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"With Russia we must find ways of understanding"

2021-07-29T14:20:57.028Z

The EU High Representative for Foreign Policy will present a report on Venezuela and another on the strategic relationship with China at the end of the summer



For the High Representative for Foreign Policy of the European Union, Josep Borrell (Pobla de Segur, 74 years old), the week he spends in Santander leading the course he organizes at the Menéndez Pelayo International University to discuss the future of Europe is an "average vacation" time.

But as his relatives say, Borrell travels with 190 countries in tow and during these days he is still glued to his mobile and with telematic meetings.

Current events oblige: Tunisia, Turkey, Belarus ...

Question

.

What balance do you make of your portfolio in this course, after how difficult 2020 was?

Answer

.

This year we have experienced a turning point: the change in the US Administration.

Last summer I had Mike Pompeo as my interlocutor and this one I have Antony Blinken and I assure you that the difference is radical.

We can talk whether we understand each other or not, but it is a dialogue of friends and collaborators and it is a great relief.

But there is a structural element that remains: the 27 views of the world are so different that it is very difficult to build unanimous positions.

That has a cost, if Europe wants to be a geopolitical actor or we want to use the language of power, we have to have the same understanding of the world.

P

.

An example would be Russia?

R

.

With Russia we had the task of the European Council to produce a report that would analyze the current situation and the prospects for a relationship that is at the lowest point in many years.

On the eve of his presentation, France and Germany made public their intention to propose a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and the 27 states and took over the debate.

The Franco-German proposal was rejected and in passing showed how sensitive the relationship with Russia is for some countries.

You might think that if [US President] Joe Biden met with Putin, why can't European leaders.

But between Biden and Russia there is an Atlantic between and some European countries the only thing that separates them from Russia is the border fence.

More information

  • The EU offers Erdogan a new opportunity for understanding

  • The division between the partners prevents the EU from giving a firm response to the crisis in Gaza

  • The EU weighs new sanctions against Russia after Moscow's outrage against Josep Borrell

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P

.

Is it viable to have such bad relations with a neighboring power like Russia?

R

. Economically speaking, Russia is not a great power, but it has a conventional and atomic military force, and unconventional in terms of new technologies, which it has little hesitation in using. However, we have to seek ways of understanding with Russia on issues for which we need it, the Arctic, energy ... With Russia we have to have a strategy of containing, rejecting harmful initiatives and establishing agreements on necessary issues. Let us not forget that on the borders of Ukraine there are soldiers who die almost every day because there is a latent state of war and this generates an extreme tension that some European countries live with grave concern. At the same time, I think that Germany and Russia were right in suggesting that a new dialogue had to be established.Probably the way they raised it caused the initiative to fail. Nor am I very sure that the most appropriate format is Putin surrounded by the Twenty-seven. First, the 27 would have to agree on what they say to Putin.

P

.

And are penalties enough to deal with such a neighbor?

R

.

Personal sanctions, although it may not seem like it, do affect.

Prohibiting travel and freezing the assets of those who have them and can be located, are effective measures.

Economic sanctions are also economic but they have collateral effects, a cost.

Policy cannot be based on sanctions alone, but there comes a time when they have to be applied because otherwise it would mean that you are limited to making statements.

P

.

Also with Belarus?

R

.

We have prohibited Minsk from exporting its products through Lithuania, which bears a cost because it charges rights of way.

But we can still do more.

Belarus is putting artificial migratory pressure on Lithuania, in the style of what happened with the Greek islands or Ceuta recently.

Unfortunately immigrants are once again used as a weapon.

P

.

Immigration as a diplomatic weapon ...

R

.

And who can use it uses it.

At this time a route has been established, in which Iraqi immigrants fly from Baghdad to Minsk and then transport them by buses to the border with Lithuania, which they cross irregularly.

It is the response that Belarus has found to sanctions.

P

.

He mentions the case of Ceuta, an example of bad relations with its neighbor to the south.

R

.

There are two European countries that have gone through a difficult time in their relationship with Morocco: Spain and Germany.

But bilateral problems must be fixed on a bilateral level, even though the Ceuta border is a European border.

The Ceuta border is a European border

P

.

The change in the Administration in the US has not favored an improvement in relations with Rabat.

R

.

It is clear that the decision of the Donald Trump Administration has changed the problem of the Sahara.

Morocco has been comforted in its positions and has wanted the European countries to adopt the same decision.

This has not happened and most European countries continue to abide by United Nations resolutions.

P

.

On the other hand, there has been a certain rapprochement with Iran.

R

. The Biden Administration has made a move on two momentous agreements: the Paris climate change agreements and the nuclear pact with Iran. It has not done so, or not yet, in the case of Cuba, which is of great concern to us. But only with that the world is already much safer. With Iran, Biden has shown the will to try to mend the mess that Trump organized. Now we are in a moment of waiting because there is a new president in Iran who wants to study the situation, but I hope that, as coordinator of the negotiations that is my turn, when there is a new Iranian Foreign Minister and after the summer, they will be resumed and arrived an agreement. The United States wants it, otherwise they would not have embarked on a negotiation, and the Iranians need it, because the sanctions are doing them a lot of damage. There should be a meeting point,hopefully in the fall. The world will be much safer and Europeans in particular will be much safer if Iran does not become a nuclear power.

P

.

In the case of Cuba, the US has once again opted for sanctions as opposed to the EU.

R

.

The important sanctions were taken by Trump in his last days [of presidency].

Some of them are as important and as unjustified as prohibiting remittances from Cubans in the United States to their families.

The Cuban government did not benefit at all from these remittances, they were Cuban citizens.

Certainly, the situation in Cuba is very bad from the economic point of view, which has generated understandable expressions of discontent.

But we cannot forget that the worsening of the economic situation in Cuba, the lack of investment, the fear of many companies to invest in Cuba is a consequence of the United States blockade.

P

.

Don't you think then that these protests are going to have more consequences?

R

.

I don't want to downplay those protests.

Cuba is experiencing a situation that can lead to political changes.

We have asked the Cuban Government to allow the free expression and demonstration of its citizens and we encourage it to be more open.

Although in this case what we call “disinformation” and that we criticize so much Russia and China has also occurred, because there are photographs of demonstrations supposedly on the Havana boardwalk that are neither on the boardwalk nor in Havana.

Cuba is experiencing a situation that can lead to political changes

P

.

Do you think it possible that the dialogue will be consolidated in Venezuela?

R

. Last summer we were in contact with the Government and the opposition to see if it was possible that the elections to the National Assembly could be held with a minimum of guarantees and to have sent an electoral observation mission. It was not possible and I am well sorry. Now, with much criticism from the right-wing parties, both in Spain and in the European Parliament, I have decided to send a technical mission to analyze the conditions in which local and regional elections are to be held. And we will decide whether to send an electoral mission based on these technical reports and the response of the Venezuelan government. It must be taken into account that the opposition occupies important positions at the local and state level, so they will want to stand in the elections and it would be good if it could be done with a minimum of guarantees.I think it is a way to explore.

P

.

When will that report be ready?

R

.

I should have it on my table around the summer and it will have to be technically analyzed.

I have to say that I was very concerned that during the presence of that mission there were arrests of opposition political leaders, whom the Government accuses of very serious charges.

The mission has taken good note of these facts and will incorporate them into its report.

P

.

Do you still think it is possible for the EU to maintain a relationship with China independent of the US after the recent accusation of the cyberattacks?

R

. The European Union will always be closer to Washington than to Beijing, we will always be closer to a country that has the same political system as ours, a market economy, a multi-party democracy with concurrence in elections, than a single-party country . Which is not to say that we have to systematically align ourselves with Washington's positions on Beijing because we have our own specific interests. In the specific case you cite, there were different statements issued at the same time and they did not say the same either. And of course we need to find our own position. At the turn of the summer I will present a report to the European Council together with the Commission analyzing our relationship with China, to see if it is necessary to review the current strategy.Regardless of whether we have very different views on the Hong Kong or the Uyghur cases, what Trump called the economic disconnect with China is something that is beyond our intentions and contrary to our interests.

P

.

Tunisia has joined its long list of tasks this week.

R

.

Tunisia was practically the only effective democracy in that environment, but apparently it was not so satisfactory in its operation.

The vaccination in Tunisia has been a disaster, the population has reacted with very strong protests against what we can describe as the clear ineffectiveness of the Government.

We ask that the constitutional order be respected, that if you leave it due to extreme circumstances, you return to it as soon as possible, that violent confrontations and a call for calm and political cooperation be avoided.

We will have a network of Turkish and Russian bases off the Italian coast

Q.

What country is keeping you awake?

R

. Well, we have done a good review. I would add the relationship with Turkey and the situation in the eastern Mediterranean, a structural issue of European foreign policy. I have to say that since I have been in office I have worked hard to maintain bridges with Turkey, a country that has 3.5 million immigrants, who are actually Syrian exiles and refugees. We are going to renew the agreement with Ankara to help him with this situation, a highly questioned agreement but one that I defend. Just like we are going to help Jordan or Lebanon. In addition, it must be taken into account that Turkey is now very present in Libya and has become an unquestionable actor. Turkey and Russia have played an active role in the country and are now the ones controlling influence in Libya. Instead, we have been divided and that has a price.Now we are going to have a network of Turkish and Russian naval bases off the Italian coast. And that means that Turkey is going to influence the migration path through the central Mediterranean, as it is already doing in the eastern Mediterranean.

P

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It will not be easy for him to find a unanimous position.

R

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You have to work hard to get common ground, but this is not a position for those who are easily discouraged.

Source: elparis

All news articles on 2021-07-29

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