Ausgabe 44/2004

SPIEGEL-Interview "A stronger EU is a better partner"

Spaniard Javier Solana, 62, Brussels' High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, talks about his role as the Union's first foreign minister, his struggle for more influence, and the increased influence Europe is expected to gain in the future


Mr. Solana, when the EU constitution comes into effect you will become the first European foreign minister. Does this future status already provide the EU's current High Representative for foreign policy with noticeably more influence on the international stage?

Solana: Well, people are certainly beginning to congratulate me. They know what will happen. Of course, one is consistently taken more seriously as a representative of the EU.

SPIEGEL: The 25 heads of state will be signing the constitution in Rome this week. This is to be followed by preparations for the establishment of a European foreign service ...

Solana: ... according to the treaty. The heads of state have granted me the mandate, in close cooperation with the member states and together with the new president of the European Commission, to carefully tailor this service to fit in with existing structures in Brussels. We want a so-called soft landing.

SPIEGEL: José Manuel Durão Barroso doesn't seem to be in that much of a hurry. He is worried about his commission losing influence if a new, large agency develops alongside it.

Solana: I disagree. The boundaries are clear: The foreign minister, who also serves on the Commission as vice-president, heads the council of foreign ministers. This enables him to set the agenda in coordination with the member states and conduct meetings so that all instruments of the EU can be applied in concert, using a goal-oriented approach.

SPIEGEL: Who will be placed in charge of the EU's 128 global field offices, which currently report to the commission president?

Solana: The constitution will transform the EU into a legal personality, which will then be able to maintain official diplomatic posts under international law. The European foreign minister will be in charge of these posts.

SPIEGEL: And you are claiming the lead position in the planning efforts?

Solana: Yes. But in close cooperation with the Commission and the member states from the outset, of course.

SPIEGEL: How large will the European foreign ministry be? According to an unofficial document, it will have 7,000 employees.

Solana: That number may be correct, but only at the end of the rather lengthy development process.

SPIEGEL: It will cost a tremendous amount of money. The 25 member states of the EU maintain about 600 bilateral embassies among one another. Doesn't this present an opportunity for savings?

Solana: Yes, synergistic effects can be achieved, especially at embassies in countries in which the EU will maintain diplomatic posts in the future.

SPIEGEL: What will be your responsibilities on the EU Commission? You are directly responsible for the area previously headed by EU Commissioner for External Relations Chris Patten, with a budget of more than three billion Euros.

Solana: The scope of responsibilities could be expanded.

SPIEGEL: Are you also interested in heading up foreign aid policy, which, until now, has been the responsibility of a commissioner with a portfolio of 6.5 billion Euros?

Solana: The European foreign minister is responsible for the coordination and all matters of foreign policy, even if he is not involved in the day-to-day details concerning how much money the EU spends in country X or country Y. The foreign minister outlines the policy and determines where the money goes, but always in coordination with the council.

SPIEGEL: Money is a key tool in any foreign policy. Will the European foreign minister have a thick wallet?

Solana: The priorities for most of the funds have already been set. We can take these priorities a step further by determining how much is spent in the countries south of the Mediterranean, for example, or in the Balkans. At the moment, our crisis management budget is very small. This is a key challenge for the future. The goal of the EU's security strategy is to make the European Union a participant worldwide. To achieve this, we need tremendous capabilities, which we are now bundling together for the first time. The new structures are not perfect, but far, far better than what we had previously.

SPIEGEL: Becoming a global player comes with costs and headaches. What are the benefits?

Solana: For the first time, our citizens expect the EU to pay attention to their security. Individual countries can be overwhelmed by the need to combat the dangers that threaten us. In addition, South America, Africa, India and China have been waiting for Europe to become a player, and now they're even looking forward to it. People know this will not happen within 24 hours, but they also believe that the world will be a better place if Europe joins the game.

SPIEGEL: Until now, this so-called player wasn't particularly impressive. The Union was deeply divided on the issue of the Iraq war, for example. What can you do to prevent such divisions in the future?

Solana: The war in Iraq didn't just split the European Union, but practically every institution, in every country: there was as much division within the UN Security Council as there was in public opinion in the United States. It was a so-called preemptive war, and perhaps such divisions are the natural consequence.

SPIEGEL: The wide range of authority conferred upon you by the constitution could trigger envy among individual countries' foreign ministers. Does this mean that everything will become more complicated in the future?

Solana: Why should reasonable people make their lives more difficult? After all, we are adults.

SPIEGEL: Are you saying that a division such as that which occurred over the Iraq issue will not be repeated?

Solana: Well, of course I can't vouch for that. However, if the two EU countries with a permanent seat on the UN Security Council ...

SPIEGEL: ... Great Britain and France ...

Solana: ... if they are of the same opinion, then it is highly likely that problems will be resolved jointly. If they disagree, the problems will be swept under the table. We must prevent that from happening.

SPIEGEL: Should the EU receive its own permanent seat on the Security Council?

Solana: Some would probably like to see that happen, but the issue at this point is not the agenda. The committee of UN experts charged with reforming the Security Council is currently considering sovereign states only.

SPIEGEL: Another problem is estrangement between Europe and the United States. Won't the United States perceive a stronger, unified European Union as a rival?

Solana: On the contrary. A stronger European Union will be a better partner for the United States.

SPIEGEL: Does the United States share this view?

Solana: Most intelligent Americans do. Pretty much every reasonable US citizen knows that the stronger the European Union, the better this is for America - as long as we have the same goals. And we do have the same goals with respect to the truly important issues. We may have some trade problems, with Boeing and Airbus, for example. But they don't relate to the strategic realm.

SPIEGEL: That's not entirely correct. You yourself were opposed to the Iraq war.

Solana: That is true.

SPIEGEL: And George W. Bush isn't exactly your friend.

Solana: Oh, yes he is. I don't agree with him on everything, but we have a good relationship. Let me repeat this: A stronger and more coherent union is better for the transatlantic relationship.

SPIEGEL: You will be the West's only foreign minister who can deploy troops.

Solana: Peacekeeping troops. We are involved in crisis management. We will not send these troops to war. I will have a team that can organize these troop deployments. However, I will not make the decision to deploy; it will be a collective decision by the member states. Moreover, no EU country can be compelled to provide troops.

SPIEGEL: Nevertheless, your position as foreign minister is unique.

Solana: Perhaps. We are probably the only organization worldwide - and are further along than the United Nations in this regard -, that has its own planning cell staffed by military and civilian personnel. This means that we are able to plan all elements, both civilian and military, at the beginning of a crisis.

SPIEGEL: The word "cell" makes it seem so small. But what you are referring to is a large organization, a sort of general staff.

Solana: Fewer than a hundred people.

SPIEGEL: Including the coordination office for the intelligence services? How many people are employed there?

Solana: I'd rather not discuss the details. The organization is still in development.

SPIEGEL: So the EU has an intelligence service?

Solana: Not in the sense that we maintain our own agents in other countries. We are interested in analysis only. A small team from various nations compiles the raw material provided to us by their intelligence services. This works very well, despite the fact that we developed the office in an amazingly short period of time.

SPIEGEL: There is another area in which the EU's involvement has not been particularly successful. You were partly responsible for developing the so-called Roadmap for Peace in the Middle East, which by now has become irrelevant for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Can the same be said for the EU's role in the Middle East?

Solana: No. It is critical that we continue to adhere to the concept of the roadmap. The only place where the idea of two states - Israel and Palestine - is firmly established is in a resolution by the Security Council. And that is the resolution that supports the roadmap.

This is why it is indispensable. A few elements that may accelerate the process could be added to the roadmap by early November.

SPIEGEL: And what would they be?

Solana: We want to make sure, probably together with the Egyptians, that the Palestinian security forces are able to do their work.

SPIEGEL: What does that mean? Are you planning on sending them weapons?

Solana: We will send well-prepared people, so that the Palestinians have a sensible command structure and the tools to fulfill their duties. We intend to put all of our energy into establishing security. Otherwise, there can be no Palestinian state. Of course, President Yassir Arafat would also have to do his part and give his prime minister the necessary authority.

SPIEGEL: But none of that makes any sense as long as Israel ignores the roadmap.

Solana: Sharon wants to begin withdrawing from the Gaza Strip. However, he must also pledge that the withdrawal from Gaza is the first stage in a process that will lead to a withdrawal from all occupied territories. If he claims that withdrawal from Gaza is all that needs to be done, and that this will automatically lead to peace, we will not support him. That would be a nightmare, not a dream.

SPIEGEL: The Europeans are also trying to convince Iran to abandon its plans to enrich uranium, but they haven't been particularly successful so far.

Solana: We are working very hard on this issue. You can't get something like this done in 24 hours, but our objective is clear: no more nuclear weapons in the Middle East.

SPIEGEL: Are you sure than you can convince Iran?

Solana: No. If I knew that would be the case, I'd be much happier than I am now. I am not necessarily convinced that we will be successful. But we are working intensively on this issue.

SPIEGEL: The new constitution also creates a position that could end up competing with yours, that of the permanent president of the Council. This person would represent the EU to the rest of the world.

Solana: Yes, but also at the level of the head of state and government.

SPIEGEL: A man for shaking hands?

Solana: That is also the case today. During EU summit meetings with other countries, the presiding chairman of the Council is accompanied by the president of the EU Commission and myself. I will do what a foreign minister does.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Solana, thank you for speaking with us.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan


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