Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Josep Borell, EU Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Chief: "Europe is a garden... the rest of the world is a jungle"

    Wednesday, October 19, 2022   No comments

 After days of mounting international backlash, Josep Borrell, the European Union's outspoken foreign policy chief, has apologised for people being hurt by his comments, but necessarily for what he said.


"My reference to 'jungle' has no racist, cultural or geographical connotation," the diplomat said. "Unfortunately, the 'jungle' is everywhere, including today in Ukraine."

Josep Borell, the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, has triggered a controversy by saying that Europe was a garden and “most of the rest of the world” was a jungle. He warned in a speech at the European Diplomatic Academy on the 13th of October that the “jungle could invade the garden”.

“The gardeners should take care of it, but they will not protect the garden by building walls. A nice small garden surrounded by high walls in order to prevent the jungle from coming in is not going to be a solution. Because the jungle has a strong growth capacity, and the wall will never be high enough in order to protect the garden. The gardeners have to go to the jungle. Europeans have to be much more engaged with the rest of the world. Otherwise, the rest of the world will invade us, by different ways and means.”

"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 – the three things together," Borrell said during the event.


"The rest of the world," he went on, "is not exactly a garden. Most of the rest of the world is a jungle, and the jungle could invade the garden."

Borrell then appeared to refer to EU ambassadors as "gardeners" and urged them to "go to the jungle," that is to carry out their diplomatic work around the world and advance the bloc's geopolitical agenda.

"A nice small garden surrounded by high walls in order to prevent the jungle from coming in is not going to be a solution. Because the jungle has a strong growth capacity, and the wall will never be high enough in order to protect the garden," he said.

"Europeans have to be much more engaged with the rest of the world. Otherwise, the rest of the world will invade us, by different ways and means."

But over the weekend, the "garden vs jungle" metaphor gained traction across social media, fuelling backlash against the diplomat for what many saw as condescending, out-of-touch and racist undertones and a stark reflection of the Western sphere's superiority complex over the Global South.

Video clips on Twitter received hundreds of thousands of views. International media, such as the New York Times and Al Jazeera, offered critical coverage of the fallout.

The United Arab Emirates summoned the acting head of the EU delegation in the country and asked for explanations over the "inappropriate and discriminatory" remarks.

Marc Botenga, a Belgian MEP from the Left, said Borrell's words were "rooted in colonialism and racism."

On Monday morning, when asked about the growing criticism against his remarks, Borrell said he was "very okay" and that "every day is as much as intense as the previous one."

Standing his ground

By Tuesday evening, as backlash continued, the diplomat, who is affiliated with the socialist party, offered a careful apology but stood his ground and stuck to the metaphor.

"The metaphor of 'the garden' and 'the jungle' is not my invention. Some truly dislike it because, among others, it has been used by US neo-conservatives, but I am far from this school of political thought," he wrote in his personal blog.

"Regrettably, the world in which we live today looks more and more like a 'jungle' and less and less like a 'garden', because in many parts of the world, the law of the strongest is eroding agreed international norms."

Borrell said Europe had managed to replace centuries of war with lasting peace, cooperation and the rule of law, while other countries outside the continent, such as Russia, were resorting to "force, intimation and blackmail to get their way."

"I also have enough experience to know that neither Europe nor 'the West' is perfect and that some countries of 'the West' have at times violated international legality," he admitted.


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