President attends the 17th meeting of the Arraiolos Group of EU Presidents

Thu 6th Oct, 2022 | 11:00
location: Mediterranean Conference Centre, Malta

Mediterranean Conference Centre, Malta

Thursday, 06th October, 2022

Statement by President Higgins following 2022 meeting of the Arraiolos Group of EU Presidents

Date: Thu 6th Oct, 2022 | 18:42

“It has been a privilege to attend the 17th Meeting of the Arraiolos Group this week. I would like to extend my warm gratitude to President Vella and to the people of Malta for their hospitality during our short time here.

Each year these coming togethers afford us the opportunity of discussing some of the most pressing issues, global and European, which we collectively face, and I welcomed participating with my fellow Heads of State in what were constructive discussions over the past two days.

Our discussions today took place in the atmosphere of war. It was very important that we expressed our revulsion to breaches of international law and of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia and the necessity to offer the people of Ukraine our solidarity and our assistance.

We were anxious too that we would not lose sight of what have been the great moments of hope in recent years. That is, the agreements that were reached globally in relation to sustainability and in relation to what we must do to cease the terrible consequences of climate change, and how it is important that the European public are not distracted from the achievements which are so necessary under those two great challenges.

Multilateralism, on which our international agreements and shared concerns are built, is currently under extreme pressure and gatherings such as we have had allow us an opportunity to build on our collective experience and to consider how with shared responsibility and action we might tackle key challenges, so many of which extend beyond the borders both of individual Member States and of the EU itself.

Among our discussions today has been a consideration of issues such as security in all its forms, including food security and energy security, climate, population movements and global social justice. Over recent months we have been reminded again and again of the interconnections of all of these great challenges which we face.

It has lent a sense of urgency to our actions, forcing us to reconsider and reaffirm our values and our aims.

These are intersecting, interacting crises. Be it the consequences that are exacerbated by the illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine by Russia, to the grave threat of a third famine in three decades in the Horn of Africa, to the floods in Pakistan and so many other crises besides, we see the direct interconnection between these and other key issues. Consequences of climate change, conflict, displacement, food insecurity.

It was therefore valuable that as part of our discussions today we were able to consider the ways in which the EU can respond to global social injustices, which are deepening, and propose new policies.

In discussing insecurity, we discussed perhaps the most basic security of all - security of being free from hunger. We took account for instance of what’s happening in the Horn of Africa, which is an example of how those who are least responsible for climate change consequences have in fact paid the highest price.

For example, 0.024% of emissions come from the Horn of Africa where 36 million people are threatened with food insecurity. We discussed how our different dimensions of multilateralism interact. Those most threatened with hunger and starvation are threatened by debt dependencies with 16% of what they earn from their exports going to debt servicing and as low as 5% available for public health.

In this context, I was pleased to have the opportunity to emphasise the need to address the structural factors that are causing food insecurity in particular, including issues of monopoly in production and distribution, debt, and conflict sourced in climate change.

Globally the EU is often the largest responder to humanitarian aid and it is vitally important that all of our individual countries make the immediate humanitarian funding available that is required to avert immediate disaster in the Horn of Africa.

However, we must also acknowledge that a humanitarian response alone is not sufficient to address what are recurring famines, unless we take the transforming structural actions that are required, indeed long overdue, in order to tackle the issues which I have just mentioned. Put simply, we must have the courage to get beyond humanitarian responses and have courage to make the structural changes necessary.

Following on from our discussions here in the Arraiolos Group, I will be travelling to Strasbourg to address the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and in my contribution there I intend to reflect more broadly on these issues, including multilateralism and the efficacy of our institutional architecture, and what can be done to reassert the moral weight of our shared multilateral institutions.

It is vital that we continue to work as partners to achieve peace, stability, and lasting solutions as we face these crises, both now and in the future. 

In concluding, I would like to once again thank President Vella for his work in hosting this week’s meeting and to wish all of my fellow Heads of State my very best wishes for the months ahead as we face what are grave challenges both as a European Union and as a global community. I hope that when we all meet again, that this dreadful war with all its consequences will have ended and we will be meeting in peace.”