File: European Union Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell
File: European Union Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell arrives to attend a EU-Israel Association Council in Brussels, Belgium October 3, 2022. Image Credit: Reuters

Brussels: The European Union's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Tuesday denied that comments he made last week were racist and apologised for any offence caused by the remarks that had prompted criticism from the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The UAE on Monday summoned the acting head of the mission at the EU delegation to the UAE, asking for explanation of what it said were racist comments made by Borrell.

In his remarks at the new European Diplomatic Academy in Bruges, Belgium, which have been widely circulated online, Borrell called Europe "a garden" and most of the world a "jungle" that "could invade the garden".

In a blog post published late on Tuesday, Borrell said his reference to a "jungle" referred to increasing examples of countries using force, intimidation and blackmail — behaviour at odds with agreed international norms.

"The growth of this lawless world and disorder is what I meant when talking about the 'jungle'. My reference to 'jungle' has no racist, cultural or geographical connotation. Indeed and unfortunately, the 'jungle' is everywhere, including in Ukraine. We must take this trend seriously and that was my message to the students," he said.

"Some have misinterpreted the metaphor as 'colonial Euro-centrism'. I am sorry if some have felt offended," he said — adding that he felt Europe was often too Euro-centric and needed to get to know the rest of the world better.

The UAE foreign ministry had said the remarks were "inappropriate and discriminatory" and "contribute to a worsening climate of intolerance and discrimination worldwide," UAE's state news agency reported.

Borrell acknowledged that some dislike the metaphor because it has been used by US "neo-conservatives".

"I am far from this school of political thought," he added.