When, back in 2021, as the Foreign Minister of Spain, I approached NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg about Spain hosting the 2022 Summit, I could not anticipate the very specific circumstances that the alliance faces today. I could not have imagined how decisive the Madrid summit would be for peace and stability in Europe.
By granting candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova and by recommitting to the EU membership of the Western Balkans, the European Union opened a new phase of its enlargement which will redesign the European political map again. It was undoubtedly the right decision to assert European sovereignty and also to welcome an embattled country which is showing with bravery that it belongs to the European future and not to a war of the past. A war of the past in Europe because it combines the clash of empires of WW I with the clash of political regimes of WW II. The future in Europe is being created by the values of freedom, equality, solidarity, democracy and sustainability and by a process of European integration which involves enlargement but also deepening. Deepening is a pre-condition for successful enlargement. But as enlargement has now become a political and moral imperative, the issue today is not about choosing between one or another. It is rather about how to make both with a new approach.
Wages should never leave workers and their families living in poverty. However, that has been the reality for one in ten workers in Europe. The EU minimum wage directive is a step in the right direction for fairer wages across Europe. Nonetheless, this directive is not an end in itself. More work needs to be done to maximise its potential benefit and ensure that wages are collectively bargained. Collective bargaining is a collective benefit: it means better outcomes for workers, the economy and society as a whole.
The war in Ukraine has exposed different views on sanctions against Russia by Serbia, and the Republic of Srpska in Bosnia-Herzegovina, on the one side, and other Western Balkan states and entities on the other. The EU should handle the issue cautiously, to avoid further splits and to prevent securitisation of the issue.
When Vladimir Putin first invaded Ukraine in 2014, Europeans had a simple choice: increase or decrease their energy dependence on Russian fossil fuels. Europeans chose to increase. National governments like Spain and France could have freed themselves from Russian gas just by implementing their own national building renovation plans. But they chose not to.
The EU Fit for 55 package is a comprehensive attempt to make the transition to a zero-carbon society in measurable incremental steps. It is a welcome development in terms of policy. And if fully implemented, it can be transformative.