France and Spain have agreed to set limits on any change in the original text of the European Constitutional Treaty. They presented a draft to the EU’s 27 foreign ministers at a meeting in Luxembourg on Sunday, ahead of this week’s EU summit aimed at re-starting talks on a new treaty. Afterwards, EuroNews caught up with the Spanish foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos.
Welcome to EuroNews Minister. First of all, what are you expecting from the next Council meeting.
This Franco-Spanish initiative has won support among other ministers from other countries, but opposition from Warsaw doesn’t seem to have changed.
MIGUEL ANGEL MORATINOS:
It was important today, that two countries who’d taken differing positions – a country like France, which has turned down the constitutional treaty in a referendum, and a country like Spain which has given it a resounding “yes” at the ballot-box – have sent this political message – How can we get these two countries – under Germany’s presidency – to reach agreement at the next European Council meeting.
A clear message has got through. There are elements which we consider important, which we should strive to agree upon, to give a clear mandate for the forthcoming Portuguese presidency.
There are some countries causing problems – but with a strength of will, we can overcome them.
But there’s still one fundamental problem, and that’s how are they going to vote? Might they try to win some kind of compensation – like an increase in the number of deputies in the European parliament?
In comparison to the thousands of decisions which the EU takes, these are practically irrelevant.
But the important thing is that countries have the capacity to influence in the three institutions of the Union: in the Council, in the Commission and in the Parliament.
So there’s plenty of room to manoeuvre, many different checks and balances to ensure each country can feel at ease.
Logically, Poland is a big country with a large population, so it needs to be included in the big decisions. It can do that AND it can do so with the double majority.
Spain and Poland have found themselves in parallel situations, from an institutional point of view – but Spain has reacted differently – having ratified with a referendum – a vote which was a success from a political point of view – to support the European Union. Are there different visions of the European Union – and do they represent two different spirits which are present in the EU?
Spain has already been an EU member for 21 years, and we’ve analysed the pros and cons of changing our position from the terms of the Nice Treaty to having a vote of double majority. We weighed up the different options – who would benefit best from the allocation of votes – and we concluded that double-majority corresponded entirely with the Spanish interests.
We’ve tried to convince our Polish colleagues that they could live comfortably with that system.
Is there a political price to pay for having renounced the term “constitution”, after the Spanish people had said “yes” in a referendum to a treaty which includes the word “constitution”.
Let’s not forget that in trying to reconcile those who have difficulties with the referendum – because the Constitutional Treaty has been refused – those countries should not put us in a position where we’d be obliged to re-run a referendum, because the substance and the balance is no longer respected.
As a result, we’re paying a very high price – a price being paid by all those countries who refuse to have any constitutional references in the treaty, but we are not going to accept the cutting of essential elements for Europe’s progress.
On the subject of Cuba – Spain appears to have a different stance from other countries.
We’re offering dialogue with the Cuban authorities, and the most important thing, even though it hasn’t been highlighted, is that there is a new situation now in Cuba, a different political situation, and as a result the EU is reacting as Spain has done: talking with the authorities. Of course we have to talk to other sectors of Cuban society too, but we’re offering serious, constructive dialogue with the Cuban authorities.
You’ve been a special envoy to the Middle East, and you know the region very well. This is another basic element of EU foreign policy. The situation seems extremely difficult – the major American Middle-East project doesn’t seem to have worked. But it appears there are also concerns about EU initiatives getting off the ground too?
With the critical and enormously complex situation at the moment in the Palestinian territories, we can not allow the two different entities to separate in the middle of what should be a unified Palestinian state, a state based on the 1967 borders. Europe must reaffirm that unity and the eventual formation of that state, and must work urgently to respond to the real-life difficulties being face by the Palestinian population, with, at the same time, a clear and decisive political message.
Could European troops provide a solution in Gaza?
Not for the moment, no, because we can’t move into a territory where the totally unacceptable behaviour of the Hamas movement has broken the integrity of the Palestinian National Authority and the lawful office of President Mahmoud Abbas.
As a result, we must send a clear message to Hamas, that the EU will not lower itself to such negotiations, and we must re-establish public law and order in Gaza, and that we won’t tolerate the existence to two states, or two different entities in these territories.
And to achieve that, we need an EU which is determined and committed.
Thank you minister.