Talk given by Spain’s Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs at the seminar held at El Escorial on ‘The New World (Dis)order’

Talk given by Spain’s Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs at the seminar held at El Escorial on ‘The New World (Dis)order’

I thank the Royal Elcano Institute for this invitation to explain the basic outlines of the foreign policy adopted by the government led by José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. And I congratulate the organisers on the apt and thought-provoking title of this seminar, ‘The new world (dis)order’, which allows me an opening thought borrowed from the historian Niall Ferguson. What would happen if the alternative to unipolarity were not multipolarity, based on a reconstituted balance of power, but ‘apolarity’, the absence of power? The main cause of such a vacuum of power would be the start of an isolationist cycle in the United States, combined with Europe’s declining international influence due to its shrinking population, and China’s vulnerability to a financial crisis that would be likely to affect the whole world. If to this we added the accelerated demographic decline of powers such as Russia and Japan and the fragmentation of Islamic civilisation, we would have an apolar world. To find a comparable international situation, Ferguson has to go as far back as the ninth and tenth centuries, when Rome and Byzantium had receded from the height of their power, the Abbasid caliphate was also waning and when the Chinese empire was languishing between the Tang and Sung dynasties. The main beneficiaries of this anarchic period were the Vikings.

This is, of course, an excessively pessimistic prognosis, but we do not have to take the similarities between that and our own epoch to such extremes in order to underline the inherent dangers of a situation tending to disorder. What is obviously true is that at present the transfer of power is not moving upwards in favour of supra-national institutions, but downwards, to the benefit of multinational companies, NGOs, organised crime and terrorist groups. 3/11 was the most damaging attack carried out in Spain since the last war and the attackers did not act in the name of a State but, on the contrary, of a non-State group. This is a further instance of what an author has described as the ‘privatisation of war’.

Our primary challenge, therefore, is the security threat, in the shape of terrorist acts similar to those we have suffered from in the past and learnt how to combat. In Spain we know that the way to handle this threat requires unity among democratic parties. Disunity makes us weak and vulnerable. For this reason, the PSOE (Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party) has offered the other political parties a national pact on, among other things, foreign policy. The important thing now is to work to establish a consensus on which to base this national agreement. My own view is that agreement with the opposition should not be too hard to achieve, built on the following basic principles.

Firstly, it will be based on Spain’s dual European and American identity. Spain’s membership of the European Union and the widespread support for the EU among Spaniards make the construction of a united Europe the central plank of this government’s foreign policy. But the history of Spain would be incomplete without the American dimension. Today Spain has significant economic interests in Latin America, while its relations with the United States are based on political and defence matters. In the future we should strengthen the political side of our relations with Latin America and the economic side of our relations with the United States, much less strong than those achieved by several of our European partners.

Secondly, our political priorities are determined by our proximity to the Arab and Islamic world, about which I shall speak in a moment. Suffice it to say at this point that as a result of immigration from that part of the world, the dividing line between home and foreign policy no longer holds good.

Moving from a regional to an operational criterion, we would underline the following priorities.

First and foremost, the security and protection of Spaniards, both here at home and abroad. Security is indivisible, meaning that domestic and overseas security should be dealt with as a single entity. The threats to our security, of which terrorism is the main one, should be tackled first by encouraging international cooperation in police and intelligence work. Exceptionally, we may agree to Spanish intervention in regions in conflict, provided that this is the result of an agreement by the international community as articulated by the United Nations.

Secondly, Spain will work actively in favour of the rule of international law, strengthening the credibility and effectiveness of international institutions and involving them fully in resolving conflicts such as that of the Middle East, whose persistence is poisoning international relations. In short, where Spain has responsibilities, it will assume them, acting in the interests of a fairer and therefore safer and more legitimate world order.

Thirdly, Spanish foreign policy will be based on the values of solidarity, human rights, the equality of men and women and the protection of the environment; values which our society regards as the expression of its collective identity. In this respect, Spain’s contribution to international cooperation for development will receive particular attention; the annual amount of aid will be doubled within the term of this government.

These three items should be the building blocks of a new consensus on foreign policy. The debate is still open, and institutions such as the Elcano Royal Institute can play an important role in bringing all sides together.

In the meantime, allow me to take a closer look at some of the key aspects of Spanish foreign policy.

I begin with Europe, by underlining the immense effort the EU has undertaken in the last two years in tackling simultaneously its largest integration project so far (monetary union), the biggest enlargement in the EU’s entire history and, finally, providing the Union with a common Constitution. Europe has worked very hard on these domestic developments, with the result that it has barely had time to reflect on the changes that have taken place in the outside world since 9/11. When the Iraq crisis arose, European positions, whether in support of or in opposition to the stance adopted by the United States, were in all cases a reaction to the US position. Europe had no position of its own. Only after the war had ended did Europe debate and define a truly European strategy on security. Its list of the outstanding threats to security is very similar to that of the Americans: terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and rogue States in rank decomposition. What is different in Europe’s case is the importance it attaches to effective multilateralism, forestalling conflicts and bringing all diplomatic, financial and aid pressure to bear, including (though not as the primary option) military pressure.

Despite these strategic advances, 3/11 in Madrid came as a huge shock to Europeans. The consensus was that Europe was doing too little either operationally or politically to meet this strategic threat. The EU cannot afford the luxury of contemplating its own midriff. It must stand up and look about it. In doing so, three questions must be answered: What should we do among ourselves? What do we expect of our allies? What are we prepared to do with our neighbours?

To answer the first question, ‘What should we do among ourselves?’ Well, to begin with, the EU is a huge common stamping ground for criminals. Criminal bands and terrorist organisations take full advantage of being able to move freely across an entire continent where for them there are no frontiers, whereas for police forces and intelligence services national frontiers are only too real. So, from now on JAI (Justice and Interior) matters should be seen as the main driver of European integration. The very legitimacy of the European Union is at stake. How else can we respond to terrorism, which according to all the latest surveys is the main concern of Europe’s citizens?

Second question: What shall we do with our allies or, more specifically, what shall we do with the United States? Events over the last twelve months contain enough lessons for both Europeans and Americans on how to build a healthier relationship between the two sides of the Atlantic. To begin with, the United Nations, which at one stage seemed condemned to irrelevance, is now recognised by the United States for what it is. Also, the value of its European allies, which at one time also seemed dispensable, is now recognised. The United States needs the international legitimacy that Europe confers; it is not in a position in which it can dispense with the diplomatic and military support of its European allies. At the same time, the European allies, within the framework of NATO, should assume greater responsibility. Such, at least, is the understanding of this government, as shown in its decision to reinforce its contingent in Afghanistan to guarantee free elections there. In short, despite the crisis in trans-Atlantic relations, the time has come to revive a dialogue based on mutual respect, frankness and loyalty.

The third question is: What are we going to do with our neighbours? Next year we celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Barcelona Declaration, which set up the Euro-Mediterranean association. Barcelona remains our strategy for the region. Even though the results have not proved as positive as we had hoped, Barcelona’s great strength lies in its being a policy drawn up collectively with our neighbours and not one dictated unilaterally by the North for the South. The lessons learnt over the last decade, together with the experience gained from the enlargement of the European Union, have inspired the so-called New Neighbourhood Initiative, which aims at being a more effective tool with which to implement the objectives of the Barcelona Declaration. As you know, this initiative admits the principle of differentiating between countries to allow the EU to work with those governments which genuinely want to tackle their domestic reforms, not on the basis of a one-size-fits-all model, but on a tailor-made action plan agreed to by both sides. The incentive the EU is offering to those countries willing to strengthen the legitimacy of their political system, adopt measures to ensure good government and liberalise their economies, is free access to the internal market of the European Union.

With respect to North Africa, the government wants to promote a comprehensive view capable of looking beyond short-term alliances and a precarious balance of power. In a little over two months, the message has got through, thanks to a considerable diplomatic effort that includes a trip by the prime minister to Morocco and visits by the foreign minister to Algeria and Tunisia, plus my own trips to Libya and the refugee camps of the Saharauis in Tinduf. One of the new elements of our policy on North Africa is the readiness of this government to make a positive contribution to resolving the dispute over the Western Sahara. The framework of the solution will still be the United Nations but it is clear that no lasting agreement can be obtained until the two parties themselves agree. Our efforts are directed at precisely this goal: facilitate a dialogue between the two parties.

Morocco and Algeria share one of the world’s last closed frontiers. A solution to the Saharan conflict would not only do away with one of the sources of regional tension but would also facilitate the creation of bigger markets, more likely to attract European investment. Foreign investment is one of the best ways of modernising our neighbours’ economies. It would generate employment and gradually close the income gap between the two sides of the Mediterranean, the cause of the migrational flows which it is in all our interests to control.

The fight against terrorism is another of the main planks of our dialogue with our neighbours. This is a threat to innocent lives on both sides of the Straits of Gibraltar and one which can only be fought successfully in a climate of full political and police cooperation on both shores of the Mediterranean.

At the other end of the Mediterranean, the situation in Iraq and the Arab-Israeli conflict present major obstacles to stability in the region. With respect to Iraq, the Spanish government hopes that the interim government, which has exercised sovereignty since June 28th, will take the political, social and economic life of the country in hand until the elections scheduled for January 2005. The Spanish government wants to make a constructive contribution to ensure a successful transition in Iraq, by acting in three areas:

• as a member of the Security Council;
• by fulfilling our commitment to help in the reconstruction of Iraq;
• by means of constant dialogue with the countries of the region, particularly Iraq’s neighbours. This is borne out by the recent visit to Spain of the Syrian president at the beginning of June and of the Iranian foreign minister at the end of May.

In the Arab-Israeli conflict, too, Spain hopes to use to the full its capacity as honest broker in persuading the parties of the need to fulfil the commitments undertaken in the Road Map. This was the purpose of the visits to Madrid of the Israeli foreign minister and the Palestinian prime minister, both in May, and the visits I made to Ramala and Damascus. Spain fully supports the initiatives of the Quartet of Madrid and applauds its recent reactivation.

I now move on to another of the major objects of Spanish foreign policy, Latin America. In the last few years we have seen a two-way flow across the Atlantic, bringing both sides closer together and establishing strong ties of interdependence between Spain and that region. I refer to Spanish investment, which now accounts for 8% of our GDP, and Latin America immigration, which is having a positive effect on our economy and on the birth rate in Spain. We would like these deep-seated flows between the two societies to be accompanied by a more ambitious level of political cooperation. Our plan is to enrich the bilateral agenda country by country and consolidate the Ibero-American summits by instituting a General Secretariat. We hope that the coming summit in San José will approve the working statutes for this. Spain will also continue to support sub-regional integration though our diplomatic activity within the European Union. Our first job here is to finalise the association agreement with MERCOSUR, in order to move on from there to similar agreements with Central America and the Andean Pact countries.

Whatever our success in the immediate objectives, our view of the region is governed by the belief that Spain should contribute to the consolidation of democracy in the countries of Latin America, giving its full support to policies designed to fight against poverty and improve the quality of governance. Our policy on cooperation for development is fully geared to these basic priorities.

Not only do we want to do more and do it better in Latin America, we also want to do more things with Latin Americans in other parts of the world. A recent example was the initiative of the Cervantes Institute and the National Autonomous University of Mexico to establish the first qualification of competence in the Spanish language valid throughout the world, on the lines of similar qualifications in English and French. In the economic field there are many initiatives we could explore. Spanish companies have become multinationals in Latin America, but they will not reach the age of maturity in a globalised world until they establish a firm foothold in the fast growing markets of Asia. The countries of Latin America, many of which share a Pacific seaboard with Asia, could become strategic partners of Spain in this Eastern venture.

Even excluding Japan, it is calculated that the contribution of Asia to world GDP will increase from the present 12% to 25% by 2020. Spain’s international image would be badly affected if the Spanish government and Spanish industry failed to make a collective effort to increase Spain’s presence in the region. With this in mind, we are now redrawing and re-launching the Asia-Pacific Framework Plan for the period 2005-2007.

Lastly, I would like to mention sub-Saharan Africa. Our aim here is to contribute within our means to strengthening the political and security structure in the African continent, at the same time as we help strengthen economic development by means of the NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development). In the case of Equatorial Guinea, the government plans to support political and social reforms to enable bilateral relations to be conducted on a sound and reasonable footing.

And I conclude with a final reflection. Napoleon said that brute force never constructed anything lasting. Spain’s government wants this country to be a standard-bearer of legality in international affairs. To repeat my opening remarks, an acceptable world order for all can only be established by the rule of law. Spain can and must contribute here, particularly in those areas in which this country is recognised as having special responsibility. The government of Spain assumes this task in the belief that in doing so it responds to a deep-seated desire of Spanish society.