• LUCÍA MÉNDEZ
Monday, May 20 2019 – 05:54
How would you define these European elections?
They will set the pace of the Union for many years. We are faced with a strong opposition to European construction and we must stop regresive dynamics. On the other hand, there are changes in the alliances. Until now Europe has always been set up with conservatives and socialists…
You are referring to the proposal of the socialist candidate Timermans of an agreement from Macron to Tsipras. Is it possible?
Yes, a progressive alliance is possible from the liberal center to those to the left of the socialists. Although I find it dangerous to exclude from consensus a pro-Europe party like the CDU. It is true that for fifteen years the presidents have been PPE and that it is time to change. The rule that the president should be the candidate with the most popular votes is a political agreement, but it is not in the treaties. Macron and the liberals question it.
Do you think it could be changed?
There is another condition for electing president: to get half plus one of Parliament. It could happen that the most voted by the citizens does not have that parliamentary support. The fact that France and Germany no longer go hand in hand also influences. Merkel does not constrict herself in revealing her differences with Macron. The Franco-German couple is increasingly necessary, but less and less enough. And the future Parliament will reflect a big political disintegration.
Merkel speaks of “new beginning” in the EU, you of “new resurgence”. What do you mean by these logos?
There is a growing awareness that Europe cannot continue to function as it has been doing until now. It has to change to survive. Europe is more necessary than ever, but it is more threatened than ever, from within and from outside. Many enemies have come up against it: Trump, Orban, Salvini, China, Putin, the Brexit… If we face them, we can turn those risks into opportunities. Maybe Trump, attacking the German trade surplus, forces Germany to change its economic model. Maybe Putin forces us to change the defense policy. Maybe the Brexit forces us to walk faster towards political union. Maybe Salvini and Orban force us to take seriously the defense of fundamental rights and populist drifts.
Why have so many European citizens been thrown into the arms of populist parties?
These are the social consequences of the crisis. Until 2008, everything went smoothly. We have already forgotten, but the other day I found an old newspaper with which I light the fire and the headline was: “Europe towards full employment”. A year later, catacrac. We have emerged from the crisis in macro terms, but there are very deep social wounds. And citizens reproach, rightly so, that the response that was given, for which the EPP is responsible but also the social democracy, was misguided.
What do the socialists propose for that rebirth?
Europe has to be more social and more democratic. Europe will be more social or it will not be. The original idea of the founding fathers was that the social was in the hands of the States and the macroeconomic in the hands of the Union. That model does not work. We are becoming more tax competitors between us than with the rest of the world. Unemployment insurance must be established, and minimum wages and taxation harmonized.
Those are big words.
Very big, indeed. It will be difficult, because in order to do so, we must also overcome the rule of unanimity. It’s time for people to know that Europe is not constructed by itself alone. We must politicize the debate.
How can you draw attention to Europe in the same campaign as for the municipal and regional elections?
They are different dimensions. Yesterday I was in my town in the Pyrenees, and the mayoral candidate spoke about transcendental local issues for the daily life of people. But there would be no farmers in the Pyrenees if it were not for the common agricultural policy. Spain is depopulated, but if it were not for Europe, it would have depopulated even much more.
Can Europe offer solutions to depopulation?
The most serious problem in Europe is demographic suicide. There are more deaths than births. This imbalance can only be met in the short term with the contribution of immigration. You have to do political pedagogy. You can use immigration to scare people, or you can pose it as a solution to avoid falling into the very serious risk of extinction in the Japanese way.
Is it there where leadership is missing?
I do not think we should wait for the holy advent of the providential man or woman. Now it’s more the time for citizens. People must be aware that if Europeans are not more united, our civilization will not survive in the world.
What consequences can have the foreseeable emergence in the European Parliament of populist and extremist parties?
If they get more than one third of Parliament, no agreement requiring a qualified majority will be possible in practice. They are going to play against in migratory and economic matters. The financial architecture of the Euro has been resolved after the crisis, more or less with money and reforms that are beyond the comprehension of most people. But dealing with migration problems is more difficult, fear is not solved with money and people are manipulated. There are societies that prefer the demographic decline instead of accepting and integrating immigrants.
You said before the arrival of Vox to the institutions that your European colleagues asked you why there was no extreme right in Spain.
It has arrived and we thought it could have been worse. The expectation was that a force equivalent to the National Front would appear among us. It has not been like that. But, beware, Le Pen has not gotten the strength it has today overnight. Alternative for Germany has the wind in favor. The Italian phenomenon is the move most attracting my attention. Salvini was from the Northern League, he said that the South robbed him, and he has been elected senator in the South, which is as if Puigdemont were elected senator for Cádiz.
Could you occupy a position in the future Commission?
Spain can play an important role with the exit of the United Kingdom, and with the triumph of the PSOE in the elections. These are two facts that reinforce our role as Europeans and reinforce our role as promoters of Europeanism. With some European social-democratic parties below 20%, the PSOE with Pedro Sánchez at the head has become the leader of European social democracy. That’s how it is.
That is why I asked you if Borrell will be the person for the institutional position that corresponds to Spain.
The person is not so important; we will have to look for the profile and the circumstance. I neither want nor stop wanting. Believe me. I have already been President of the European Parliament, I am 72 years old, I am pro-Europe but not as kind of religious follower of it. I criticize what has been done wrong and I do pedagogy.
I suppose that in your European position, whatever it may be, you will also do pedagogy on the Catalan independence movement.
Yes, yes, of course. The pro-independence movement is a real army of agitation and propaganda, every day and everywhere. They are big manufacturers of fake news. All the procés is a gigantic fake. They do it very well, they are motivated people, dynamic and dedicated to the cause. We can and should fight against them from Europe, we have been too passive and we have to be as proactive as they are. They complain that Spanish diplomacy defends Spain against the pro-independence movement; yes, of course, this is the reason of our presence. Before it was not like that; before the slogan was ‘hit the deck’ and no response.
What is the importance of the presidents of the Congress and the Senate going to be Catalans?
They are two Catalans who feel themselves as Spaniards. An intellectual in the Senate, there are not so many in politics; and a MP with a great electoral result. It is good, and the fact that they are Catalans compensates for the unfortunate attitude of the independence fighters with Iceta.
How have you seen that veto?
It has been the highest expression of their totalitarian attitude, the droplet overflowing the glass of their lack of respect for the rights of minorities and of their sectarianism.
Can we continue to count on ERC for governance?
For important things, no. They have proven once and a thousand times that they cannot be trusted. But inevitably, as Iceta said, we will have to continue talking with them. The problem of Catalonia, and this is said by someone who is not very suspicious in this respect, cannot be solved by striking with the 155. The remedy goes through dialogue within the Constitution, firmness, reasoning and explanation. You have to explain and reason, that’s what some of us have done.
Will the investiture of Pedro Sánchez be easy?
I think so; there will be more or less gesticulation. But nobody can try to form a government apart from him, and nobody will want to repeat elections, ergo…