European leaders took to the podium of the United Nations General Assembly today to call for a global response to terrorism, both by combatting it and taking early action to pre-empt the scourge, which has seen hundreds of thousands of refugees flooding to the continent’s doorstep.
“Joint action by the international community in the fight against violent extremism is crucial. The UN is the best platform to manage and coordinate international efforts,” Bulgarian President Roden Plevneliev told world leaders on the third day of the Assembly’s annual General Debate, calling for close cooperation of governments, law enforcement and regional organizations.
“As long as there is conflict in Syria, the refugee crisis will not go away. The efforts of the entire international community should be focused on ending hostilities in conflict zones, supporting institution building, the rule of law and respect for human rights.”
Noting that the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has become a key obstacle to political settlement in Syria and a serious risk to stability in Iraq, Mr. Plevneliev also called for ramping up preventive action.
“Every crisis can be traced back to its initial phase when someone has violated the law and human rights,” he said. “To prevent future crises, a UN early crisis detection system needs to be set up to safeguard the rule of law and human rights.”
He also denounced Russia’s annexation of Crimea as “a blatant violation of international law,” hailed the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and pledged his country’s efforts to make the Paris conference on climate change in December a success.
Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic also stressed the need for early action against terrorism and conflicts. “Too often, we have to deal with the consequences of our inaction. Too often, instead of solving problems at their source and addressing root causes in their early stages, we spend more time and resources on the crises that we have allowed to spin out of control,” she said.
President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic of Croatia addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventieth session. UN Photo/Cia Pak
“We must change this approach. We must act on time, with determination and adequate resources. This is not only the right thing to do; it is smart thing to do. The migrant crisis that has over-flooded many European States is a textbook example of the consequences of inaction; the price is just too high.”
While noting that the solution to the crisis is an issue of defence against terrorism and extremism in all its forms that must be prevented and defeated at its core, Ms. Grabar-Kitarovic also appealed for providing sufficient financial and material aid to refugee camps in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and elsewhere in the Middle East.
She called for full mobilization of efforts to fight ISIL and all forms of forms of intolerance and discrimination. “We are confronted with unspeakable barbarism and terror with the most appalling forms of murder such as beheadings, sexual violence against women and girls and other most heinous crimes against humanity, culture, religion, dignity and against dearest of all - human life. It is shocking and sickening.”
Swedish Prime Stefan Löfvén called on the Security Council to step up to the plate in Syria. “Time is of the essence,” he said. “The Security Council and its major powers must shoulder this responsibility. This bloodbath must end.”
Noting that Sweden is the largest per capita receiver of asylum seekers in Europe, he said the current refugee situation is now also a global crisis of responsibility. “The UN system, and all leaders of the world, need to come together to ensure that those fleeing war and repression are treated in a safe, orderly and dignified way.
Prime Minister Stefan Löfven of Sweden addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventieth session. UN Photo/Cia Pak
“We should dramatically increase the number of resettlement places, expand legal avenues for migration, and base all our efforts on the principle of non-refoulement and the right to seek asylum. And it is extremely urgent that all countries of the European Union treat the people seeking refuge in the Union in a spirit of humanity, solidarity and shared responsibility.”
The need for a global fight against terrorism and extremism was echoed by Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg who stressed that exodus from Syria today is a direct consequence of the violence unleashed by the Government.
“The conflict in Syria has also allowed extreme terror groups like ISIL to gain a foothold. Now, both the Government and non-State groups such as ISIL and the Nusra front are committing monstrous atrocities. The spread of these extreme groups needs to be stopped,” she added.
Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventieth session. UN Photo/Cia Pak
“The fight against extremism must be maintained, also in our countries. Extremism is once again raising its head in different shapes and forms. The ideology of disorder, discrimination, violence and disruption dominates the ideologies of ISIL, al-Qaeda and their various affiliates.”
Ms. Solberg urged all States to join the proposed code of conduct to enable the Security Council to act decisively against mass atrocities by suspending the use of the veto in such situations by the five permanent members – China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and United States. Several resolutions on Syria have been vetoed.
Calling for a global response to tackling the root causes of migration as the only real long term solution, Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat denounced the unscrupulous people smugglers fuelling the refugee influx across the Mediterranean Sea, “the cradle of civilisation that has now sadly been turned into a graveyard,” he said.
He noted that his island nation has been at the forefront of this dangerous influx that has seen hundreds of people drown. “We are the only country in Europe, and probably the only around the world, that dedicates 100 percent of its limited military resources to saving people at sea,” he stressed.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat of Malta addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventieth session. UN Photo/Cia Pak
“An important and necessary part of the effort by the European Union requires a more committed response to taking on the smugglers before they can put the lives of more innocent people at risk. The international community should be under no illusion.
“When it comes to these criminals, we are dealing with individuals who feed on the desperation of innocent people. In the process, they are making a fortune - money which is also being used to finance other criminal activities, probably even including terrorism. These people must be held accountable for their crimes and brought to justice.”
Noting that despite some vociferous internal criticism Europe is the only region to adopt a mandatory distribution system for refuges, Mr. Muscat added: “We made a first step. Now the global community has to follow. The United Nations is the forum to do that.”
The need for early action and non-use of the Security Council veto in cases of atrocities was echoed by Latvian President Raimonds Vÿjonis.
“On several crucial occasions in recent times the Security Council was not able to take timely and decisive action. It has had dire consequences,” he told the Assembly, citing the fighting in Ukraine and Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
President Raimonds Vejonis of Latvia addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventieth session. UN Photo/Amanda Voisard
“The Security Council was blocked from playing a role to stop Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and to seek justice for the victims of the (Malaysian) flight MH17 in an international tribunal that could establish the truth on who shot down this civilian airplane.
“The conflict in eastern Ukraine has cost the lives of thousands and led to the suffering of millions of innocent victims. Russia must stop all forms of support to separatists,” he said, warning that early UN action in situations of concern is crucial.
“Latvia supports the proposal to voluntarily restrain the use of the veto at the Security Council in situations involving mass atrocity crimes. It also supports a Code of Conduct for any member of the Council not to vote against any action designed to end and prevent mass atrocity crimes,” he added.
For Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic, the problem of mass migration from the Middle East is the greatest challenge of today.
“The humanitarian disaster facing the world is only a consequence of the crisis that has shaken Syria for four years now, all along without an adequate response by the international community,” he told the Assembly.
President Tomislav Nikolic of Serbia addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventieth session. UN Photo/Amanda Voisard
“If the international community, the European Union in the first place, fails to make concrete efforts to solve the problem, a humanitarian catastrophe of an even larger scale threatens South-East Europe,” he said, noting that more than 125,000 migrants had passed through Serbia so far this year.
“We therefore need a comprehensive plan that would have to be implemented within the shortest possible time. Without such a plan, migrants will be left altogether to the mercy of human smugglers. Passivity and an increasingly inhumane treatment of migrants open a market for smugglers.”
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel also called for global action against terrorism. “The terrorists wish to destroy universal values,” he said. “All means must be mobilized against this new threat.”
Prime Minister Charles Michel of Belgium addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventieth session. UN Photo/Cia Pak
He said it was not a question of choosing between the barbarities of the Islamic State in Syria and the massacres perpetrated by the Government there. The Islamic State must be eliminated and elections must be held to lead to a legitimate government at the same time. He supported the relaunch of dialogue among the parties in Syria.
Slovenian Prime Minister Mirosiav Cerar also chided the Security Council for its inaction in the face of the war in Syria, raging conflicts in Iraq, Libya, Gaza, Yemen and elsewhere, and the escalation of violent extremism and crimes committed by the Islamic State and other terrorist groups.
“We call upon the Security Council, and especially its permanent members, to overcome divisions and find the way to deal more effectively with this worsening situation, in line with its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security,” he said.
Prime Minister Miro Cerar of Slovenia addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventieth session. UN Photo/Amanda Voisard
He also called for global solidarity in the face of the refugee crisis. “The magnitude of the current humanitarian crisis needs a determined and immediate response from the whole international community, based on common principles of solidarity, humanity and shared responsibility,” he declared.
“We should help these people in need. We should increase assistance to countries hosting large numbers of refugees. We should also act more decisively in the countries of origin by pushing for sustainable political solutions to the ongoing conflicts and countering the spread of radical ideologies.”
Decrying the illegitimate use of military force and other forms of violence by States and non-state actors, Moldovan Prime Minister Valeriu Strelet said gross violations of international law and the dramatic decrease in the trust between States have already undermined the central pillars of the international system.
Prime Minister Valeriu Strelet of Moldova, addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventieth session. UN Photo/Amanda Voisard
“The annexation of the Crimean peninsula by the Russian Federation, in a flagrant violation of international law, and the outbreak of armed conflict in the eastern regions of the Ukraine have directly challenged international peace and security,” he told the Assembly.
He pledged to seek a peaceful solution for the separatist Transnistria region of Moldova based on a special status within Moldova’s internationally recognized borders, and called for the withdrawal of Russian military forces and ammunitions from there.
Foreign Minister Gilles Tonelli of Monaco also called for the suspension of the veto in the Security Council in cases of massive human rights abuses.
Foreign Minister Gilles Tonelli of Monaco addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventieth session. UN Photo/Amanda Voisard
“The primary responsibility bestowed by the Charter to the Security Council to maintain international peace and security brings me to commend the courageous initiative taken by France to call on the voluntary and collective suspension of the right of veto by its five permanent members when dealing with situations of mass atrocities,” he declared.
Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo, the last European speaker of the day, likewise called for global action against terrorism. “With Da’esh, we found ourselves with a terrorist movement which succeeded in controlling a territorial base from which it seeks to attack and destroy our model of civilization,” he said.
Foreign Minister José Manuel García Margallo of Spain addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventieth session. UN Photo/Amanda Voisard
“Since we are all the targets, we must form a common front against Da’esh. With terrorists, one does not negotiate, they have to be defeated,” he added, calling on the UN to support the proposal by Romania and Spain to set up an international criminal court against terrorism.