Peace in Ukraine*

Josep Borrell
Writer and translator


This week marks one year since Russia started its illegal invasion of Ukraine. As everybody knows. 

This was and remains a clear-cut case of an aggression by a permanent member of the Security Council [of the United Nations]. And this is Russia, everybody knows. 

A blatant violation of international law and the principles of the United Nations Charter. The world needs peace in Ukraine and the people of Ukraine deserve peace after so much suffering. But not just any peace.

We need a peace grounded in the principles of the United Nations Charter, that is why we are [here] in this very hall.  

This is what the resolution – presented by Ukraine – is about. It is about reiterating our support to Ukraine and to set out the principles for peace. 

I want to stress it: this war against Ukraine is not a European issue”. It is not about the West versus Russia”.  

No, this illegal war concerns everyone: the North, the South, the East, the West. The whole world. 

We are here today to reiterate our support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and its territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders, as for any member of the United Nations.  

Yes. Sovereignty. Territorial integrity: these are the principles that Russia is attacking in Ukraine, every day.  

These are also the principles we have to uphold everywhere, every day. 

If we do not condemn and stop Russia’s actions in Ukraine today, this will increase the risk for any other country, elsewhere in the world, to face a similar aggression. 

No one can feel safe in a world where the illegal use of force would be normalised.  

And it is Article 51 of the United Nations Charter: Ukraine has the inherent right to defend itself, just like any other UN member. Ukraine has the right to defend itself and protect its population against the daily shelling by the Russian army.  

The European Union has always been a peace project. We have been quite successful in bringing peace to the European continent and promoting it around the world. It is central to our DNA; it is in our origin. 

And when it comes to Ukraine, the real questions today are: what kind of peace? Yes, peace, but what kind of peace? Yes, end the war: how do we end the war? How to achieve this peace?  

The first obvious step for peace is for Russia to stop its attacks and [it] must end all hostilities and withdraw its forces and military equipment from Ukrainian soil. And it must do it immediately, completely and unconditionally.  

Until then, the European Union will continue to give Ukraine the support it needs to defend its population. It is also in accordance with the United Nations Charter. 

We will continue to provide humanitarian and financial assistance. We will work to hold Russia accountable for its actions and war crimes.  

As we know from experience, that there can be no lasting peace without accountability. 

At the same time, we will continue to support Ukraine’s wish for a just peace, in line with the United Nations Charter through two tracks: supporting Ukraine and looking for peace. They go hand in hand. They are not either/or”. They are not incompatible. On the contrary, they go hand in hand, they are complementary. 

You all know about President [of Ukraine, Volodymyr] Zelenskyy’s Peace Formula.  

The European Union supports it, and we will work to mobilise the broadest possible international support for it.  

Indeed, all of us have a responsibility to work for a just and lasting peace – as this resolution, tabled by Ukraine, sets out.  

The United Nations Secretary-General [Antonio Guterres] has offered his good offices to bring an end to this war, and we support him. 

Others have also contributed to the diplomatic efforts.  

The purpose of this resolution is to support and encourage their efforts to look for peace.  

We – the European Union – have been working in close cooperation with Ukrainian partners throughout the whole preparatory process in a transparent and inclusive manner.  

We have been as inclusive and as transparent as possible. Amendments and comments made in good faith were duly considered and taken on board to the extent possible. 

We thank delegations that engaged with us. This, for sure, has strengthened the text. But, by putting forward additional amendments right now, Belarus tries to create confusion on the process. Whereas the text before the membership is a simple call for peace in line with the United Nations Charter, these amendments are not made in good faith. 

They are manipulative since they do not reflect the situation on the ground, which is the unjustified and unprovoked aggression by one member state against another. 

We will vote against these amendments and call on all United Nations member states to do the same and to support the draft resolution tabled by Ukraine. 

The text before us today is very much in line with the United Nations Secretary-General’s plea at his briefing to the General Assembly on 6 February, and even today in his speech. 

As he rightly put it: The world needs peace. But peace in line with the United Nations Charter and international law”.    

And for all [these] reasons – simple reasons, evident reasons -, I ask you to join us in co-sponsoring this United Nations General Assembly Resolution and vote in favour.  

Because this is a moment for every member of the United Nations to stand and be counted.


* Speech held in New York at the UN General Assembly on 22.02.2023


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