This is turning into the summer of Spanish politicians. We have already written extensively of the egregious and ever present Javier Solana, the EU Foreign Minister in waiting, and shall, no doubt do so again. But one must not forget the others.
There is the entire Spanish government, and, in particular, the Deputy Prime Minister, Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, who all seem to be getting the vapours because the British Secretary for Defence intends to visit a British territory to celebrate the 300th anniversary of it becoming British. As the Prime Minister of Gibraltar has pointed out, this really has nothing to do with Spain at all.
Now we have the Spanish Prime Minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, telling Le Monde that he does not wish to talk about Islamic terrorism but international terrorism. Well, that is fine. There are, of course, non-Islamic terrorists around, as the people of Spain the Basques know all too well. But when it comes to the international angle, a surprisingly large number of them profess to be Muslim and this can hardly be ignored, not even in the name of political correctness.
This is particularly odd, as John Vinocur points out in yesterday’s International Herald Tribune, because Zapatero came to power by playing up the Islamic fundamentalist terrorist threat and capitalizing on the Madrid bombs, planted by, so far as we can tell, members of Al-Quaeda cells that had been embedded in Spain for some years.
The article also points out that in the two countries that opposed the Iraq war most studiously, France and Germany, there are no such problems. Dominic de Villepin, the ex-Foreign Minister and present Interior Minister, has no scruples about denouncing Islamic terrorism. Joschka Fischer, the most prominent member of Chancellor Schröder’s cabinet, whatever his formal position might be, has referred several times to the greatest danger in the world at present being “jihadist terrorism” and the “new totalitarianism”.
(Incidentally, on a recent visit to Paris I was told that de Villepin, who, as our readers may remember, was the soulful and frightfully cultured poet when he was Foreign Minister has changed somewhat in his new position. He has recently published a book on Fouché, Napoleon’s brutal chief of police and the word among the French political class is that de Villepin feels a certain affinity with that monster.)
Zapatero seems to have been one of those to have swallowed the, largely European but occasionally American, propaganda that John Kerry, should he be elected, will conduct foreign policy differently and be more friendly to the soulful and integrationist Europeans who are desperate to oppose the United States on everything.
There was a nasty shock in store for the Spanish Prime Minister, when Kerry criticized sharply the hasty and ill-conceived Spanish withdrawal from Iraq, carried out for reasons of domestic politics. Nor has Zapatero been asked to go over and help Kerry win over any Hispanic votes. The latter is particularly surprising since it is well known that the Hispanic vote is to a great degree Republican. On the other hand Hispanic areas and communities have displayed a high and consistent degree of patriotic fervour from 9/11 on. Zapatero might not be all that welcome there.
Finally, let us turn to another Spaniard who bestrides the European political scene: the new European Parliament President and hitherto completely unknown outside his own country, Josep Borrell.
Unabashed by the fact that he was chosen to be President of a supposedly elected assembly as a result of a deal behind closed doors between the two largest groups [see Same old pork barrel politics] Señhor Borrell has decided to attack the United States for coming to represent “force without law”.
Borrell has called on the EU to strengthen its military capacity, adding, no doubt to the bemusement of the Wall Street Journal writer who interviewed him: “Europe cannot just be an intellectual reserve of the American empire.”
What can one say about this kind of misplaced arrogance? Should one perhaps point to the large number of first-class academic institutions, think-tanks, newspapers and journals in the United States? Should one question the whole concept of an intellectual reserve when the “empire” shows no sign of wanting to refer back to it?
Maybe one should ask Señhor Borrell how he envisages the strengthening of military capacity without any more money flowing into the sector? Or what that military capacity is for? Surely not to practice “force without law”. And if it is “with law” (one is irresistibly drawn to Kipling here) then who defines that law? And, indeed, what use is that military capacity if it can be withdrawn from a tricky situation just to gratify a newly elected government’s domestic supporters?
Señhor Borrell did acknowledge that on the Iraq war the EU was split with Eastern Europe and the UK on one side and the rest of Europe on the other. Well, he was half-right. Eastern Europe and the UK were, indeed, on one side but Italy, Denmark, Portugal and Finland were and are on that side, too. With Ireland and Sweden neutral, and several non-EU countries supportive, that does not leave that many in the rest of Europe team.
Still, the new President of the European Parliament is not just all talk. He has started acting. The European Parliament now has a new sub-committee on Security and Defence Policy. That should sort out those international terrorists.