The European Union is showing that we have the capacity to act together. Possibly things could have been done better, but without a doubt the initial response to Putin’s attack has been forceful and based on unity. There has been a very clear position: this attack is more than an attack on the territorial integrity of Ukraine; it is also an attack on European values, democracy and freedoms.
Zelensky says that he has assumed that Ukraine will not join NATO. How do you interpret it?
Negotiations are taking place, perhaps it will be in the line of achieving a ceasefire, of ending the war and avoiding the suffering of so many civilians who have been killed and so many refugees who are leaving the country. As an EU we have already said that only the Ukrainian people can decide whether to join NATO or the EU
It may seem that the EU is not making it too easy for Ukraine to join the Union.
It is not like this. There is a procedure that is established in the treaties of the Union for the countries that request to enter. I want to remind you that it was only 10 days ago that Zelensky made the formal request to join the EU. At no time has Europe said no to the entry of Ukraine: we have open arms, obviously with the transformation process that the country has to carry out, like everyone else.
Should Europe heed Ukraine’s requests to create a no-fly zone?
Europe is helping, with a very important degree of involvement, Ukraine and the Ukrainian army. I want to remind that we have doubled the budget of the fund to carry weapons for the Ukrainian people to defend themselves. Another type of intervention that could have more serious consequences in this regard, we must have sufficient responsibility to know if it has to be done and when. Establishing that no-fly zone means that if someone violates it, then we would have to enter into the conflict. And we all know what that can mean.
Are the sanctions that are being applied hurting Putin?
Of course. The economic situation right now in Russia is much worse than it was a month ago. We need to keep insisting, there will come a time when there has to be a citizen response to put an end to this dictator. And today it already exists, there is a very important part of Russian civil society that raises its voice against the dictator, that takes to the streets and risks his integrity, because many are imprisoned. These people need to be supported so that regime change can take place in Russia.
Should Spain increase its defense spending?
Spain must be committed to the EU. And the EU today has a very clear position on the need to advance in the Europe of Defence. The situation we are experiencing today has shown our vulnerabilities. The objective of the EU is peace, of course, but that peace often comes at a cost.
“The European Parliament has found evidence of connections between the Kremlin and far-right forces to destabilize Europe”
Two months ago the war in Europe could have seemed an impossible scenario. What are Putin’s real motives?
A clear goal is to destabilize Europe. He’s been trying for a long time. It has done so by being on the side of far-right parties, and giving them financial support, and it has done so on this occasion with a military intervention in Ukraine because it is a country that has shown its willingness to join the EU. This goes far beyond the territorial integrity of a country; this is a clear attack on the EU project. I insist: it is not new. The European Parliament has found clear evidence of connections between the Kremlin and these far-right forces, which aim to destabilize Europe.
Far-right forces like Vox?
Like Le Pen, like Salvini, who are all those who met less than a month ago with Vox in Madrid
The European Parliament has also approved investigating the alleged links with Russia of a part of the Catalan independence movement. Do you think those links existed? If so, would you put them in the same bag as the parties you just described?
Yes, because both links are reflected in the same Interference Commission report. It has been an investigation of more than a year, and in the same report reference is made to the links between the Kremlin and Le Pen or Salvini, and also with Catalan pro-independence political forces.
Is there a concern in Europe in this regard?
Yes. In fact, at the request of the group of Socialists and Democrats, we have decided, after the publication of the report, to continue for another year with all the investigations, because we consider that they are important enough to continue finding out what is happening . The situation we are experiencing now has shown us that the EU has to protect itself.
And about the pact between the PP and Vox in Castilla y León, is there concern in Europe?
Of course. There is so much concern in Europe with the extreme right that at the beginning of the legislature there was an agreement between the democratic political forces to apply a cordon sanitaire. And in that cordon sanitaire agreement to the extreme right is the Popular Party, with the greens, the liberals, the social democrats… Because there is a very clear objective: to stop those who want to destroy the European project and attack the most vulnerable. And of course it is worrying that within the European People’s Party there is the Spanish PP that is on many occasions being an accomplice of the extreme right. The first movements of the new PP are not very hopeful.