by the French forces, many lives were saved and large massacres avoided. We are nevertheless confronted with a situation of general insecurity born of the collapse of the Central African State. What do we need today in the Central African Republic? First of all, money is needed to put civil servants back to work, in particular police and paramilitary police, followed by international police units, because the challenge that we must meet requires today police more than soldiers. Soldiers cannot control crowds or protect individuals.
In all those priority areas, the United Nations, through the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic, which needs to be strengthened as the Security Council has requested, and, as soon as possible, through a peacekeeping operation, and the European Union, through the significant cooperation that it is implementing in the Central African Republic — all of those organizations — have an essential role to play. They act together and with Africans to allow Central Africans to live again in peace.
We are at a turning point in the crisis management in Central Africa. We have avoided the worst but we still must put an end to the cycle of ethnic and religious violence and prevent the country from descending into chaos. But as the Secretary-General said, we must act quickly — on the security front; on the political front, by promoting national reconciliation, fighting impunity and preparing for elections; and on the humanitarian front. That requires the efforts of all, and the European Union and the United Nations should do more. They will have to do it swiftly and realistically and creatively.
We confidently expect to see the commitment of the United Nations and the European Union fulfilled in a crisis where values are at stake and where France is doing its duty.
Beyond its deployment in the field, the European Union is also a valuable partner of the United Nations in the search for lasting solutions to international crises. In Syria, despite the persistent impasse in the Council, the European Union is firmly committed to a democratic transition and has been very vocal on that issue. Since May 2011, the European Union has imposed a wide range of individual financial and trade sanctions against the regime; they were necessary and we applaud them. With more than €600 million in humanitarian aid, the European Union and its States members are the primary support of the Syrian population, including in neighbouring countries. And the European Union continues to make its presence felt in assisting with the dismantling of the Syrian chemical arsenal by contributing to the trust funds that are financing the joint mission of the United Nations and Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons created for that purpose.
Similarly, on the Iranian nuclear issue, we thank the High Representative for her exemplary commitment in working with the E3+3 in order to keep the door open for dialogue with Tehran. It is both the United Nations sanctions and those of the European Union that brought about the progress that we have seen recently. With the adoption of a joint plan of action in November 2013, which began to be implemented in January, the appropriateness of that approach is clear. The dialogue is ongoing and the European Union will play its full role in helping to define a long-term solution.
Finally, the ideal of peace that the European Union is seeking today to extend beyond its borders is already at work in its immediate environment. The European Union plays its role at the heart of the European continent: in the Balkans, a region once ravaged by war. While disturbances marred recent days in a number of cities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it is for the Union to continue its efforts to bring stabilization and economic development to that country. Promoting bilateral dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo, the European Union offers them an opportunity to find their place in a space that is beyond them. Only that perspective will allow them to turn the page on conflict once and for all.
In addition, following a decision by the European Council in December, the first intergovernmental conference, which opened Serbia’s accession negotiations, was held on 21 January. Serbia now has everything it needs to join the European Union. Similarly, the Commission was authorized to open talks with Kosovo to negotiate a stabilization and association agreement.
I conclude by saying that this particular work by the European Union resulted three years ago in the adoption of General Assembly resolution 65/276, which establishes the place of the European Union as a partner and friend of the United Nations.
In paying tribute to the work of Baroness Catherine Ashton over the past four years, I also want to emphasize that the European Union is more than simply a regional organization. It is the pillar of a coherent and effective international system. It is a group of States that have embarked upon an undertaking without precedent and without parallel.