EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has come under fire for saying in a recent speech given in Belgium that “Europe is a garden” while the outside world is a “jungle”.
There are growing calls for him to retract the analogy and to issue an apology over what many are saying was a speech tinged with racist and imperialistic overtones. He was addressing an audience of his own diplomatic corps.
“Europe is a garden,” Borrell had said as part of a broader theme of building alliances in order to avoid conflicts and tensions with outside nations. “Most of the rest of the world is a jungle, and the jungle could invade the garden,” he added.
He spent a lot of time in the speech exploring this “garden/jungle” analogy. “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 humankind has been able to build – the three things together,” he had said.
Offering the imagery which many especially outside Europe have taken offense at, he went on to say:
“The rest of the world [is] not exactly a garden. Most of the rest of the world is a jungle, and 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.”
The remarks appeared akin to the ancient and medieval distinction between “civilization” of empire and “barbarian” lands outside those political and cultural bounds.
A number of other diplomats as well as outside government leaders quickly heaped criticism on Borrell for the remarks, including on Sunday the highly influential Nasser Bin Hassan Al-Shaikh, Director-General of Dubai’s Department of Finance, who called out the “imperialism” and “racism” on display.
Russia’s foreign ministry also lashed out, with spokeswoman Maria Zakharova saying, “The ‘garden’ was built by Europe due to the barbaric attitude to the plundering of the ‘jungle’.” Some diplomats, including a former UN official, also compared the statements to themes in Joseph Conrad’s famous novel Heart of Darkness about European brutality and devastations during colonialism in Africa.
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Russian media coverage mocked Borrell’s speech over the weekend…