NEWS

Spanish FM echoes Blair’s stance on Iraq

By Evridiki Bersi – Kathimerini Exactly how united does Europe stand behind German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s demand that an attack on Iraq be avoided at all costs, at least if a second resolution is not approved by the UN Security Council? Not very, it seems. The well-known objections of British Prime Minister Tony Blair are echoed by the unequivocal distancing from the demand by Spanish Deputy Foreign Minister Ramon de Miguel, whose country became a temporary member of the Security Council a the beginning of this year. Mr de Miguel was in Athens on Monday and Tuesday for talks with Alternate Foreign Minister Tassos Yiannitsis. He spoke to Kathimerini during his visit. Spain is regarded as one of the European countries with the least objections to participating in a war on Iraq. Why is this? That is not true. Spain is not in favor of a war. But if the pressure being applied on Iraq does not pay off, I don’t know what will happen. If we don’t act now, Iraq and a few other countries will think they can get away with anything. We must not absolutely insist on observing formalities. If the Security Council does not approve a second resolution, this should not stop the international community. What is your opinion about the joint proposal by Schroeder and Chirac for a «dual presidency» for the EU, with the creation of a permanent president of the European Council? Former Commissioner Peter Sutherland has maintained that this would go against the interests of smaller countries. We believe that it is a positive step. Lending a more permanent character to the post of European Council president agrees with a previous proposal made by Aznar, Blair and Chirac. However, we are not very enthusiastic about the other two aspects of the Franco-German proposal – namely that the European Commission president is elected and for the creation of a European foreign minister (a combination of the posts currently held by External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten and High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana). As regards the small countries, I don’t understand what their fears are. The weighting of the votes in the council actually favors small countries. And in the European Council, if a country disagrees, there is no agreement. In a way, I think we are all equal. France and Germany have proposed the reinforcement of a common defense identity so there is common protection of European borders. Do you approve of this? We fully agree with the French and Germans on this. We believe the common protection of external borders should be included within the competencies of the European Union. What is your opinion about Turkey’s progress toward EU accession? Do you believe that a solution to the Cyprus problem should be a precondition for this? We hope that Denktash and the Turkish government will understand Europe’s desire to admit a united Cyprus and will make the necessary efforts to allow this to happen. If this does not happen, the blame should be put entirely on Turkey. I think it is excessive to directly link Turkey’s EU accession to a Cyprus solution. Spain will endeavor to do all it can for the accession of a united Cyprus. And if the island is not admitted as a whole now, it will be later. It’s never too late for an agreement to be reached.