Juan Luis Cebrián
8 JUL 2019 – 00:00 CEST
“It all started with the Franco-German reconciliation”. I heard François Mitterrand, then President of France, pronouncing this simple phrase, definitive to understand the European project, with persistent insistence more than twenty years ago. In times of historical memory, the new generations must not forget that the democratic Europe of today, like democratic Spain, are the result of reconciliation between enemies after terrible fratricidal wars that caused close to a hundred million deaths in the first half of the 20th century. I can understand the frustration and even the discouragement that the failure of the initial political pacts to designate the leadership of power of the European Union has generated in some; but I am surprised by the low value that many commentators attribute to the fact that the new agreements are based on an explicit understanding between Paris and Berlin, not to mention its open rejection since it is a solution that recovers the needs of geopolitics. This was precisely the seed of the construction of Europe and it is now about defending the future of the Union in one of the most difficult moments of its history, characterized by the imminent abandonment of the United Kingdom and the emergence of nationalisms of all kinds. Far from appearing to me as a betrayal of the formula adopted by Parliament, I believe that the decision of Merkel and Macron, with the implicit or explicit support of Pedro Sánchez, guarantees a stable and clear leadership for the next four years. Something absolutely necessary if you want to face the vagaries of euro-skepticism, the authoritarian tendencies of the Visegrad group and the nationalist exaltation of the extreme right in France and Italy.
Nor do I understand the hasty disqualifications of the candidates for the new leadership, who must submit to the parliamentary vote in any case. Above all, the disdain for the record of female candidates is to be blamed, being accused Ursula von der Leyen of inexperience and Christine Lagarde of ignorance, at least for the purposes of monetary policy. For years I have coincided with them in many international forums, public and private, and apart from my differences with certain opinions or decisions of theirs, I have never appreciated the weakness or feebleness attributed to them. Von der Leyen has a considerable curriculum as Minister of Labor, Social Affairs and Defense in Germany, an international experience of the first order and, despite her strong Catholic faith, a bulky file in favor of the LGTBI movement, gay marriage and gender policies. Nothing identifying her as reactionary. The presence in the European Central Bank of Christine Lagarde, close collaborator of Chirac and Sarkozy, now encumbered by Emmanuel Macron, allows us to suspect a continuity in Draghi’s decisions that have facilitated the economic recovery of the continent, far from the Germanic fanaticism in favor of the fiscal consolidation. But, aside from the presence of these two women at the head of the continent’s destinies, it is important to insist on the good news of the return to the foundations. Europe is only possible if the brotherhood of performances between the two colossus is maintained, whose confrontation threw it so many times into disaster, just as Spanish democracy will perish if the heirs of those who reacted in the Transition by healing the wounds of the Civil War are determined to shake the confrontation in the name of their ideologies and in favor of their ambitions.
We must also congratulate ourselves on the appointment of Josep Borrell as responsible for foreign policy. It is an asset for the position of Spain in the European set that can justly be attributed to the management of Sanchez, and also to the appreciation that Borrell has among the MEPs. His appointment is also a jug of cold water for the Catalan independence movement, which will see further diminished its already limited international recognition. Complaints about the abandonment of the unwritten rule about the ‘spitzerkandidat’, even if understandable, should not tarnish the virtues of the new pact that now has to be ratified by Parliament. We are facing the exercise of the foundational political power in the face of confusion, giving the headlines to persons rather than to ideas and principles, and the opportunism of other minor agents.
It is to be regretted the disregard for the record of Ursula Von der Leyden and Christine Lagarde
The task to be undertaken is not small. As immigration issues are the most painful from the point of view of human rights and the real meaning of democracy, there are others in the short term on which the Commission cannot continue looking elsewhere, as it has done so many times. The antidemocratic whims of the Polish and Hungarian governments; the institutional weaknesses of the former countries of the Soviet bloc incorporated into the freedoms after the fall of the Berlin Wall; the inconsistency of relations with Moscow, especially after its invasion of Crimea; the inability to face Trump’s histrionics and his harmful fancies for the development of world trade, and the positioning in the new global geopolitics are pending issues for the community Brussels. I have no doubt that the team that will soon be in charge of it is more qualified, more relevant, more consistent with the expression of citizens in the elections and more capable of solving the challenges of the future than the ones who leave now their jobs. It needs, of course, a more visionary and less bureaucratic sense of politics than has hitherto reigned in Brussels. Only an adequate presence of the greens is missing, at a time when global warming is a threat felt by the population and despised instead by the reactionary ideology.
Issues related to immigration are the most painful from the point of view of human rights
Empowering Parliament as a legislative chamber is, finally, an urgent need that cannot be continuously boycotted by national interests, apparently so decisive in the discussion of appointments. The assumption that the Council, now chaired by a liberal, can function as a second Chamber of territorial representation is arbitrary, especially as long as the right of veto continues to be used. After years of accelerated enlargement, insufficiently debated, Europe today needs a deepening effort. It cannot be carried out unless the values referring to human rights and the exercise of democracy are recovered and respected. Immigration policy cannot surrender to the xenophobic whims of nationalist populism. The independence of the courts cannot be boycotted and mocked by rampant authoritarianism in some capitals, nor does it limit freedom of expression in the name of political correctness. Finally, Europe at two speeds, which has existed for decades, cannot contemplate unperturbed that those who move more slowly or back down according to their particular interests, continue to impede the progress of the whole. It is necessary for the euro-zone to address without complexes the gaps and contradictions that affect the economic and fiscal policies so divergent among many of its members. The monetary union was considered from the outset as the fundamental foundation for political cohesion, but this will not be achieved unless decisive steps are taken in the direction we are pointing to.
There have been relinquishments and steps backwards in the decisions we are discussing about, but above all, the needs of pragmatism and the defense of the project have prevailed. The Spanish leaders should learn the lesson and leave aside selfishness, abandon the bluffs and face their constituents. If conservatives, social democrats and liberals are able to seal pacts on the continent, even if they provoke criticism and rejection in their own ranks, why not do it in our country while the alarm bells continue ringing?