Javier Solana has been the EU’s “Mr Diplomacy” for more than ten years. But now he is handing the job over to Catherine Ashton, the recently- appointed High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy.
Javier Solana took office in June 1999 just a few days after the end of the Kosovo war, during which he had been NATO’s Secretary General.
Trying to give the EU a bigger say in resolving the conflicts in the Middle East – from Gaza and the West Bank, to Iran – has always been one of his top priorities.
Sergio Cantone. euronews: Javier Solana, outgoing high representative for foreign and security policy, welcome to euronews. What do you think about the recent appointments of the top-jobs of the European Union. Do you think that this is up-grading the role of the EU on the world stage?
Javier Solana. Outgoing EU Foreign Policy Chief: I happen to know both, the president and the high representative, well. You are talking about the high representative, Catherine Ashton, I know her well from some years back and I have followed her the last period of time here in Brussels, where she had a very important portfolio in the commission, trade. There is no doubt that today the economic component of the foreign policy, the trade dossier, is a very important one. It’s true that the other parts of the foreign policy dossier, the crisis management is going to be at the heart of the job, but this something that you learn as you learn some other things.
euronews: One of the most important challenges for the EU is the Middle East, the situation there is still very difficult.
Javier Solana: We have not been able, even at this moment in which things were prepared to move, because the Israeli government has not stopped the settlements, for instance, and that has created a dynamic counterproductive…
euronews: So, it’s up to the Israeli to take the first step, according to you?
Javier Solana: I was reading, last night, a long part of a new tape that has come out from the conversations of president Clinton analyzing Camp David and it has a line there, which I take: “the strong is the one who has at last to take the most difficult step”. Because he is the strong, because he has a country already. The other is weak and is not a country.
euronews: And what is the step that the Israeli should be taken?
Javier Solana: I think the step now should have been… and I hope that it is still done, to create the conditions to construct confidence and trust by stopping the settlements growth.
euronews: Do you think that the Netanyahu government will be able to do that?
Javier Solana: I have not lost the hope that there will be possible, now we have to be very tenacious, very stubborn and at the same time we have to accompany our Palestinian friends in order to get their governments, that’s very important, in place. And for that the primer minister Fayad, the PM of the Palestinian Authority, is doing a very, very good job.
euronews: You have played an important role as mediator, negotiator, on the Iranian nuclear issue. What do you is going happen?
Javier Solana: We have to keep on to get objective guarantees that the nuclear program of Iran is peaceful is fundamental. To have the possibility of increasing risks, increasing proliferation in that region will be a drama.
euronews: But do you think the Iranians have the good will to stop their nuclear build-up, because the problem is a problem of will and if they don’t want… and the message they are sending are not…
Javier Solana: We have to really recuperate the sense of trust. That’s why the position of president Obama, what he wrote… what he made a statement at the New Year, of Iranian year, was very important. The fact that in this negotiations the USA participated fully with me, I think it’s important and we have to see.
euronews: But the Iranian response to this openness of the Obama administration has been a radicalization of their positions…
Javier Solana: The level of mistrust is still very profound and foreign policy is about trust and trust is not constructive in hours is constructive with a lot of efforts and tenacity.
euronews: Could you define Yassir Arafat in a few words?
Javier Solana: I had with Yassir Arafat a very profound relationship. I think he trusted me… and I think that he did the good things he did… I think I had something to do with that. I talked to him regularly, I visited him regularly even when he was under arrest in the Mouqqata.
euronews: Ariel Sharon?
Javier Solana: With Ariel Sharon I had a very bad relationship at the beginning and then again it was a question of mistrust. He mistrusted me. He thought that being a European I could not be a friend of Israel and he changed his mind. I remember the last time I saw him, before he had the stroke, we had a long conversation, and in a way, for somebody like Sharon, he apologized to me, tête à tête, for the mistake he had made when he treated me with mistrust he treated at the beginning.
euronews: Comparing the experience of Catherine Ashton to the experience you had when you took over this job, there are many differences, don’t you think so?
Javier Solana: Well maybe different experiences but it doesn’t mean that the capacity to do a job is only related to your previous experience.
euronews: Just the last one. Hamid Karzai and the Afghanistan’s situation?
Javier Solana: I saw his evolution, when he was elected and it produced me a certain sadness, the fact that he was not able to break completely with the corruption that existed in the government and with some of the war lords of the tragic history of Afghanistan.
euronews: Do you think that Afghanistan is the war worth to be fought by the European countries, or not?
Javier Solana: I think yes, at this moment yes, I think we have to be there, but we have to see how much really the people and the government want us to be there. And the proof will be they act in a manner which is cooperative really cooperative with us. We don’t want to take over the country, it is their country. If they want to go in a direction that is completely opposite to the direction that we want to go in helping, in will be very difficult to maintain the support in the public opinions in our countries and including in the USA.