Dr. Salem Al Ketbi
Dr. Salem Al Ketbi Courtesy:

As an observer, I cannot describe the statements of Josep Borrell, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and his talk of “jungles,” “gardeners” and “high walls” to protect the “European garden” any better than statements expressing a hateful racist worldview.

This cannot be seen with any kind of understatement. This issue is not an afterthought or a passing mention.

The man even has a holistic vision that he has expressed in his statements. But ultimately, they cannot be dismissed or argued away. There are important aspects to this catastrophic statement.

The first is that it comes from the High Representative for European Foreign Policy, who is at the pinnacle of diplomacy in the EU, with all the attributes, qualities and supposed considerations worthy of that office. Had these statements been made by an extremist politician, alarmism would have raged. Let alone by someone who reflects European diplomatic countenance.

The second of these dimensions is that Borrell calls the world a “jungle” and speaks of “invasion” and “high walls.” “Europe is a garden. We have built a garden. Everything works. It is the best combination of political freedom, economic prosperity and social cohesion that the humankind has been able to build.”

He added that “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, but they will not protect the garden by building walls.”

This is inherently disastrous because it divides the world into gardens and jungles, with all the hostility that this means for the idea of international cooperation and the values and principles on which international relations have been based since the end of the Second World War, the scourge of which Europe has lived through.

It also promotes racist and isolationist ideas and incites intolerance, discrimination, hatred and rejection of the other at a time when humanity is suffering from the dissemination of these ideas.

In addition, it comes from a representative of Europe that never stops talking about values, principles, freedoms, pluralism, coexistence and other buzzwords that seemed like masks to the world as soon as Borrell spoke different. Borrell does not seem to realize that these statements harm Europe, its people and countries more than the rest of the world.

These statements will end up on the wrong side of history. They will remain a stain on the EU and its institutions.
The demographic mosaic of Europe does not accept these hateful views. The idea of an isolated “garden” can only play into the narrative of the European right, which has the same vision of the world, which means throwing Europe’s stability and security into the precipice at a time when the old continent needs nothing but cohesion and alignment in the face of unprecedented crises.

These statements will end up on the wrong side of history. They will remain a stain on the EU and its institutions. It is very unfortunate that the EU chief diplomat is so superficial in his statements that he is unable to understand beyond words and distinguish his personal opinion from the high diplomatic office.

I do not understand those who try to explain away statements by ignoring their content and jumping directly to their objective, while he was clearly poking the bear. Personally, I tend to view the statements as inexcusable.

When Josep Borrel tried to offer an “apology,” he did not apologize for the idea at all, but felt that some had misunderstood the analogy or metaphor as an expression of the European colonial spirit, and denied that his statements invariably offended the rest of the world, not “some” who felt offended as he claimed.

This attempt to explain the insult did not amount to an open apology for the entire insult. It was an unsuccessful attempt to rationalize unfortunate remarks, of which Borrell has made a number throughout his career. Josep Borrell is best known for his professional hiccups.

One gets the impression that in the most sensitive political and diplomatic matters he speaks as if he were sitting in a “café” among friends, casually saying what he wants, without considering the consequences of this dangerous comment, after which the EU can no longer put on the mask of morality and lecture others about human rights, values, freedoms, equality, justice and other long series of excuses contained in the reports of the EU and its institutions against many countries.

Borrell’s statements, which some call bold, cannot be classified as such; they fall under other labels that it is preferable not to mention. I am personally surprised that the EU is unaware of the implications of such statements and their potential impact on the Union’s relations with the peoples of the world.

In my opinion, the UAE in particular is rightly outraged and provoked by these statements, which undermine many of the UAE’s tremendous efforts to promote the values of tolerance and human coexistence.

The UAE has made immense efforts through various institutional efforts to promote coexistence and respect for cultural, religious and ethnic pluralism and to establish shared human values in a manner that contributes to global security and stability.

These efforts, which culminated in the signing of the Abraham Peace Agreement between the UAE and Israel, ushering in a new era of peace and stability in one of the world’s most tense regions, are well known.

These efforts aim to disseminate and strengthen the values and principles contained in the Document of Brotherhood signed in the UAE in February 2019 by Pope Francis, Pope of the Catholic Church, and HE Dr. Ahmed Al Tayeb, Sheikh Al Azhar Al Sharif and Chairman of the Council of Muslim Elders.

The aim was to combat extremism, spread the values of coexistence, moderation and coexistence, and strengthen world peace. This led to a unanimously adopted UN General Assembly resolution declaring February 4 as the International Day of Brotherhood Among Men, an initiative of the UAE, the Kingdom of Bahrain, the Arab Republic of Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

This day has been celebrated by the international community every year since 2021. Therefore, I am not surprised by the fierce anger of some UAE representatives over Borrell’s remarks.

Dr. Salem AlKetbi is a UAE political analyst