Sunday, October 4, 2015

European Leaders Address UN General Assembly Annual Debate

Several European leaders took to the podium last week at the UN General Assembly’s annual debate, highlighting that the world is again living in restless times, especially in light of the unprecedented scale of humanitarian crises, including the migrant and refugee crisis.

Speaking on behalf of Germany, the Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs said the old balance of power is under pressure. “Powerful new players have emerged on the world stage,” Frank-Walter Steinmeier said, noting that above all, it is non-state actors who are increasingly responsible for war and violence, and for whom “there are no rules.”

The Minister highlighted that the world today is more closely interconnected than ever before with borders becoming indistinct making all countries neighbours. “Act as good neighbours!” he advised.

“Nobody is investing so much hope in this spirit of good neighbourliness today than the millions of women, men and children who have fled their homes,” he declared, adding that his country has assumed responsibility for them over the past months. Since the start of the year, Germany has reportedly taken in 600,000 refugees, with up to 10,000 new refugees currently arriving every day.

Foreign Minister Steinmeier also underlined how he finds it “scandalous” that UN agencies helping people in need are so under-funded that they have to cut food rations and medical aid. “I therefore met with the G7 States and other partners the day before yesterday, and am delighted to report that together we have raised an additional 1.8 billion dollars – of which over 100 million come from Germany.”

Regarding the recent agreement forged between Iran, Germany, and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (United States, France, United Kingdom, China, and Russia), the German minister said after 10 years of negotiations, it’s been ensured that “Iran will never have an atomic bomb.”

He also called on countries to work together to end the “brutality of Assad’s dictatorship” to stop the slaughter in Syria. “At the risk of repeating myself, let me stress that when dealing with a humanitarian catastrophe as horrifying as the one in Syria, we are all neighbours!”

Meanwhile, neighbouring country Austria was represented at the General Assembly today by its Federal Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs, who called for a “comprehensive approach” to the migrant and refugee crisis.

Sebastian Kurz said efforts should focus on confronting the root causes, namely terrorism and civil war, in the countries of origin. While the current political leadership of Syria could not be part of a long-term solution, to make peace, “we don’t talk only to friends,” he stated.

At the global level, Mr. Kurz insisted that more unity is required and that the international community can make a difference only if the United States and the Russian Federation “pull in one direction.”

He also underlined that the Russian-Ukrainian conflict remains a challenge to the peace of Europe, and said his country supports a “peaceful settlement based on dialogue”, which would allow Ukraine to be free and stable, enjoying strong ties with Europe and Russia.

In addition, he voiced his support for restraint on the use of the Security Council veto in cases of mass atrocities.

Moving North, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Ireland, Charles Flanagan, said his country will always speak out to defend the vulnerable, and that Ireland feels “ a strong sense of responsibility to protect the reputation” of UN peacekeepers. The country currently has 370 troops serving in seven UN peacekeeping missions.

(Adapted from a UN press release)

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