Europe Must Learn Quickly to Speak the Language of Power: Part II

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Josep Borrell, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission of the European Union – the EU’s foreign affairs chief and effectively the ‘Minister of Foreign Affairs of the EU’ – completes in these days his first year in office. He granted this interview to Professor J.H.H Weiler, Co-Editor-in-Chief of the European Journal of International Law (EJIL) and the International Journal of Constitutional Law (ICON). Part I is available here.

JW: Let us turn to actual foreign policy and begin with what I consider the most significant event of our current epoch which is the ending of the 100 year long Pax Americana. Mr Trump has dramatically accentuated and exacerbated this change but it predates his Presidency. Make no mistake: The United States is still a formidable power, but in relative terms its dominance and ability to lead in economic, political and moral terms has significantly declined and is evident in its oft times impotence to shape geo politics in accordance  with its interests, the latter increasingly seeming to diverge from those we could group under the umbrella of multilateralist liberal democracies – not least Europe. And militarily, although a power second to none, its international commitments have been  questioned for some time by many.

  • Do you agree with my claim regarding the Pax Americana?
  • Is there a need to rethink the relationship Europe-USA? How do we solve the dilemma of we-can’t-do-without-them but we can’t-do-with-them?
  • Most importantly in this context, in a world which is increasingly polarized not least on the USA-China axis, and increasingly confrontational and bellicose in the manner in which global problems are addressed, it begins to resemble, uncomfortably the Cold War (even if thankfully so far without the threat of Mutually Assured Destruction).
  • In the polarized world of the Cold War era one recalls the emergence of the Group of 77 – the non aligned countries. Do you think there is a role for Europe to play in leading a new Bloc of multilateralists in world politics?
  • Finally, how do you insert Russia into this equation?

JB: I do agree with your assessment regarding the Pax Americana, also because the US has chosen in the last years to increasingly retract from its global leadership role. For the first time in a global crisis, there has not been a US leadership role in facing the Covid-19 pandemic. The US disengagements from multilateral frameworks and agreements – for instance the withdrawal from the World Health Organization amid the coronavirus crisis, the sanctions against members of the International Criminal Court, and of course abandoning the JCPoA on Iran’s nuclear program and damaging global action against climate change by renouncing the Paris Agreement – are very regrettable for us Europeans. In a world facing unprecedented global challenges, a strong transatlantic alliance is ever more important and we would like to work closely with our American friends. There is no doubt about the European Union’s commitment to an effective transatlantic partnership, able to seek joint solutions, to advance shared interests and to strengthen the rules-based international order. But the relations are more difficult of course if, on the other side of the Atlantic, there is someone who believes that the European Union was created to damage the US, which I think is a completely wrong understanding, and takes decisions that affect us without taking into consideration European concerns and interests.

Also regarding China, and precisely because we agree with the US on many points on China, we regret that the chosen methods in terms of American foreign policy have lately so often been unilateral in nature, without consulting the EU and, at times, harmful in substance to EU interests. Last June, I proposed to Secretary of State Pompeo to establish a structured US-EU dialogue on China and we launched it at the end of October.

There is no equidistance, we always are closer to the United States than to China because we share the same political and economic system and a long history, marked by the decisive support the United Stated provided to defeat Nazism, followed by their help to rebuild Europe. And we have worked together to build a Europe ‘whole and free’.

We are products of the “Enlightenment” period and share a political system: democracy, with the people holding government to account. In a way, we are ‘political cousins’: both are committed to political pluralism, individual rights, media freedom and checks and balances. In Europe and the US, elections matter. The combination of this shared history and shared values creates, a priori, a close affinity between us. But our respective perception of interests do not always coincide and we each have to look at our relations with China through our own glasses. 

You rightly say that we see deepening tensions between the US and China with clashes over a variety of issues. Positions are hardening with advocates of decoupling in the ascendancy in both Washington and Beijing. This US-China strategic rivalry will probably be the dominant organizing principle for global politics, regardless who wins the next presidential US elections.

China is increasingly asserting itself on the international scene. This was already the trend before the current crisis, but the coronavirus pandemic has accentuated this. It has become more assertive – some even say aggressive – in its neighborhood, especially in the South China Sea or on the border with India. Also, Chinese leaders did not hesitate to leave aside international commitments with the imposition of the Hong Kong National Security Law. 

In the United States, the current administration has taken steps to “contain” China, in terms of trade and technology but also security. Indeed, some even talk about a new “Cold War”, referring to the global competition between the United States and the former USSR after World War II. Of course, the circumstances are different this time, not least because of the fortunate absence of the thread of MAD and because the USSR was never the economic power that China is becoming today.

In that context, we as EU need to frame our own approach and be clear where we stand. I have said on various occasions that we must follow our own path and act in accordance with our own values and interests. This does not mean we should be equidistant from the two protagonists, we are closer in many fundamentals to the US as I just said. For the EU, China is “a strategic rival”, but this does not mean that we have to embark on a “permanent rivalry”. It can also be a partner.

Europe has an enduring interest to work together with China, even if difficult, on a number of global issues on which it plays a crucial role. China has necessarily to be part of global solutions to planet-size problems like tackling the COVID-19 pandemic or mitigating climate change. And unlike in Washington, in the European Union there is no apparent tendency towards a strategic rivalry that could lead to a kind of new “Cold War”, nor towards a broad economic decoupling.

Do I think there is a role for Europe to play in leading on multilateralism in world politics? Absolutely yes. With the growing strategic rivalry between the US and China, a world where interdependence in general is becoming more and more conflictual, and a broader trend towards competition between countries and systems (especially with some of our neighbors such as Russia and Turkey, who seem to want to return to a logic of empires) – we have to. We are asked to. And for that, unity is more necessary than ever.

While the world has become more multipolar, multilateralism has weakened. Never has the demand for multilateralism been so high, and the offer so scarce. We see the growing paralysis of the United Nations Security Council, the deep crisis of the World Trade Organization, or more recently that of the World Health Organization. Precisely at a time when global problems, especially the climate crisis or health issues, are becoming more and more critical. 

One could say that Europe is somewhat lonely trying to hold the multilateral ring. And indeed many citizens – in Europe, but also around the globe – are looking towards Europe as the solid leader in defending multilateralism. The EU has a strong stake in maintaining and developing a rules-based international order within the framework of an effective multilateralism – even if others are clearly trying to weaken it. 

Europeans feel they live in an increasingly dangerous and unpredictable world. They need to be reassured that we can provide a meaningful and robust European answer, also given the rise of authoritarian powers. We as Europeans have to do it ‘My Way’, with all the challenges this brings. The European way for sure includes working with like-minded partners (and there are many) to keep the multilateral system stable, as a needed space for cooperation.

For us, the role of multilateralism is still the same: to establish a level playing field between states regardless of their position in the international system. The most important interest of multilateralism is to set up stable norms and standards, applicable to all actors. Multilateralism is needed to guarantee protection of global public goods, against the risk of pure market-driven or national approaches. The coronavirus is a good occasion to test the international solidarity and the capacity to act in a multilateral way. And we, Europeans, have done a lot from the point of view of avoiding vaccine nationalism and to consider the vaccine as a public good that can only be provided through a multilateral approach.

The European answer to the challenges we currently face is still multilateral by essence. We are multilateralist by essence and have always considered multilateralism as a way of tempering power politics. In fact, as I said earlier, the European Union was based on the refusal of the very idea of power, from which we suffered too much. And our financial contribution to the multilateral system is considerable. Maybe we punch below our weight sometimes, but in terms of multilateral engagement, we certainly finance above our might. 

We have to continue with the affirmation of universal principles and rules. We must continue defending them in the face of the rise of cultural or political relativism. Witnessing the attempt by a good number of countries to re-establish a relativism of rights under the excuse of respect for diversity, we need to invest politically in all fora related to human rights, including when these rights are challenged through new technologies, and you know what I am talking about.

And when putting together like-minded states, those who share common interests and preferences in the way to organize the international system, we cannot bring together everyone for everything, so we have to start bringing together those who, on the geostrategic level, are today worried about the Sino-American rivalry and the risk it poses to third countries and especially to us. It is important that we join forces and formulate common proposals in all sectors where there is no solid multilateral agreement: artificial intelligence, cyber, disinformation, or Internet data. In all these areas of the future, whether it be cyber or artificial intelligence, there is a regulatory vacuum and this vacuum has to be filled; otherwise, everyone will defend its narrow interests, imposing its standards.

Finally, to rehabilitate multilateralism, we need to organize global regulation subject by subject. In all relevant issues, it is necessary to create ad hoc coalitions on a basis that is not multilateral, but plurilateral. It is the case today in the framework of the World Trade Organization. And it is clear that these new modalities of multilateralism presuppose political commitment and good faith, which is not always the case.

Europeans have to work in two tracks. We have to develop our leadership, promoting  multilateralism, developing new partnerships, and at the same time increase our strategic autonomy. These are the two sides of the same coin.

JW: You stated above: “Do I think there is a role for Europe to play in leading on multilateralism in world politics? Absolutely yes.” Do you envisage an institutional approach, the creation of a multilateralist bloc in world politics, lead by Europe, or would this be an organic evolution?

JB: The creation of most multilateral institutions as they exist today dates back to the post-World War II period. Since then, the world has changed profoundly, geopolitical, economic and political balances have shifted, and China and other are right when they consider that the post-WII institutions do not reflect the current geopolitical balances. In addition, very new global challenges have emerged, such as the ecological crisis and the digital revolution.

The effectiveness of the multilateral system and its institutions is currently often contested. From climate change and arms control to maritime security, human rights, and beyond, global cooperation has been weakened, international agreements abandoned, and international law undermined or selectively applied. Much of what we have built in the last decades needs to be reviewed and reformed.

Does this mean making a clean sweep of the past in order to start afresh? I don’t think so. Post-war multilateralism has produced many significant results in terms of peace, the fight against hunger and poverty, stability and overall progress, despite its many weaknesses. We need to build on its achievements in order to move on to the next stage.

A world governed by agreed rules is the very basis of our shared security, freedoms, and prosperity. A rule-based international order makes states secure, keeps people free and companies willing to invest, and ensures that the Earth’s environment is protected.

And I am convinced that Europe has a central role to play in reshaping and improving our rules-based international order. Our bottom line is that reform should take place by design, not by destruction. We must revitalize the system, not abandon it. In this, we will uphold the spirit of the United Nations. A world without the UN would endanger us all.

JW: Let us turn to the Middle East. It would be churlish not to welcome the new normalization agreements signed by Israel and the UAE. But at the same time, it has left the Palestinian problem not only unresolved but in the eyes of many maybe even exacerbated. This is one arena where Europe has been criticized as unable or unwilling to bring its full weight to bear beyond the mythical “Declarations” leaving the arena to the USA which, under Obama turned its back on the problem and was shown in some respects in its impotence and under Trump the Deal of the Century was declared by most as dead on arrival.

  • Even imagining a united and determined Europe, do you believe it there is a potential constructive European strategy for this problem.
  • Even among prominent Israeli “Doves” there is increasingly the view that given the demographic changes (a euphemism for Settlements) the Two State Solution is no longer viable. Do you have a view on this?
  • Do you have second thoughts on the Iran imbroglio which seems to be heading to a new crisis?

JB: For many of us in Europe, the relationship with Israel and Palestine is quite personal. For me, for instance, it is a longstanding one. After I finished university in 1969, I worked in a Kibbutz when the State of Israel was still building itself. I travelled all over Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, from the Golan heights, Galilee, Hebron to Eilat – and met my first wife at the kibbutz Gal On, the same day the US landed on the moon, although she was not Jewish but a French student. This was my first contact with the still lasting Israel-Palestinian conflict. As a European, it reminded me of the often tragic nature of human history and of the need to look for peaceful solutions to conflicts. My family and I came back many times, and in 2005 I spoke before the Knesset as President of the European Parliament, recalling the EU’s commitment to Israel’s security following the second Intifada. At that time, there was still a shared sense of hope that, despite the setbacks, a two-state solution was still within reach. But this was not the case, and instead of celebrating peace I witnessed the massive bombing of Gaza and the awful living conditions of the people there.

From the EU and its Member States side, we have been consistently very active in supporting the efforts of two parties towards a solution. We helped build the Palestinian institutions in preparation for statehood, with financial support now reaching more than 600 million Euros a year.

We also understand Israeli concerns and are committed to Israel’s security, which is non-negotiable for us. The EU invests in cooperation that benefits both sides, on issues from counter terrorism to research, from tourism to the environment. We should be looking at ways to nurture this and develop our relations still further.

Once the political process stopped, conflict and entrenching occupation became daily life. In the last years, there has been little to no progress. But the current status quo does not provide satisfying answers and is not sustainable . The hard truth is that only a return to real negotiations can give Israelis and Palestinians what they rightly crave:  lasting peace and security.

For us in Europe, it is painful to see the prospect of the two-state solution, the only realistic and sustainable way to end this conflict, at risk. The prospects of annexation, fortunately blocked for the moment but not yet definitively abandoned, would mean the end of this solution. For us annexation would violate international law and we are using every opportunity with the Israeli government to explain this, in a spirit of friendship.

Annexation would affect not only Palestinians, but also Israelis, the broader neighbourhood and even us in Europe. Any violation of international law, particularly when involving the annexation of territories, has implications for the rules-based international order; it can therefore also affect negatively other conflict zones.

Annexation is not the way to create peace with the Palestinians and to improve Israel’s security.  It will not strengthen the negotiations process as some have suggested. Negotiations should begin from the international parameters, and build from there. Can Israel take responsibility for millions of Palestinians living in the West Bank with all political and social consequences? In sum, it would not solve any problems, but create more, including for security.

Ultimately, neither Palestinians nor Israelis are going anywhere, so they must find a way to make peace amongst themselves. And there are examples of cooperation between the two sides; these should be commended and expanded not undermined. In the international debate on the issue, this view has also been expressed by a growing number of important Jewish personalities and organisations.

Peace cannot be imposed, it has to be negotiated, regardless of how difficult this can be. Peace can also bring new possibilities for EU-Israel relations to further grow – which is a priority for the EU and which should be at the centre of our efforts. There is a strong bond between Israel and Europe and we want to strengthen this bond and further deepen our relations, not see them retract.

Regarding Iran, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), concluded five years ago, is on life support, following the US’s reinstatement of sanctions and Iran’s return to enrichment activities. Without this deal, Iran would have developed nuclear weapons by now, adding yet another source of instability to a volatile region. Before two decades of diplomacy are squandered, all parties involved must step back from the precipice.

Today, the JCPOA is under great pressure on multiple fronts. I am convinced that action to preserve it is not just necessary but urgent, for at least two reasons. First, it took more than 12 years for the international community and Iran to bridge their differences and conclude a deal. If the JCPOA is lost, no other comprehensive or effective alternative will be waiting around the corner.

The international community’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program go way back. Discussions to lay the groundwork for a negotiated solution began in 2003 at the initiative of the French, German, and British foreign ministers, and were soon joined by then-EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Javier Solana. He and his successors, Catherine Ashton and Federica Mogherini always kept the door open for a diplomatic solution. And, after many ups and downs, the JCPOA eventually became a reality.

The deal would have not been possible without diplomatic persistence. It required the full buy-in not just of the United States, but also of Russia, China, and of course Iran. The final agreement was solid. At more than 100 pages, and with several annexes, it set out all of the details for a clear quid pro quo: Iran would abide by strict limitations on its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of nuclear-related economic and financial sanctions.

The JCPOA is enshrined in international law through UNSC Resolution 2231, which needs to be fully implemented. It stands as a prime example of what European diplomacy and effective multilateralism can achieve within the rules-based international order. But the process leading up to it was lengthy and difficult, all but ruling out another chance at a deal.

Second, the JCPOA is not merely a symbolic success. It delivered on its promises, and proved effective. Owing to the unprecedented level of access that it provided for the International Atomic Energy Agency, the IAEA was able to confirm in 15 consecutive monitoring reports between January 2016 and June 2019 that Iran had met all its obligations under the deal.

As such, Europe and other partners lifted sanctions, as specified in the agreement. Iran’s international isolation was coming to an end, setting the stage for a restoration of normal economic and trade relations with the rest of the world. In May 2018, however, the US decided to withdraw from the JCPOA and reinstate sanctions in pursuit of a new strategy of “maximum pressure.”

Although the restoration of US sanctions clearly had negative effects on Iran’s economy and people, Iran continued to adhere to the deal for another 14 months. But now, Iran is once again accumulating worrying levels of enriched uranium and acquiring new nuclear know-how. The JCPOA is being further eroded, and fears from the past are resurfacing.

In January, France, Germany, and the UK formally expressed their concerns about Iran’s renewed enrichment activities, and urged it to return to full compliance. Iran, similarly, has voiced its own concerns, arguing that it has not received the expected economic benefits from the lifting of sanctions.

As the current coordinator of the JCPOA, I will continue to work with all remaining parties to the deal, as well as with the entire international community. We will do everything possible to preserve what we achieved five years ago, and to ensure that the deal remains effective.

It is important to remember that the Iranian nuclear program remains under tight scrutiny, with its peaceful nature being constantly verified. Thanks to the IAEA inspections regime, we continue to know a great deal about the Iranian nuclear program, even under the current circumstances. If the agreement were to be lost, however, we would lose these insights and be set back by two decades.

I firmly believe that the JCPOA has become a key component of the global non-proliferation architecture, which is why I continue to call for all parties to remain committed to its full implementation. Iran, for its part, must return to full compliance with its nuclear obligations; but it also needs to be able to reap the economic benefits envisioned in the agreement. The extraterritorial US sanctions have discouraged most European companies to engage in trade and investments with Iran. We have set up a mechanism, Instex, to protect European companies from those US sanctions, but without enough results to satisfy Iran expectations for legitimate trade.

We need to return to a more positive dynamic. When the moment is ripe, we must be ready to build on the deal. The EU is willing to do so. But the first step is to protect the Iran nuclear deal as it is, in its entirety, and for all parties to comply fully with their obligations.

JW: We come at last to COVID which has just added a layer of complexity to all issues discussed so far.

  • Let me start with the prosaic. To what extent has COVID actually impeded from an operational point of view the ability of the Commission generally and the External Action Service more specifically, effectively to perform their tasks?
  • At the end of the day, despite all the remaining question marks and unresolved issues, Europe rose to the challenge and with the usual accompanying rituals of late night meetings and delayed deadlines, thrashed out a package which was not only respectable but broke new ground in facing that deep and enduring structural problem of the mismatch between the responsibilities of, and expectations from, the Union and its own resources to manage such. The deal was too much for some and not enough for others, but it is widely believed that failure would have provoked an unprecedented confidence backlash.

But the process revealed (and perhaps accentuated) some deep disquieting issues. First among these, in my view, was a painful demonstration of the failure of the citizenship project. The solidarity displayed was at the intergovernmental level. At the popular level, when COVID struck we suddenly became, say, French and Spanish (‘that’s my medicine’ or ‘why should I pay for their misery’) and not European citizens with a keenly felt sense of empathy and solidarity which citizens of a polity would habitually be expected to feel. Do you agree?

  • And likewise, the gap between monetary competence and fiscal impotence was laid bare as never before. There is only so much one can shove on to the Central European Bank without eventually stretching its credibility and legitimacy to near breaking point. Is there any scenario you can imagine which would break the taboo on European taxation?
  • And of course, what would you say were the most important ‘take-aways’ from the COVID crisis to the geopolitical scene?

JB: To start with question on how the pandemic changed the way we work: I have to admit that I am very tired of the endless video conferences and the many difficulties this brings. The technical ones of course (“Can you hear me…?”, Please unmute your microphone…”, “Sorry, the connection has been lost”,…), as well as more seriously of course the substantial lack of what is a core element of diplomacy and of negotiating, reflecting and debating: to sit together in a room and around a table, and to look each other in the eye when we debate serious issues, and to find space for ide discussion and not to talk with everybody at the same time.

Regarding ‘take-aways’ from the COVID crisis and the geopolitical scene, there are plenty of course. With some being clear, and others still being open. In general, there is no doubt that COVID-19 is reshaping our world. We don’t yet know when the crisis will end, but we can be sure that by the time it does, our world will look very different, and probably not for the better.

This is a global crisis that creates waves that affects all aspects of life, with consequences for health, economics, security, social stress and political unrest. The impact will be very much asymmetric and the crisis accelerates and magnifies what we already saw happening before, and it does so on mainly three levels.

First, the western-led order in crisis. As said, this US administration has mostly withdrawn from the global order that the US has contributed to build. This is the first major global crisis where the US is not in the lead, and China for its part is not only increasingly assertive but also nationalistic. A real factor of global power for sure, but transactional and short on genuine soft power.

Second, we have this real crisis of multilateralism: the G7 and G20 are absent; the UN Security Council is paralyzed and many ‘technical’ organizations are turned into arenas where countries compete for influence. The result? A world that is more multipolar than multilateral, we see growing inequality and divergences both within Europe and globally.

Third, there is a very different capacity of countries to cope with the challenges the pandemic brings. Around the world, we see tensions between respect for science and evidence-based policy-making and the continued appeal of nationalism and authoritarian politics.

None of these trends is new per se. It is the combination that makes the situation so challenging. Any diagnosis must be sober and realistic. But we must also avoid fatalism and paralysis. Our legacy will depend on our ability to ensure the socio-economic recovery of the actual Covid-19 crisis and to project a more effective role for Europe in the world. I am pursuing this goal by helping to harness the power of the instruments of the Commission and EEAS with the actions of the Member States acting together in the Council.

The European Union has been very much affected by the COVID 19 crisis. At the outset, it encountered serious difficulties in coordinating the health responses of its Member States. Several of them, Italy and Spain in particular, are among the most affected in the world. Nevertheless, the strong measures subsequently taken in the EU framework have increased its resilience and provided it with new tools, even if we experience actually a second wave of the pandemic. The European social model has shown that it is well adapted to deal with this type of shock in both health and economic terms, thanks to its social security systems, which are the most developed in the world: it has made it possible to treat the entire European population while preserving the income and jobs of most Europeans. In terms of monetary and budgetary policy, Europe has reacted much more quickly and strongly than in previous crises.

Nevertheless, the health and economic crisis has affected the different countries of the Union in very different ways. And many of those most affected were also among the countries that had already been hardest hit during the 2008 crisis and its aftermath. In many cases, they had not yet fully recovered and in particular had accumulated a large public debt, limiting their ability to respond to the crisis. Monetary policy by its very nature does not allow for differentiated treatment of the different countries in the euro area. The current crisis therefore risked further widening the gaps within the EU and the eurozone.

This is why it was essential to set up transfers to support the most affected countries in particular. This is what, following the proposal made by Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron last May, the Commission proposed with the Next Generation EU initiative, approved by the European Council last July.

Admittedly, the volume of these transfers has been somewhat reduced in the wake of difficult negotiations. The European budget has been cut back on certain important items for the future and to come into force and this agreement still has to be approved by the European Parliament and ratified by the 27 national parliaments. In particular, the question of conditionality associated with respect for the rule of law and the question of own resources to enable the repayment of joint loans still remains to be settled.

Nonetheless, even if imperfect, this recovery plan breaks some important taboos. First of all, it allows the Union to take on significant levels of debt on the financial markets (€750 billion, 6 points of the Union’s GDP) and organizes significant financial transfers between countries (€390 billion). It is thus beginning to close what were still dangerous gaps in the architecture of European construction, even though some had already been plugged following the 2008-2010 crisis.

If Europe goes through with the dynamic of strengthening its solidarity and internal cohesion initiated with this recovery plan, it could in particular find itself for the first time in a better position than the United States at the end of a crisis.

However, this places heavy responsibilities on Europe’s shoulders. First, it must help to mobilize the wealthiest countries to help the countries of the South, who have fewer means, to overcome this crisis. This is not only a question of solidarity; it is also a matter of a well-understood self-interest: if Europeans manage to find the means to deal with the crisis internally but the surrounding countries are seriously destabilized by it, Europe will inevitably end up being destabilized too. This would involve managing the external debts of those countries and stepping up the restructuring and cancellation efforts that are already under way. Between China, the United States and Europe, those who will have been the most proactive in this area in the current circumstances will have scored points for the post-crisis period.

It is up to Europe to mobilize fellow democracies to defend and promote fundamental human rights and democratic values in the international arena. Whether in Hong Kong, Sudan or Belarus, the events of the last few months have confirmed, if there was any need, how universal these aspirations remain and how much people of all continents who are deprived their rights aspire to them as soon as they succeed in lifting the weight of repression. This implies of course seeking dialogue with the United States to reduce the temptations of isolationism, but also working more closely with Japan, South Korea, Canada, Mexico or Australia.

This remobilization of democracies must aim to defend and promote a renewed multilateralism, adapted to the world of the 21st century and its challenges. The Covid-19 pandemic has shown that we need such multilateralism more than ever: as long as we do not have a vaccine, we will only be able to control this disease if it is controlled everywhere. Otherwise we will always be threatened with a return of the pandemic.

This crisis has also demonstrated how we have become totally interdependent. We also urgently need to rebuild multilateralism in that area by reforming the World Trade Organization.

Finally, the current crisis should not make us forget the seriousness of the threat to the future of humanity posed by the environmental crises, be it climate change or the loss of biodiversity. And we can be sure that as regards climate change there is not going to be a vaccine to protect us against the rise of temperatures. We have to flatten the curve of infections, but also the curve of emissions. For that, we need strong and closely coordinated global action decided in a multilateral framework. Even if the EU manages to fully stop emitting, the problem would remain unsolved, since the European Union is responsible for only 7% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

JW: Behind the HRVP there is also Josep Borrell the human person. Would you share with our readers your:

Favorite author or book?

Only one?! That’s impossible. I read quite a lot and passionately and have many favorite authors and books, above all when it comes to non-fiction. But let me try to name a few favorites, at least for novels. I like very much historical novels, for example Isabel Allende’s “Ines of My Soul”, the trilogy of William Ospina “El pais de la canela”, and for sure Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Great works that are important to me are Stefan Zweig’s “The World of Yesterday” and “Stellar Moments of Humankind”, which somehow was my first reading on world politics and global developments when I was only 15 years old. More recently I enjoyed reading Ken Follett’s “The Fall of the Giants”.

Your favorite vacation location?

My small house in the Pyrenees, in the Bohi-Taull valley. With many 11th century churches that make part of the UNESCO World Heritage list, scarcely populated, with wonderful mountains, often in snow, and beautiful autumn colors –perfect for exercising my hobby of hiking.   

Your favorite dish

I have to admit that I am neither a great cook, nor a real gourmet and that I am satisfied quite easily when it comes to food. However, a favorite cold dish of mine is toasted bread with tomato and ham, Catalan style. A warm dish I like are spaghetti with fried eggs – which is also something I can prepare pretty well myself and which is part of my strategic autonomy!

Thank you!

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