Solana: Brexit could boost European defence

Javier Solana [European Commission]

The European Union has spent two years preparing to unify its energy market. Former EU High Representative Javier Solana told EURACTIV Spain that the Energy Union has to be made a reality as quickly as possible, as well as increasing security cooperation.

Javier Solana is a former secretary-general of NATO, the Council of the European Union and the Western European Union, as well as a former High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy.

At a conference held in Madrid on Friday (25 November), Javier Solana called for the Energy Union to “be made a reality”, given the sensitivity of energy supply to geopolitics.

Beyond the obvious impact that Russia could make on European energy markets, the former NATO Secretary-General raised serious questions about incoming US President Donald Trump:

“We will have to wait and see what the US will do on energy. To what extent is protectionism going to affect the issue? How is their production going to look? Will the US continue with the schemes started by Barack Obama?”

All will be revealed once Trump is in the Oval Office, said Solana. He urged Europe to be “hands on” in implementing all the legislation put together over the last two years and which the European Commission will present this week in a new legislative package.

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The former High Representative said that “whatever we do, let’s do it quickly”, before Deputy-Director of DG Energy Gerassimos Thomas conceded that implementing the Energy Union “will not be easy”, but added that the private sector and citizens should be included.

It is something Solana agreed with, highlighting that the EU’s “basic” problem is that “each country has a different energy mix”. In his opinion, “we have to see how countries can adapt to European options, not just national ones”, in terms of energy.

Solana didn’t just talk up the EU on energy matters either, he highlighted different sectors, including defence, “which should be extended to be more of a security union, both externally and internally”.

In this sense, although the United Kingdom is an “important country from a security point of view”, its exit from the EU could boost European defence plans.

“Brexit could allow those with a greater capacity and a greater need to integrate, which I think is going to happen, to work together, at a more accelerated rhythm, towards the building of a Europe of security, which would be useful for both internal and external security,” said Solana, who also cited the effect the Syrian War is having on Europe.

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Spain’s former foreign minister, José Manuel García-Margallo, told EURACTIV Spain that now is not the time for alarmist reactions to Donald Trump’s US election victory and that Brexit could provide Spain with an opportunity to increase its international standing.

In terms of transatlantic relations, the former NATO man thinks that German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s position is the way forward, in the sense that the EU is ready to “stick with them, but within the values we defend and which should be shared”.

Solana warned that if these values were broken, then the situation would “be more difficult”, but hoped that “it won’t come to that”.

Solana, who played a pivotal role in cleaning up the mess made by the break-up of Yugoslavia, also expressed his hopes that populist movements around Europe would not come to power.

The former diplomat said that 2017 “will be an important year for EU elections, in important countries. Solana added that outgoing European Parliament President Martin Schulz’s decision to enter German politics is a positive step and that he will bring a European dimension to the country’s domestic scene.

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The Spaniard concluded by warning that it is not useful to make parallels between the current situation in Europe with what happened on the continent in the first half of the 20th century.

“History does not repeat itself; the situation is completely different now. These comparisons are theoretical, not the reality,” he said.

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