The European Union must integrate its defense capability – “something [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan cannot veto,” Guy Verhofstadt, an MEP and former Belgian prime minister who chaired the citizen-led Conference on the Future of Europe, has told Kathimerini in an interview.
He denounces Turkey’s reasons for opposing the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO as “malicious and fabricated,” adding that Ankara will come under “very serious pressure” to change its stance.
Verhofstadt also rejects the idea of a compromise with Russia under President Vladimir Putin and calls for a bold reform of the EU as the most effective security and defense policy for the bloc.
How do you assess Turkey’s stance on Sweden and Finland joining NATO? Do you think that, at the end of the day, there could be a problem with the accession of the two countries?
We will see how it pans out. Pressure on Turkey will be very serious, and especially the reasons mentioned for not allowing these countries in make the veto problematic. NATO cannot allow itself to be deadlocked in its very raison d’etre, uniting to safeguard security around the North Atlantic, for the malicious and fabricated reasons of one member.
‘NATO cannot allow itself to be deadlocked in its very raison d’etre, uniting to safeguard security around the North Atlantic, for the malicious and fabricated reasons of one member’
Some want continuity in the battles to weaken Putin. Others are in favor of a compromise to mitigate the adverse effects on security and the economy. What do you think Europe’s goal should be in this war?
Compromise? People using that word have not been paying attention since February 24. The invasion itself went much further than most experts would have expected, and since then the brutality both on the ground in Ukraine and in Moscow has been increasing, not decreasing.
Don’t forget, we have been trying to compromise with Putin since 2014 at least, and in Syria, and over Belarus… What has it brought us, except scorn from an emboldened Kremlin?!
The only way – really the only way to mitigate the effects of Putin’s war – is to strengthen our side: to join hands politically and militarily, including Ukraine and other countries in the Russian neighboring regions – hence the decision from Sweden and Finland, but also the referendum in Denmark. And to join forces economically, with the key role for the European Union, so that we can buttress or mitigate the effects in terms of energy provisions, social costs and economic impact. Together, we can do that. No individual country will.
How do you imagine the next day? Some argue that the US and Europe should not completely tear down the bridges with Russia, even with Putin in power.
Who knows what is next… Militarily, Russia has obviously overreached. But a wounded animal can be dangerous: Are we looking at a long-drawn-out conflict, with a barely sustainable Ukraine and all of the military, economic, energy and food risks that implies? Or would Putin eventually be removed, and what would come in his place?
There is less hope in Russia than even a few years ago. There no public opinion to speak of. All that’s left around the Kremlin are cronies and collaborators. You might hope they are eventually frustrated enough by sanctions to rise up against the man who ended their lovely lives – indeed we should target them much more, the whole backbone of the regime, to make them frustrated enough – but do they offer much hope for a more stable, somewhat democratic regime afterwards?
Our only hope lies in what we can do for ourselves: Support Ukraine, pressure the Russian regime, and get our own act together; integrate and improve our defense capacities, with EU defense as a reliable and strong pillar of NATO – something Erdogan cannot veto – and with a reinforced European Union in the areas where this long war will be fought, like energy and critical industrial resources.
We need to reinvent our own sense of sovereignty, through reform of the European Union.