Blog AnalysisEU Defense (Doctrine)Interview

Javier Solana: “The time when a country alone could resolve an international crisis is over”

(published in Ouest-France and Europolitique, March 2009) The High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana was kind enough to confide his reflections on current international developments to a few journalists gathered for a training seminar organized by the French daily Ouest-France. Prints…

• France has officially announced its decision to rejoin NATO commands. Its president Nicolas Sarkozy justifies it as a step forward for Defense Europe? Do you share this point of view?

Javier Solana – Yes. This will create a climate of trust between all the member states of the EU and NATO. Doubts about a possible "hidden agenda" of France will be erased. I think this opens up relations with NATO member states that are not members of the Union. This will also make it possible to move forward on European defense issues. Especially since, simultaneously, we have another element, positive, on the American side. An American Secretary of State (Hillary Clinton) who spends 3 days in Brussels, to meet all the interlocutors, that's new. All this creates another atmosphere for acting at the international level. In Afghanistan, in the Balkans, in the Middle East, on climate change, energy…. We are in a situation of global crisis, it is fundamental to find a global solution with the United States, China, Russia.

• If there was only one point to remember for 2009, on which you would like progress, what would it be?

JS – I would like to see the situation progress in the Middle East. It is not easy. There are still intra-Palestinian, inter-Arab problems. And on the Israeli side, we have to wait for the government to be formed. But I have some hopes. There was this important meeting in Riyadh, with Syria, Egypt (March 11). And at the end of the month, the Arab League meets. It is important. For peace, Israeli-Arab reconciliation is essential. But so is an Arab initiative. In the Middle East, peace is not a matter of days. We must therefore persevere, make every effort to push for this solution.

• In Afghanistan, Europe is engaged with the Americans. What more can she bring? Military forces, another solution?

JS – Afghanistan is a big responsibility for everyone. You have to act constructively. Americans are realists. They know perfectly well that the Europeans will not be able to double the military forces that we have already sent on the ground. But there are other subjects on which we can work, in a more coordinated way, to obtain a more real change in the situation. The question of reforming the police, building a judicial system, rebuilding the country… These are some of the tasks where Europe has a role to play.

• We cannot stay indefinitely. What could be the exit door?

JS – We need to set goals more realistically than to create a Swiss Afghanistan. We have to stick to reality: make Afghanistan a stable country, capable of living with its neighbours, with sufficient elements of democracy. And then we have to let the Afghans choose how they want to live their future. The important thing is to have this stability and free elections. For this, we must involve the whole region. We all meet again in The Hague at the end of March for a first meeting.

• Is this meeting in The Hague a first at all levels for that matter?

JS- Yes. This is the first time that all regional and international players will be there. Not only the countries of the European Union and NATO, but all the countries of the region: those of Central Asia, India and Pakistan, Iran, Russia and China. This meeting will go around the problems: security, drug trafficking, the question of borders, of the central government. We must prepare for the elections, and for the post-election period. We must encourage all countries that have historical relations with Afghanistan to look to the future. Without stability in Pakistan, there will be no stability in Afghanistan.

• Isn't there a risk of being dragged into Pakistan?

JS – We need to add countries to the solution. Not the problem. The situation in Pakistan cannot be confused with that in Afghanistan. Pakistan is a structured state. But do you really think that the problems between Pakistan and India are not as important as the Taliban issue? The discussion around Afghanistan, of a regional nature, could also be an opportunity for India and Pakistan to resolve, or attempt to resolve, historical problems in a constructive manner... We today have two possibilities: either the leave them alone, or try to see together what the possibilities are to find a solution. I only see one solution: get involved. If India and Pakistan move forward, even a little, it will be a major step for the stability of the region. If China gets involved, we will have more possibilities to act. This is the issue…

• Russia, China, you don't stop crossing borders…

JS – Yes because we have problems of a horizontal nature. For example, on the climate or the economic crisis – where we need China; disarmament and nuclear agreements – we need Russia. This year 2009 will be important for the question of armaments. The Start agreements are renewed by the end of the year. Negotiations must begin as quickly as possible. We must make every effort to move this issue forward. The problems we have today are global in nature, the solutions are global in nature. One country cannot solve all the world's problems. The time when a single country could solve global problems is over.

• Does this imply a new era of international relations?

JS – We have to change mentalities, better share our decisions with emerging countries with which until now, it must be recognized, we have had less quality relations. At the G20 meeting in early April (in London), there will be no possible solution to the economic crisis if the other countries do not get involved. The world has changed in many ways. Starting with an objective fact: the Western world today represents barely a sixth of the world's population. And, in twenty years, this proportion will be even less. The world is going to change and we have to adapt.

• Another subject, Sudan. In retaliation for his indictment by the International Criminal Court, Sudanese President Bechir expelled NGOs from Darfur. As a result, the populations find themselves without help. And the reinforced president. Aren't we going against our objective? Isn't the international community disarmed?

JS – Our position is clear, we strongly condemn the expulsion of NGOs. And we support the work of the International Criminal Court (ICC). We (the European Union) are a group of countries that initiated the ICC. We think and continue to think that this is good news, even if several countries, for example on the other side
of the Atlantic, do not share this view. We should be proud to have worked for this. Now we have to take legal decisions taking into account the political consequences of these decisions.

• That is to say ?

JS – We must ensure that the citizens of Sudan do not suffer. We need to make law and politics compatible. We work with the United Nations. Some organizations remain on the spot as well as the UN agencies.

• The African Union and China, however, have requested the postponement of the decision? Will this decision, should it be reviewed?

JS – He is the first incumbent Head of State to be indicted by the International Court, it's not easy, it's logical. But we must not go back. The Court's decision must be upheld. In any event, according to the statutes of the Court, only a resolution of the Security Council, unanimously, can oblige the Court to suspend the proceedings. And currently there is not this unanimity…. At the same time, it is difficult to have her executed by force. So we have to keep the pressure on. The president of the African Union is going to Khartoum to exert all the African pressure. Egypt and Saudi Arabia, very important countries, will also act.

• Let's go back to our “small” European affairs. The Lisbon Treaty is still not ratified? And yet Europe is advancing? How will this new Treaty really change the game? Is it still so necessary?

JS- Of course. If we had waited for the Lisbon Treaty, we would have done nothing. But with the Lisbon Treaty, we would be in a much more advantageous situation. For foreign policy, this new Treaty brings two essential advances: a stable presidency of the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs and a common foreign action service. Between yesterday and tomorrow, it's day and night. Imagine an American or Russian politician who has to change interlocutors every six months. How many European interlocutors will George W. Bush have had in these eight years of power? With this Treaty, the EU will be more credible and better represented on the external level. This is why I say: ratify, ratify….

• Are you hopeful for this Irish referendum to which everyone is hanging?

JS- Yes. In all likelihood, the referendum in Ireland could take place in October, in mid-October. And I trust the Irish. If all goes well, we could therefore count on entry into force on 1er January 2010.

• Are you an optimist by nature?

JS – I am realistic. It's life.


Born on July 14, 1942, the High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana de Madariaga comes from a well-known Spanish family. The political, diplomatic and European alchemy, he somehow bathed in it as a child. His great-uncle Salvador de Madariaga was the head of the disarmament section of the League of Nations, and was then ambassador to France and the United States. Opposing the Franco regime, he took the path of exile to London in 1936. In 1947 he participated in the Oxford manifesto on liberalism and was one of the founders of the College of Europe in Bruges. Javier Solana's older brother is also opposed to the Franco regime and will be imprisoned for his political activities.

At the age of 22, in 1964, Javier also secretly joined the Spanish Socialist Party, which was then illegal. Like his father, a chemist, he followed the scientific path with a degree in physicist and studies in Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. But he remains committed: across the Atlantic, he is notably president of the association of foreign students and participates in protests against the war in Vietnam. In 1976, he was appointed federal secretary of the new socialist party. He sat as MP for Madrid from 1977 to December 1995.

Close to Felipe Gonzalez, Javier Solana naturally joined his cabinet after the historic victory of the PSOE in 1982. He remained there for nearly 13 years, a record longevity. Minister of Culture, then Minister of Education in 1988, he became Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1992. In 1995, Spain chaired the European Union. And Solana bears on the baptismal font the Barcelona process, the objective of which is to better secure and associate the Mediterranean States with Europe. In December 1995, he was appointed Secretary General of NATO, replacing the Belgian Willy Claes. Logical evolution for the man as for the party of which he remains a member. From being opponents of NATO, both have become strong supporters of a “reasonable” Atlanticism.

At the head of NATO, Solana must first implement the "Dayton" peace plan in Bosnia-Herzegovina with the deployment of a force (IFOR) of 60 men in the former Yugoslav republic torn by several years of war. Mission then transformed into a stabilization mission (SFOR) retaining more than 000 men on
field. Under his leadership, NATO refined its strategy, integrated its members – France, partially, Spain, totally, joined the military structure – negotiated agreements, particularly with the former Russian enemy – this was the birth of the Council NATO-Russia. In 1999, NATO intervened again militarily in the Balkans, this time directly in Serbia to stop the intervention of police forces and the army in Kosovo. Intervention crowned with success militarily and politically (with a small boost from Russia which is abandoning its Serbian ally). The Serbian province with an Albanian majority will then be placed under international administration, with security provided by NATO (KFOR).

In the meantime, Solana has moved on to other horizons, still in Brussels but in the European Union. The Fifteen agreed at the Cologne Summit in July 1999 to appoint the Spanish socialist to a new post created by the Treaty of Amsterdam, that of chief diplomat of the EU. Function that he inaugurates on October 18, 1999. The Treaty of Nice adds another hat, that of Secretary General of the Council. This allows Solana to have the administrative and financial resources for the ambitions set out by the European Heads of State and Government. His discretion pleases. He was renewed in July 2004 for a second term of 5 years. During these years, he was particularly involved in the search for a solution in the Middle East and in the dialogue initiated with Iran by several countries (France, Germany, United Kingdom, Russia, United States). About twenty civil and military operations are deployed on
three continents under the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP). And the European Union has gradually emerged as a “serious” player for “good offices” missions. The latest, important symbolically and politically, being the armed conflict of August 2008 between Georgia and Russia. His mandate ends on October 31, 2009. But he will not bear the title of Minister of Foreign Affairs of the EU, created by the European Constitution, and which he had dreamed of...


Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).