Josep Borrell, 73, does the interview on the twelfth ground of the Berlaymont constructing in Brussels. A satellite tv for pc picture of Europe, on which nary a cloud will be seen, hangs on the wall behind his desk right here on the headquarters of the European Fee. However following the mishaps that accompanied his journey to Moscow in early February, the European Union’s prime diplomat has been beneath stress.
DER SPIEGEL: Mr. Borrell, a Spanish newspaper as soon as attested to your “volcanic character.” However the place was that volcanic character when Russian Overseas Minister Sergey Lavrov publicly embarrassed you in a latest press convention and Moscow expelled diplomats from three European nations afterward?
Borrell: Truly, I’m identified for reacting instantly and never avoiding an argument. However on this event, once I heard the comparability of the Navalny case with the Catalans, who have been condemned for his or her function within the independence referendum, I thought of going right into a dialectical combat with him in entrance of the digicam. However I made a decision not to take action. I didn’t go to Moscow to speak about Catalonia. I made a decision to remain calm.
DER SPIEGEL: To many individuals you appeared extra helpless than calm.
Borrell: I do not suppose you’ll say that for those who had witnessed our assembly behind closed doorways. I seemed Lavrov within the eye there and advised him very clearly what I assumed in regards to the human rights state of affairs in Russia. I known as for the discharge of opposition politician Alexei Navalny and an unbiased investigation into the poison assault in opposition to him and criticized the arrest of the protesters. Lavrov then warned me.
DER SPIEGEL: What did he say?
Borrell: He requested me if I wished to speak in regards to the Navalny case through the press convention as properly. Lavrov mentioned that Russia wouldn’t settle for what they known as an interference in inner issues.
DER SPIEGEL: You’re a Catalan, however you reject the area’s independence from Spain. Lavrov recognized that as a weak spot.
Borrell: There’s a Spanish expression that comes from the bullfighters who maintain out the crimson material in entrance of the bull: “Run into the crimson.” It basically means to fall for somebody’s line. I didn’t wish to try this. I don’t see a press convention as a spot for public disputes. The talk ought to happen behind closed doorways. And there issues have been expressed in very clear phrases.
DER SPIEGEL: Lavrov additionally mentioned that the EU isn’t a dependable companion. It’s best to have fought again.
Borrell: I did, too. I advised him that relations between the EU and Russia are at a low level, that we take into account Russia to be an adversary, that we strongly condemn the poisoning of a Russian citizen and the best way the judiciary is performing.
DER SPIEGEL: So, out of your perspective, you probably did every little thing proper?
Borrell: No. When so many consider I ought to have proven a stronger response, I cannot contradict them. I most likely ought to have indulged my want to argue a bit extra in entrance of the cameras, too. If this occurs once more sooner or later with Mr. Lavrov, I must go into the crimson material.
DER SPIEGEL: The sanctions in opposition to Moscow imposed after the annexation of Crimea and the occupation of japanese Ukraine have had little impact. What are the brand new sanctions agreed by the EU overseas ministers this week supposed to attain?
Borrell: That is the primary time we’re utilizing the EU Human Rights Sanctions Regime. We’re utilizing it to punish these accountable from the safety equipment and the judiciary who have been concerned within the conviction of Navalny and the suppression of the demonstrations. These sanctions are of very excessive symbolic significance. And the prevailing sanctions in relation to Ukraine are having an impact: They enhance the political and financial prices for Russia for unlawful actions taken in opposition to Ukraine.
DER SPIEGEL: Wouldn’t it not be simpler to ban Russian oligarchs from getting into the EU and freeze their overseas belongings?
Borrell: If the EU freezes belongings, it has to have the ability to defend that in court docket. Any oligarch may sue over that transfer within the EU. We’d then have to elucidate precisely what that particular person needed to do with Navalny’s poisoning or conviction. If we because the EU are to uphold the rule of legislation, then the legislation should apply to everybody.
DER SPIEGEL: The EU may have imposed a lot more durable sanctions in opposition to Russia in a legally safe method. Why didn’t it?
Borrell: Sanctions are only a instrument, they do not change coverage. We’ve got to do many different issues. Within the case of Russia, that coverage should interact in three issues: We’ve got to push again, we have now to include and we have now to have interaction.
DER SPIEGEL: Include Russia? That feels like Chilly Battle vernacular.
Borrell: I am speaking about focused actions. It’s clear that we have now to push again when Russia violates worldwide legislation or human rights. We’ve got to include or constrain Russia when it places stress on us by cyberattacks, by disinformation or by occupying the territories of sovereign states.
DER SPIEGEL: One measure that may damage Moscow can be the whole suspension of the Nord Stream 2 undertaking that can enable Russia to promote pure fuel to Germany by a direct pipeline. You’ve got mentioned this can be a resolution for the German authorities to make. However wouldn’t better political stress on Berlin be acceptable right here? In any case, quite a few EU member states are strictly against the undertaking.
Borrell: The European Fee, of which I’m vice chairman, has mentioned a number of instances that Nord Stream 2 shouldn’t be useful in contributing to the diversification of vitality provides to Europe or the EU’s vitality autonomy. However the Fee can not forestall personal companies from deciding to take a position their cash in an industrial undertaking.
DER SPIEGEL: The German authorities insists that Nord Stream 2 is a purely financial undertaking and never a political one. Are you persuaded by that argument?
Borrell: Initiatives of this scale can by no means be purely financial. There are geopolitical issues, prefer it or not. And geopolitics additionally performed a task within the choices on Nord Stream 2, that’s fairly evident.
DER SPIEGEL: Your go to to Moscow additionally confirmed that Russia doesn’t take the EU significantly as a overseas coverage participant.
Borrell: It has at all times been Moscow’s ambition to barter bilaterally with the member states of its alternative and cross over the EU. We completely should not enable that to occur. Once we pool our affect, we have now a stronger bargaining place – not solely with Russia.
DER SPIEGEL: Phrase of that doesn’t appear to have gotten round within the EU but. Its members usually disagree on overseas coverage, but all choices on this space have to be taken unanimously.
Borrell: It might actually be simpler for me if we may eradicate the unanimity rule in overseas and safety coverage and take choices by a certified majority. That may not solely make lots of issues simpler – debates would additionally instantly be a lot livelier. So long as everybody has a veto, you have got much less incentive to have interaction in an enormous dialogue. When unsure, they’ll merely block issues.
DER SPIEGEL: Will the person EU states ever be prepared to surrender their overseas coverage veto rights?
Borrell: I don’t suppose it’s going to occur throughout my time period. However to be able to transfer from unanimity to a certified majority, we want unanimity as a result of this resolution needs to be taken with unanimity. And there are a lot of nations that worth their veto energy very a lot. Because of this I spend half my time on inner diplomacy inside the EU.
DER SPIEGEL: The European Union’s world affect stems primarily from its energy in commerce issues and the attraction of its democratic mannequin, so-called smooth energy. Ought to navy energy even be added?
Borrell: If we really do have widespread safety coverage at some point, we may even have a standard protection capability. Maybe we’ll even be a navy alliance at some point. However in the meanwhile, we aren’t.
DER SPIEGEL: Why is that?
Borrell: The European states mixed spend nearly thrice extra on protection than Russia. However nobody would dispute that Russia has a lot better navy may and that it’s prepared to make use of that energy. The EU member states are ready to face up for his or her pursuits, even militarily. Simply not beneath the European flag.
DER SPIEGEL: Is that additionally as a result of Germans, who’re significantly reluctant in terms of sending their troopers on missions overseas?
Borrell: Due to its historical past, Germany has sure inhibitions about getting into into navy operations overseas, and I perceive that. However there’s a rising realization that we stay in a harmful world and that it’s within the EU’s curiosity to have interaction militarily – particularly in challenges the place NATO doesn’t.
DER SPIEGEL: For instance?
Borrell: Frankly talking, I don’t see NATO performing within the Sahel. Nonetheless, somebody has to do it. At present, it’s some members of the EU. However I’m satisfied we may do that way more successfully if we Europeans pooled our navy capacities.
DER SPIEGEL: Do you suppose the EU’s smooth energy has suffered because of the corona disaster? Numerous Asian nations have performed a greater job of conserving the virus beneath management, and nations like the US and the UK are exhibiting the EU how it’s performed when it comes to vaccinating their residents rapidly.
Borrell: I’m satisfied that it was the suitable resolution by the EU member states to buy vaccines collectively fairly than compete for them.
DER SPIEGEL: However within the U.S., persons are being vaccinated at a a lot greater price than right here.
Borrell: That’s true, and within the UK as properly. That could be the preliminary worth to pay for performing collectively. Perhaps just a few nations would have gotten a bit extra vaccine if that they had gone it alone. However then others would have needed to wait longer, and in the long term, nobody would have benefited.
DER SPIEGEL: Let’s ask this query in a extra polemical means: Ought to individuals in Germany or France threat their well being in order that the vaccine will get to Malta or Estonia sooner?
Borrell: Let me put that query again to you polemically: Is the well being of a German price greater than that of an Estonian? The very essence of the EU is to answer challenges in solidarity and to be stronger collectively. And that’s what occurred with vaccine procurement.