Despite his 75 years, Josep Borrell (La Pobla de Segur, 1947) still does not see the end of his political career. His success in defending constitutionalism in Catalonia rescued him from retirement and returned him to the political arena: first as a minister, and since 2019 at the head of European diplomacy, a high position that the Catalan has revitalized as much as his political figure. Borrell has hosted ABC at the Ritz after an intense couple of days of great receptions as the prodigal son coming home for a few days. Visibly fatigued by his busy schedule, the Union’s diplomatic chief arrives in the room in a hurry and hooked on his mobile while the meeting in Ramstein (Germany) is taking place, where the Contact Group for the defense of Ukraine was debating on Friday about sending tanks heavy to kyiv against the Russian invader. Sometimes branded as not very diplomatic –for better or worse is the Borrell seal–, the head of European diplomacy this time measures his words in detail and even fights some questions to avoid any unnecessary fracture between the Twenty-seven: unity against Russia it is crucial for the future of the continent. —The European Parliament has just approved a motion to promote a special court for Ukraine. Do you have a real route? —There is a responsibility problem, so we understand that they are war crimes committed in Ukraine. That responsibility can be claimed before the International Criminal Court or it can be thought of in an ‘ad hoc’ court, which has its legal complications. But it is an issue that will have to be decided at the level of the United Nations. The International Criminal Court is already doing its job, it is already collecting evidence, although it is true that neither Ukraine nor Russia are signatories to the Rome Statute and that creates difficulties. Whatever the method and the place, the peace process requires Russia to be held accountable. ‘The pressure is mounting on Scholz to give up the Leopard tanks. In turn, the German chancellor asks that Washington first do the same with the Abrams. —The EU is represented in Ramstein. Ramstein is not a decision center. It is a coordination center for decisions that each state makes freely. True, the issue of supplying heavy tanks to Ukraine is on Ramstein’s agenda. I personally believe that it should be done, but they are sovereign decisions of the States. Standard Related News No Germany resists Allied pressure and will not send Leopard to Ukraine Rosalía Sánchez “There are good reasons in favor and good reasons against,” said Boris Pistorius during his speech at the Ramstein airbase —Send tanks, for what? To have a greater negotiating force? To win the war? To retake the Crimea? —Tanks are used to defend themselves, but also to attack. Positional warfare calls for mechanized capabilities that we have not supplied to Ukraine today. Simply to continue waging war, these kinds of weapons are needed. —Poland assures that if Scholz resists he will take unconventional measures. How do you see it, who seeks the unity of the Twenty-seven? —To seek unity, the first thing I have to do is not make public statements that could break it. “Supplying heavy tanks to Ukraine should be on Ramstein’s agenda, I personally think it should be done, but these are sovereign decisions of Member States” —According to the Kiel Institute, Germany is close to or above the UK in aid to kyiv, and both are second only to the US, but many see Scholz’s clumsy diplomacy as having squandered that potential. What is Scholz missing? —I’m not saying it’s failing, that’s what you say. The numbers sing: the EU is making a very large support effort for Ukraine, more in the civil and humanitarian part than in the military. In any case, only he knows the military support that each state provides to Ukraine. Neither I nor the Kiel Institute know exactly, they are estimates. But Kiel is a good source of information, saying that the EU as a whole has passed 50 billion in aid and puts us at the top of the list ahead of the US and the UK. That is what we Europeans do as a whole, which is what I do, and not country by country action. -USA. He has changed his position and maintains that Ukraine needs to be able to attack Crimea in order to gain more bargaining power. Do you see it as possible to continue trying to reach a negotiated exit with Russia? If that negotiation were to take place, what red lines would it draw? Do you promote giving up Crimea? —The EU is not a negotiating party. The one that is going to negotiate is Ukraine, which is the country attacked and the one that has to decide the terms. We have to support Ukraine so that it goes to the negotiating table in the best possible position of strength. And we believe that there are three key issues at that table: responsibilities for the crimes committed; the cost of reconstruction and the territorial integrity of the country. Borrell, at one point in the interview Isabel Permuy —There was a lot of talk about the energy crisis, and the fatal effects of winter have not been such. Reserves have held up. But do you foresee more potential threats that will undermine the European response? —Winter has helped us because the weather has been warm and that means less consumption per unit of well-being. But we’ll see how things go. It is necessary to point out something very important to which perhaps the press does not recognize such importance: Europe has rid itself of almost 100% of its energy dependence on Russia. And the specific case of Germany, which was one of the countries that had contributed the most to that dependency, has been 100% released. Germany does not consume gas, oil or Russian coal. This seemed impossible three months ago and shows Europe’s ability to adapt. —Now if Ukraine goes for Crimea or if Leopards are sent, Moscow can once again threaten nuclear weapons. But how much does the EU and, above all, the East owe China for its security? —Russia behaves in a very irresponsible way by brandishing the nuclear threat, but I think it furled its sails because, among other things, as you say, China has clearly stated not only against its use but also against threatening its use. In New York, during the UNGA [Asamblea General de Naciones Unidas], the Chinese foreign minister in our bilateral meeting, and he repeated it publicly in the Security Council meeting, that China did not accept that the nuclear weapon be brought up. And that has probably had an impact in Russia. —Iran has expressed its disagreement with Russia’s annexation of Donbass and even Crimea. How important is it that Russia’s main partners do not support Moscow in its territorial aspirations? —No one supports you in your territorial aspirations beyond Belarus, Russia, Syria, North Korea and Eritrea, and they are not exactly large companies. Around the world there have been 141 votes against Russia for the invasion of Ukraine and only five votes in favor. International support for Russia is minimal and, as you say, not even Iran is in on it. —For Baltics, Nordics and various Central Europeans, the survival of Ukraine is something existential. Is that not understood in some governments? —In Twenty-seven countries you will always find insecurities for historical or simply geographical reasons and it is logical that the closer you are to the problem, the more affected you feel. Citizen support is very large both in Lithuania and in Spain, where it is around 80 percent. “The peace process requires Russia to be held accountable” —A year ago, the EU approved the withdrawal of the broadcasting license for RT (Russia Today) for being a weapon of destabilization after the invasion, but some voices considered that it could be useless and an attack on freedom of expression. For example, in the summer, the Bulgarian government expelled most of the Russian embassy staff for running a ‘paid influencer’ program. —First, Russia Today and other EU-sanctioned state media cannot be considered as an exponent of free speech. Let’s be serious. It is not knowing what Russia Today or Russia is. Russia uses all these means to spread propaganda and intentionally carry out disinformation campaigns, including about its military aggression against Ukraine. Disinformation is something that goes against freedom of information. —In Brussels they already have entities such as EU vs Disinfo. —To work against misinformation we have teams that look at what happens on social networks to try to combat it. Of course we are concerned about what you call ‘influencers’, people who intervene by replicating official Russian discourse. But we can’t close the internet to people we don’t like. We have to follow what is said to counter this information. —Hungary continues to push to remove sanctions on Russia. Keeping Hungary on board despite having this position, is it a success or a failure for the EU’s foreign policy? —The EU has remained remarkably united and the country to which you refer has voted on all the decisions that have allowed sanctions to be imposed on Russia. If it had not, they could not have been imposed because they require unanimity. What their rulers say later does not take away the fundamental value that this has been possible thanks to the vote in favor of all. “The EU is not going to negotiate. The one that is going to negotiate is Ukraine» —What do you say to those who, on the one hand, ask for more strategic autonomy from the EU, moving away from NATO and the US and, on the other, demand a reduction in defense spending? —Europe’s strategic autonomy is not built by moving away from NATO. It is built by increasing military spending, it is part of the construction of strategic autonomy that does not go against NATO, even to be a good member of the Alliance. When the US asks us to increase our military spending to 2%, it does not do so in the name of the EU’s strategic autonomy, but rather out of the responsibilities of NATO member states. The increase in military spending that is being requested is a different concept from strategic autonomy, which is not against NATO but has to do with the ability of the EU states to deal with situations in which they that the Alliance is not going to intervene and to make NATO stronger, because we are stronger too. —Is there a real fear of Wagner’s infiltration not only in the EU environment like Serbia but in the member countries themselves? —I am aware of the protest that the President of Serbia has expressed against the attempts to recruit personnel in the country by these groups. The EU has a set of restrictive measures against the Wagner Group, its leader, individuals and entities connected to it. —After the ‘Qatar-Morocco Gate’, the vote this week of the socialist delegation against the condemnation of Morocco in the European Parliament has attracted attention. —The vote that took place has nothing to do with ‘Qatargate’ to begin with. On that we must let justice work. The defendants have made agreements with the Belgian courts to declare what they know. In the meantime, let’s maintain the presumption of innocence.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism