Arancha Gonzalez Laya: “The European political community is a response to Putin’s threat”

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We welcome this week Arancha Gonzalez Laya, Spanish economist, former Minister of Foreign Affairs in the socialist government of Pedro Sanchez and who has been named Dean of the School of International Affairs (PSIA) at Sciences Po. War in Ukraine, inflation, politics of neighbourhood, the one who knows the mysteries of international bodies well sheds light on the issues that concern Europeans.

Arancha Gonzalez Laya gives a “very good” mention to the French Presidency of the Council of the EU which has just ended, among other things for “the way in which France has worked for a united European response to the war in Ukraine”. Because during this presidency, “the EU reacted in a firm way, and in the way it intends to be most effective: both supporting the Ukrainian economy, by supplying arms to the Ukrainian army so that ‘it can defend itself – and this is also a novelty for the EU – and also by taking sanctions whose objective is to make it more difficult for Vladimir Putin to finance this war”. Sanctions which will have “an effect in the medium and long terms”, she underlines.

Granting Ukraine candidate status for membership of the European Union is, according to the former Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs, “a very strong signal to Vladimir Putin, who precisely wanted to prevent Ukraine is closer to the EU, that it is closer to the West… and this is also a very clear signal to Ukrainian citizens because, for them, the idea of ​​being part of the EU, the idea of ​​being part of Europe was a desire expressed in a very strong way, which does not date from yesterday!” However, she recognizes that “between now and when she becomes a member of the EU, it will take a long process”, taking as an example her country, Spain, which had to adjust its economy, its institutions and its laws to those of the European Union”.

She also returns to the idea of ​​a European political community, theorized by the French President during his speech on 9 May and which she welcomes with enthusiasm, because according to her, “Europe in the broad sense needs to define this European political space, which is made up of the EU Member States, as well as other states, which do not want to be EU members for the time being, such as Switzerland, Norway or why not the United Kingdom , and which is also a response to this threat from Vladimir Putin”.

Some 7 million refugees have already left Ukraine, some of whom have returned home, to fight or resettle. This wave of migration has put Europe to the test, raising fears of the rise of populism in the Union. “All over the world migration is a complicated subject, but in Europe, which is a space where people can circular within, this requires large doses of solidarity, also common rules, and in the case of the Ukraine, we are in the process of showing very clearly how we understand, we in Europe too, the arrival of all these refugees, and how we are in the process of welcoming them (…) because we understand the importance and the urgency of giving an answer to this citizen drama which is a war in European territory, which we have not known since the Second World War with this virulence”.

Another consequence of the war in Ukraine, a record inflation of almost 9% for the month of June in Europe, while growth remains slowed down, at less than 3%. According to Arancha Gonzalez Laya, who was Pascal Lamy’s spokesperson and chief of staff when he was Director General of the WTO between 2005 and 2013, Europe “has not yet digested the inflation generated by the Covid” that a second wave “due to the impact of the war in Ukraine” has emerged. But in this inflation that Europe is experiencing, “there is a structural part, and it is probably that which is the most worrying”, she analyzes. She insists on the role of central banks, which “have as their main job to manage inflation”, but “cannot extract themselves from the context in Europe today, which is at the same time inflation, growth and debt. And this is where the (European) Central Bank acts, firmly but cautiously, in a prudent, balanced way, to ensure that we control inflation, that we do not kill growth and that we can manage the debt”, she continues, emphasizing the importance of the debt part. “Because we also have to make big investments for the digital and climate transitions that we have set in motion and which will come with large sums of public spending, and now we know that we must also spend more on our defense”, explained again Arancha González Laya.

Asked about Spain’s relations with Morocco on the one hand and Algeria on the other, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs recalls “the importance for the EU to take care of and concern itself with its neighborhood south”, and therefore, among others, Morocco and Algeria, “essential neighbours”, “trying to have the best relations with them all”, in order to “manage in a collegial manner the major challenges that we have in common , such as the energy transition, the Mediterranean Sea or terrorism, which is something that concerns us, on both shores of the Mediterranean”.

A program prepared by Georgina Robertson, Isabelle Romero, Perrine Desplats and Luke Brown

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