Borrell to EU Diplomats: I get better Information from Newspapers than from You

EU | October 13, 2022, Thursday // 10:36|  views

Josep Borrell

The European Union's top foreign policy official has accused his top diplomats of being slow, inefficient and condescending to the countries they work in, also blaming them for failing to foresee Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the Guardian reported.

"This is not the time when we are going to send flowers to all of you, saying you are beautiful, you are doing very well and we are very happy," Josep Borrell told the ambassadors, who work for the European External Action Service.

Borrell, a former Spanish foreign minister with a reputation for being outspoken, complained that the EU's global diplomatic network was less informative than reading newspapers. "Sometimes I knew more about what was going on somewhere by reading the papers than by reading your reports," he said.

"I have to be the best-informed person in the world," Borrell stressed, instructing them to better respond to unfolding crises. "Behave as you would if you were an embassy: send a telegram, email - quickly. Quickly, please react."

He added that the EU failed to foresee that Russia would attack Ukraine and had to rely on warnings from the US, in particular a phone call from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken two days before the invasion. "I have to admit that here in Brussels, the Americans were telling us that 'they will attack, they will attack', and we were not very inclined to believe it."

As the audience sat in silence, Borrell accused his diplomats of lacking empathy and condescending to their counterparts in host countries.

Voicing long-term concerns, Borrell said the EU was losing the "battle of narratives" to Russia and China, which have deployed trolls to spread their messages around the world. "This is a battle we are not winning because we are not fighting hard enough," he stressed, criticizing EU diplomats for not retweeting his blog posts or tweets. "I'm still surprised that in some delegations, they don't seem to pay enough attention to our communication and tweet and retweet the messages we send from the center. You have to be a network that repeats, transmits, insists."

The Guardian notes that while Borrell has never held back his criticism of what he sees as flaws in the EU's foreign policy, it is unusual for a senior European official to level such criticism at his own staff.

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Tags: diplomats, EU, borrell, Russia


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