A dozen EU countries formally recognised Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the country’s interim president on Monday (1 February), after their ultimatum for calling elections in the Latin American country expired.
“The government of Spain announces that we officially recognise the president of the Venezuelan National Assembly mister Guaidó Marquez as interim president of Venezuela,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez told the press in Madrid.
Spain, together with France, Germany, The Netherlands, the UK, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Portugal, Finland, Luxembourg, Latvia, Lithuania, Czechia and Estonia announced their decision to recognize Guiadó after incumbent President Nicolas Maduro showed no intention to call a new election.
EU countries said they trust Guaidó to lead the country to the polls and called for a free and fair presidential vote in the oil-rich country.
“Germany, along with several other European countries, recognises him as the legitimate interim president to oversee this task,” Chancellor Angela Merkel told a press conference. “Venezuelans have the right to express there will freely and democratically,” French President Emmanuel Macron stressed.
Les Vénézuéliens ont le droit de s’exprimer librement et démocratiquement. La France reconnaît @jguaido comme « président en charge » pour mettre en œuvre un processus électoral. Nous soutenons le Groupe de contact, créé avec l’UE, dans cette période de transition.
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) February 4, 2019
Guaidó, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said, counts on Austria’s “full support to restore democracy in Venezuela, which has been suffering from bad socialist management and the lack of rule of law for too long.”
“The people of Venezuela have suffered enough. It is time for a new start,” UK Foreign Secretary Jeramy Hunt said. “They deserve a better future.”
The decision of the EU powers arrived a few days after the European Parliament showed its support to the president of the National Assembly on Thursday (31 January) and called on member states to follow suit.
So far, US, Canada, Israel, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Panamá, Paraguay or Peru are some of the countries that have recognised Guaidó, while Russia, Turkey, Bolivia, Cuba or Nicaragua stood by Nicolas Maduro.
Maduro himself dismissed calls for a new election.
“I refuse to call for elections now,” he said in an interview with Spanish La Sexta aired on Sunday (3 February), “we don’t care what Europe says.”
No EU position yet
EU28 Foreign Affairs ministers meeting in Bucharest last week were not able to agree on a common position on the recognition of Guaidó, neither they did after gathered in Brussels for a ministerial meeting with the League of Arab States on Monday.
Italy was one of the main countries blocking an EU position as its government remains highly divided on the matter.
Until now, half of the member states have formally recognised Guidó, while Poland has expressed its intention to do so and others like Belgium showed their support for the leader of the opposition.
Addressing the press after the meeting, the EU’s High Representative Federica Mogherini recalled that whether or not to recognise Guaidó remains a competence for member states.
“In these hours, you will see member states making use of this prerogative,” she said.
Mogherini stressed that in any case, there is a common position on Venezuela. The EU has never recognised the result of the last elections but it has shown its support to the National Assembly and its president, Juan Guaidó.
Nous soutenons @jguaido dans sa mission d’organiser des élections libres et transparentes, permettant à la population de s’exprimer librement et de mener à la réconciliation au #Venezuela
Nous soutenons le Groupe de contact, créé avec l’#UE, dans cette période de transition.
— didier reynders (@dreynders) February 4, 2019
Contact group to meet this week
Last week member states agreed to put in place an international contact group aimed at creating the necessary conditions for elections to be held. Uruguay and the EU will co-host the first meeting of the group that will take place next Thursday (7 February) in Montevideo.
Mogherini will be travelling to Montevideo and hoped the contact group could “contribute to a peaceful and democratic exit of this country.”
France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the UK will speak on behalf of Europe, whereas Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Uruguay will represent Latin America.
The EU remains in close contact with authorities in the Vatican and Mexico but they will not part of the group for the moment.
The High Representative stressed that the aim of the group is not to open a formal dialogue with the actors concerned, “but to support a political dynamic.”
The international group will first try to get a better understanding of the situation and then reach out to the national actors, identify their expectations and the best way forward; and third, accompany the political transition.
The group has a 90-day mandate. In the absence of progress, “it will be terminated.”