Spain

1. The Eastern Neighbours and Russia

Spaniards against EU’s sanctions but with a very poor image of both Russia and Putin

Fol­low­ing last year’s trends, there are divid­ed opin­ions about bilat­er­al rela­tions with a coun­try such as Rus­sia. On the one hand, the Span­ish Gov­ern­ment, and par­tic­u­lar­ly its MFA, José Manuel Gar­cía-Mar­gal­lo, has a favourable opin­ion of the coun­try and tends to under­line the impor­tance of hav­ing good rela­tions with it and its leader, Vladimir Putin. Gar­cía-Mar­gal­lo him­self, in 2015, has trav­elled to Moscow and host­ed the Russ­ian vice min­is­ter for for­eign affairs in Madrid.

How­ev­er, on the occa­sion of the annex­a­tion of Crimea in 2014, the Span­ish Gov­ern­ment stood firm­ly against Russia’s vio­la­tion of inter­na­tion­al law. There is a strong con­sen­sus across the Span­ish polit­i­cal spec­trum that this kind of behav­iour is very neg­a­tive to the glob­al governance.

On the oth­er hand, opin­ion polls show us that Spaniards have an unfavourable image of both the coun­try and Putin. Accord­ing to the Pew Research Cen­ter (Spring 2015 Glob­al Atti­tudes sur­vey), Spaniards lead the rank­ing of lack of con­fi­dence in Putin: 92 % of Spaniards have no con­fi­dence in him, while only 6 % have con­fi­dence in the Russ­ian leader. Sim­i­lar­ly, in the 36th wave of the Elcano Barom­e­ter (May 2015), Putin obtained a punc­tu­a­tion of 2.9 out of 10, far away from oth­er inter­na­tion­al lead­ers such as François Hol­lande, with a 5.2, Barack Oba­ma, with a 6.1 or Pope Fran­cis, the best val­ued, reach­ing a 7.2 out of 10. In the same study, Rus­sia finds itself with a 4.1 out of 10, worse than Ger­many (6.2), the US (6.1), Italy (5.3), Chi­na (5.2), or Greece (4.5).

The major­i­ty of Spaniards (59 %) con­sid­er Rus­sia as respon­si­ble for the war in Ukraine. Notwith­stand­ing this, only 10 % of them believe that the EU should sanc­tion Rus­sia, accord­ing to the afore­men­tioned barom­e­ter. This posi­tion against EU sanc­tions and in favour of an arbi­tra­tion between Rus­sia and Ukraine is also broad­ly shared by the Span­ish Gov­ern­ment, who, para­dox­i­cal­ly, has pre­ferred to fol­low the Euro­pean path and build on an exist­ing con­sen­sus that could even harm its own econ­o­my. Moscow is con­sid­ered a key part­ner in tourism (in 2013 Spain was the main Euro­pean des­ti­na­tion for Russ­ian tourists) and is also very impor­tant regard­ing exports of food and agri­cul­ture (heav­i­ly hit by the Russ­ian embar­go in August 2014).

Links:

More engagement with Eastern Partnership countries

The Euro­pean Neigh­bour­hood Pol­i­cy (ENP) is com­posed of two ele­ments: the South­ern Neigh­bour­hood (where for obvi­ous geo­graph­i­cal and his­tor­i­cal rea­sons Spain has always sit­u­at­ed its focus) and the East­ern Part­ner­ship. In a recent non-paper (Novem­ber 2014) pro­posed to the Com­mis­sion by a num­ber of coun­tries includ­ing Spain, Italy, Greece, Por­tu­gal, Slove­nia, and France, it is con­sid­ered that the ENP should remain a sin­gle pol­i­cy main­tain­ing the same instru­ments for the two dimen­sions afore­men­tioned. At the same time, the doc­u­ment applies for the need “to work towards mutu­al­ly accept­able objec­tives based on com­mon inter­ests” (of both EU coun­tries and our neigh­bour partners).

The cri­sis in Ukraine and the events that have tak­en place since have oblig­ed Spain to increase its engage­ment in the region. Spain, which now holds a non-per­ma­nent seat in the UN Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil for the peri­od 2015–2016, con­sid­ers that Russia’s con­cerns have to be more seri­ous­ly tak­en into account when the EU nego­ti­ates with East­ern Part­ner­ship coun­tries. There­fore, it has tried to nuance the EU’s posi­tion towards Rus­sia. At the same time, Spain con­sid­ers that the EU should only grant incen­tives to East­ern Part­ner­ship coun­tries if there is progress in the reforms required, which is not always the case.

In this trou­bled sce­nario, ener­gy issues are par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ing for Spain. The Euro­pean Union as a whole is in need of nat­ur­al gas, which is most­ly import­ed from Rus­sia. Like­wise, Spain imports gas, but from Alge­ria and oth­er providers. If the so need­ed inter­con­nec­tions between Spain and France are pro­mot­ed, our coun­try could con­sol­i­date itself as an ener­gy hub. This seems more like­ly than ever, as the cre­ation of a so-called Ener­gy Union in the con­ti­nent is one of the pri­or­i­ties of the Euro­pean Commission.

Link:

An Eastern Partnership more divided than ever into two souls

The poor per­spec­tives before the East­ern Part­ner­ship Sum­mit in Riga on 21/22 May 2015 were con­firmed when the meet­ing was over. As it was thought to hap­pen, no major or strate­gic steps were tak­en and nobody was entire­ly sat­is­fied. The rea­son for this to hap­pen was the neces­si­ty of a bal­ance between pleas­ing those coun­tries while still remain­ing cau­tious towards Russia.

But the most para­dox­i­cal issue was the clear dif­fer­ence between the group of coun­tries that favour clos­er inte­gra­tion with the EU (that is, Geor­gia, Moldo­va, and Ukraine, all of them hav­ing already signed asso­ci­a­tion agree­ments) and those which clear­ly want less inte­gra­tion and nev­er beyond punc­tu­al agree­ments on com­mer­cial and eco­nom­ic issues (Arme­nia, Azer­bai­jan, and Belarus).

Because of those dif­fer­ent approach­es, the nego­ti­a­tion with all the East­ern Part­ner­ship coun­tries togeth­er does not look viable any­more. It is quite clear that for the years to come, the Euro­pean Union should come up with a new per­spec­tive in its East­ern pol­i­cy as a whole.

Link:

Far away from an EU army but keen on reinforcing a union of security and defence

Juncker’s state­ment on the need of a Euro­pean army to face Russia’s threat has brought again the ques­tion that comes and goes in the short his­to­ry of the EU: the need of a EU army. How­ev­er, the debate in Spain has not been whether this is desir­able or not, as it is com­mon­ly thought that by no means this is going to hap­pen in the next few years. Spain’s approach to this issue has been more in line with Javier Solana’s (for­mer EU’s High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive for For­eign and Secu­ri­ty Pol­i­cy) report for the Brus­sels-based think tank, CEPS, titled “More Union in Euro­pean Defence”.

What is real­ly need­ed for the EU is to have a real for­eign pol­i­cy, which can­not work with­out a defence union. This defence union would not com­pete against NATO but be com­ple­men­tary with it. Some data will help under­stand the mea­sure of this Defence Union if it were to hap­pen: when added, the expen­di­ture of the 28 mem­ber states in defence bud­get becomes the sec­ond biggest in the world. That means that the Euro­pean Union could be the sec­ond mil­i­tary pow­er in the world if that defence union existed.

In any case, the Euro­pean Union still lacks a sin­gle voice in the inter­na­tion­al con­cert and that implies that there is no real inten­tion of hav­ing the so-need­ed Euro­pean Defence Union. The mere idea of an EU army is a utopia at the moment.

Link:

2. EU Enlargement

Against EU’s path for eastern neighbours

Spain has nev­er fore­seen a sce­nario with the mem­ber coun­tries of the East­ern Neigh­bour­hood as mem­bers of the Euro­pean Union as a real pos­si­bil­i­ty. The Ukraine cri­sis, with the con­flict with Rus­sia, has only rein­forced Spain’s views on the ques­tion of enlarge­ment towards these coun­tries. That does not mean that Spain thinks there should not be close eco­nom­ic and polit­i­cal ties between those coun­tries and the EU, but rather that the East­ern Part­ner­ship is not and should not be the first step towards an EU per­spec­tive for them.

In any case, not even all of the coun­tries that are part of the East­ern Part­ner­ship share the will of one day reach­ing the Euro­pean Union. In fact, Arme­nia, Azer­bai­jan, and Belarus are not com­fort­able with that prospect. Only Geor­gia, Moldo­va, and Ukraine desire to join the EU.

For Spain, enlarge­ment pol­i­cy should at this stage be lim­it­ed to the West­ern Balka­ns and Turkey, now that Ice­land has decid­ed uni­lat­er­al­ly not to fol­low Brus­sels’ path. It is worth men­tion­ing here that Spain is quite com­fort­able with the deci­sion made by Juncker’s Com­mis­sion not to enlarge in the next four years. Juncker’s deci­sion under­lined the need of con­sol­i­da­tion after the pre­vi­ous entrance of 13 states in only 10 years.

Links:

Traditionally (and still) in favour of accession, but worried about the context

Since the end of the Balkan Wars, Spain has had an active role in the region, par­tic­u­lar­ly in Bosnia, where numer­ous troops were present for about 20 years. That pres­ence has increased Spain’s inter­est in the West­ern Balka­ns. Spain has had, broad­ly speak­ing, quite a favourable posi­tion towards the enlarge­ment process in the West­ern Balkans.

At the moment, Mon­tene­gro and Ser­bia have start­ed mem­ber­ship talks and the For­mer Yugoslav Repub­lic of Mace­do­nia (FYROM) and Alba­nia (since last year) are can­di­date coun­tries. In all four cas­es, Spain sup­ports their can­di­da­cies to — once they meet the Copen­hagen cri­te­ria — join the Euro­pean Union. How­ev­er, there are sev­er­al issues that should be solved before the acces­sion, such as the rela­tions between Ser­bia and Koso­vo, or the cur­rent polit­i­cal insta­bil­i­ty in FYROM.

The rest of enti­ties are poten­tial can­di­dates for EU mem­ber­ship. Bosnia is still strug­gling 20 years after the Day­ton Agree­ment, but has recent­ly con­clud­ed a Sta­bil­i­sa­tion and Asso­ci­a­tion Agree­ment with the EU that should help improve its eco­nom­ic sit­u­a­tion and move for­ward in its rela­tions with the EU. Spain also sup­ports Bosnia’s path towards the EU, despite know­ing that it will be long and ardu­ous. In Koso­vo (not recog­nised by Spain as an inde­pen­dent state; the same posi­tion of Cyprus, Greece, Roma­nia, and Slo­va­kia) the EU’s EULEX mis­sion is try­ing to sup­port the author­i­ties in uphold­ing the rule of law. Spain, as a non-recog­nis­ing state, can­not sup­port EU’s per­spec­tive for Kosovo.

As for Turkey, there has tra­di­tion­al­ly been strong con­sen­sus across the Span­ish polit­i­cal spec­trum (unlike oth­er Euro­pean coun­tries such as France, Aus­tria, or Ger­many) that its can­di­da­cy for the EU was good for all the actors in place. There is a broad per­cep­tion in both coun­tries that there are sim­i­lar­i­ties in the process of mod­ern­iza­tion, Euro­peaniza­tion, and democ­ra­ti­za­tion, togeth­er with the grow­ing eco­nom­ic inter­ests (Turkey has become Spain’s sec­ond largest non-EU export mar­ket after the US since 2011).

How­ev­er, there have been no great steps in Turkey’s acces­sion talks in the last few years due to the resis­tance of some Euro­pean coun­tries and the author­i­tar­i­an drift of Recep Tayyip Erdo­gan, the cur­rent pres­i­dent of the Repub­lic of Turkey. Erdo­gan has shown very lit­tle com­mit­ment to Euro­pean val­ues and to the reforms demand­ed by the EU in the last few years. This author­i­tar­i­an drift has been very crit­i­cized by Span­ish policy-makers.

In fact, only one EU acces­sion chap­ter (on region­al pol­i­cy) has been opened since 2010. Since mem­ber­ship talks start­ed in Octo­ber 2005 only 14 out 35 acces­sion chap­ters have been opened. For geostrate­gic rea­sons, Brus­sels wants to keep Turkey on board, but it is not clear at all whether there is a real com­mit­ment with that coun­try to make it ever a mem­ber of the club. Schen­gen visa lib­er­al­iza­tion would show at least some prospect to Turkey. But one thing is crys­tal clear: Turkey’s EU mem­ber­ship is not like­ly to become a real­i­ty in the near future.

Link:

This EU-28 Watch is part of the a project called ‘East­ern Neigh­bours and Rus­sia: Close links with EU cit­i­zens’ (ENURC) in col­lab­o­ra­tion with TEPSA (Trans Euro­pean Pol­i­cy Stud­ies Asso­ci­a­tion). The project focus­es on devel­op­ing EU cit­i­zens’ under­stand­ing of the top­ic of the East­ern Neigh­bour­hood and Rus­sia and aims at encour­ag­ing their inter­est and involve­ment in this pol­i­cy which has an impact on their dai­ly lives.

The EU-28 Watch project is map­ping out the dis­cours­es on these issues in Euro­pean poli­cies all over Europe. Research insti­tutes from all 28 mem­ber states are invit­ed to give overviews on the dis­cours­es in their respec­tive countries.

This sur­vey was con­duct­ed on the basis of a ques­tion­naire that has been elab­o­rat­ed in March 2015. Most of the reports were deliv­ered in June 2015. This issue and all pre­vi­ous issues are avail­able on the recent­ly relaunched EU-28 Watch web­site: www.eu-28watch.org.

The EU-28 Watch No. 11 receives sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing from the Otto Wolff-Foun­da­tion, Cologne, in the frame­work of the ‘Dia­log Europa der Otto Wolff-Stiftung’, and finan­cial sup­port from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion. The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion is not respon­si­ble for any use that may be made of the infor­ma­tion con­tained therein.