Valcárcel: Europe must counter Putin and Trump’s ‘big lies’

European Parliament Vice-President for communication policy Ramon Luis Valcárcel Siso. [European Parliament]

The European Union’s institutions and member states must counter the “big lies” coming from countries such as Russia and the United States, which “destabilise” the bloc, European Parliament Vice-President Ramon Luis Valcárcel Siso said in an interview with EURACTIV Spain.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is “a master of destabilisation using big lies, and I am afraid that the new US president Donald Trump will also resort to these tactics. They are not friends of the Union European”, said Valcárcel, a centre-right MEP (EPP group) and head of the European Parliament’s communications policy.

The European Parliament, and Europe as a whole, he stressed, will have to combine “all possible means” to ensure that “these lies are countered”.

But Valcárcel said he wants “to go beyond countering the concrete lies” and “put across” his own positive messages about Europe.

“We have to communicate that Europe is an opportunity,” he said, “a success story [and] a safe place”.

Europe, he added, is “where liberty dwells”, where “opportunity is great, certainly greater than in Russia, and I suspect also than the United States, seeing the path that country is taking. This is what we have to do, because if not, the lies will prevail over the truth,” he said.

For Valcárcel, who is responsible for communicating the Parliament in the “post-truth” era, this is “a challenge” in the lead-up to the 2019 European elections.

“2018 will be a really dizzying year. We cannot wait until 2019, this will already be too late,” he said, convinced that the coming elections in France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands will “shake up the consciousness” of citizens and politicians and make them think seriously about the future of Europe.

“Very tough” stance on Brexit negotiations

Valcárcel believes the negotiations over the UK’s withdrawal from the EU will have a big impact on the bloc’s future. For this reason, he called for the EU to be “very tough, I mean very tough” in its Brexit stance.

“I think we have to be very tough so that others do not think that leaving the EU is a walk in the park,” he said.

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The White Paper on the future of Europe, presented last week by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, was the EU executive’s contribution to the on-going debate. Valcárcel also sees summits like the one held on Monday (6 March) in Versailles between the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Spain as a positive development.

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With French President François Hollande about to leave office, German Chancellor Angela Merkel up for re-election in September and Italian leader Paolo Gentiloni facing elections next February, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is “now a symbol of stability and hope” for the future of Europe, Valcárcel said.

Spain, which is pushing for “more Europe, for ever closer union”, has “a very important role to play”, added the Parliament vice-president, who supports “strong and united” European cooperation on defence and counter-terrorism, among other areas.

No to a two-speed Europe

“I am not in favour of a two-speed Europe and neither is the Spanish government” because it would “generate frustration and inequality”, he said.

“I think, as Rajoy said, that we can get further together, by combining our efforts, than we ever could separately,” he added.

One of Europe’s “big problems”, in Valcárcel’s view, lies in the “lack of solidarity” and “intolerant” attitudes of national governments, such as that led by Viktor Orbán in Hungary, with its anti-refugee, anti-immigration policies.

“I am totally against the Hungarian government. They are conservatives and members of the European People’s Party group, but I do not like them,” the vice-president said.

To help generate more European spirit, Valcárcel hopes to roll out his digital library project very soon. This will be “an agora”, surpassing even the US Library of Congress, he said, and will be open to politicians, intellectuals and the general public.