‘Racist colonisers’: Top EU official under fire for labelling world outside of Europe a ‘jungle’

Historically, western officials have used white supremacy to promote marginalisation and racism in other countries, hence justifying military action to bring about “civilisation”.

The foreign policy chief of the EU perceives Europe as a garden of political freedom and economic prosperity, noting the rest of the world is a “jungle” which Europe seeks protection from, sparking global outrage.

Joseph Borrell has been urged to apologise after painting the world outside of Europe as a potentially uncivilised “jungle”.

“Europe is a garden,” Borrell said in a speech in Belgium on Thursday, however “most of the rest of the world is a jungle, and the jungle could invade the garden”.

Borrell’s analogy was meant to convince rising diplomats that in order to prevent war with the outside world, Europe should seek out alliances.

Many, however, have argued that his speech “reeked of racism and imperialism” and mirrored outdated views arising out of the superiority complex of the west.

“This analogy is terribly offensive. It has strong colonialist and racist undertones,” said Philippe Marliere, an expert on French and European politics at University College London, according to reports.

Addressing students at the College of Europe in Bruges at a university programme designed to raise the next generation of European diplomats, Borrell said: “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.”

Maria Vladimirovna Zakharova, Director of the Information and Press Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, has staunchly condemned Borrell’s statements, asserting that the so-called “garden” of Europe was built by looting the “jungle” of the rest of the world during the colonial regime.

“To continue this analogy, the European gardener is in a vegetative state. On a serious note, Europe built that ‘garden’ through the barbaric plundering of the ‘jungle’. Borrell could not have phrased it any better: the world’s most prosperous system, created in Europe, nurtured by roots in colonies which they ruthlessly oppressed,” she penned.

Addressing the concept of otherisation and overall Germany’s involvement in both World Wars under the cloak of bringing justice, she said: “Their philosophy of segregation and superiority became the underlying idea of fascism and Nazism. Both world wars in the 20th century were triggered by Germany’s ambition to ‘restore justice’ and re-divide Europe’s colonies that country had failed to grab for itself.”

“Achieving that goal was to ensure Germany the same kind of prosperous and carefree life of the exploiters living in Borrell’s homeland, Spain, as well as in France, Britain, and Portugal,” she added.

Online, many have voiced their frustration with Borrell’s racist remarks, with one such user saying: “This is what these western so-called leaders think of Asians, Africans, etc. They think we’re animals living in a jungle,

“What a bunch of disgusting racist colonisers.”

Another has shed light on the controversial denotation of Borrell’s speech, noting: “Conceptually, ‘garden’ sounds like a euphemism for “civilised” and ‘jungle’ like one for ‘barbarian’. It rings of the 19th century colonial discourse of ‘la mission civilisatrice’ or ‘white man’s burden’.”

White superiority complex or the “white man’s burden” stems from the notion that the west must take it upon itself to bring civilisation to the rest of the world. Many of such claims have been used to back western military interventions and imperialistic legacies.

The Democracy in Europe Movement 2025, or DiEM25, a pan-European political movement founded in 2016 by a group of Europeans, has set in motion a petition demanding the resignation of the EU foreign policy chief.

The imperial outlook further emboldened itself in instances of Europe gatekeeping the continent from the citizens of other countries it viewed as the “jungle”.

Over in Europe, Spain is asking NATO to classify for border crossings as a “hybrid threat” alongside terrorism as part of NATO’s new strategy concept, Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said in an interview in June, according to Reuters.

Along the Belarus-Poland border in late 2021, refugees were left to freeze to death in the forests as a result of hostile border guards from both countries and cut-off lifesaving aid.

Polish officials established a “exclusion zone” that extends up to three miles into Polish territory. Stefan Lehmeier of the International Rescue Committee told Axios in November 2021 that migrants who have been found there are being forcibly returned to the border illegally while journalists and humanitarian workers are prohibited from entering.

Lehmeier added that there have been instances where migrants have attempted to cross a chilly river into Poland just to be thrown back into it as soon as they get to the other side.

Separately, after Italy’s populist government threatened to veto the entire operation, the EU in 2019 decided to halt the marine patrols that had saved thousands of refugees and migrants from the central Mediterranean.

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who is also Italy’s deputy prime minister, also prohibited charitable rescue vessels from entering the country’s ports and threatened transgressors with fines of tens of thousands of euros and the seizure of their vessels, according to Al Jazeera.

This garden-vs-jungle rhetoric is further evident in other accounts of western officials pitting the west against the rest of the world.

Former United States President George Bush did not hesitate to throw around words such as “terrorists” operating in “deserts” and “jungles,” further deepening what is deemed to be an orientalist lens that has prevailed in western narratives of the Middle East.

Bush used differences in the world in terms of civilisation, pitting the west versus the other, specifically versus Islam as means to justify his “Global War on Terror” approach.

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