EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell was strongly rebuked and was urged to apologize after describing Europe as ‘garden’ and the world outside Europe as a potentially violent “jungle”.
In a speech on Thursday last week, Josep Borrell, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, described Europe as ‘garden’ and the rest of the world as ‘jungle’, a comparison that was viewed by many as a racist comment.
“Europe is a garden. We have built a garden. Aggregate works are the best combination of political freedom, economic prosperity, and social cohesion that humankind has been able to build,” Borrell said, noting also that “there are three things together and here bridges may be the representation of the beautiful things intellectual life and well-being. The rest of the world is not exactly a garden. Most of the rest of the world is a jungle, and the jungle could invade the garden. The gardeners should take care of it.”
The provocative words by the EU’s top diplomat immediately sparked a wave of harsh criticism, with many urging him to formally apologize for what he said. Critics said Borrell’s speech smacked of racism and imperialism and reflected long-outdated views of European superiority in the world. They also noted the importance of respect for other religions, cultures and ethnic groups, as well as values such as pluralism, coexistence and tolerance.
“This analogy is terribly offensive. It has strong colonialist and racist undertones,” said Philippe Marliere, an expert on French and European politics at University College London.
Dionis Cenusa, a political risk analyst and researcher for the Eastern Europe Studies Centre, also rebuked Borrell and said he should apologize in the EU’s name for his latest remarks. Also in an ironical statement, Ahmed Shaheed, a former UN special rapporteur, suggested diplomats should read the Joseph Conrad novel Heart of Darkness, a critique of western imperialism in Africa.
Russian officials reacted too, with Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova lashing out at perceived western arrogance and imperialism. “The ‘garden’ was built by Europe due to the barbaric attitude to the plundering of the ‘jungle’,” Zakharov said in a statement this Monday.
Last but not least, the UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation added its voice to the growing criticism of Josep Borrell for his “racist” comments, saying that the remarks were “inappropriate and discriminatory”. The ministry also summoned Emil Paulsen, acting head of mission at the EU delegation to the UAE to express its objection to Borrell’s remarks.
Not the first time for Borrell!
It was the second time in a week that a speech by Josep Borrell raised eyebrows and shocked the world. On Monday, he started praising himself like never before and said that “I am the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign and Security Policy. I am in charge of building a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and the [European] External Action Service – and in particular you – are supposed to support me on doing that.”
Borrell then lashed out at the EU’s own diplomatic corps for failing to give him timely briefings. “I think that we have to be faster and to take risks. I need you to report fast, in real time on what is happening in your countries. I want to be informed by you, not by the press. Sometimes, I knew more of what was happening somewhere by reading the newspapers than reading your reports.” Borrell noted.