Deja Vu: Deep Dive with H.E. Miguel Angel Moratinos High Representative for the U.N. Alliance of Civilizations

The AT Dives Deep: H.E. Miguel Angel Moratinos - Great Spanish DNA

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Déjà vu: Our History All Over Again…

Ravi Batra (RB):  Mr. Minister, it’s such an honor and a pleasure to be with you.

H.E. Miguel Angel Moratinos (MAM): It’s a great honor and a privilege for me to have this opportunity to exchange views and have this conversation.

RB:  And I want to acknowledge that the tie you’re wearing has the American flags on it. So I’m really, really touched.

MAM: Well, you know, I used to play with ties. I think it’s the only thing that politicians, diplomats, well, men in general… It’s a kind of little game. So today, in honor of this interview and to you as a U.S. citizen, I said, well it’s a good moment…

 RB: I’m touched.

 MAM: Well, we are in the host country of the U.N. so, why not?

 RB:  I thank you. And, you know, the fact remains that, you know, the idea of America belongs to every human being because this is the epitome of a civilization. And you are leading the Alliance of Civilizations, so it’s a marriage made in heaven.

And, you know, I am very, very struck by you, the individual. And I really want to go through your life span, and particularly, I want to focus during your ministerial years.

I do know, for example, that you were part of the process that gave birth to the Alliance for Civilizations in 2005, and you were a minister at the time.

MAM: Absolutely.

RB: So, why don’t you tell me about that first?

MAM: Well, you know, to become and to be a Foreign Minister of a country such as Spain, with such a long history and I think influence in international affairs, is a great privilege. It’s something that you don’t expect when you start your professional life.

It happened because, well, at the end, the people who decided to propose to you this mission are people that consider that you can deliver and be helpful in the policy. For me it was a surprise, but then a great honor and, of course, a great responsibility.

Then, of course, I had been before in international affairs. I had the chance to develop my experience with being a European Union Special Envoy to the Middle East peace process, so those years gave me a certain kind of popularity and knowledge. And so, while in politics you have to combine knowledge and skills in order that you can know about diplomacy but you also know how to phrase and shape your policy. So, when I received the great offer from President Zapatero, for me it was a great day and, of course, a great responsibility.

And I’m going to tell you an anecdote, because from the first day, immediately I was confronted, you know, to see how we are going to reach and obtain our objective as the new policy that the Spanish democratically have decided to put to the Spanish new government.

At that time we were in the context of…

RB: Now what are we talking here?

MAM: We are talking 2004, April of 2004, 18 of April, on Sunday. We had, of course, been elected in March after the terrorist attack in Madrid on the 11th of March. The election was on the 14th of March. So only three days before the elections. So we were elected…

RB:  I know what that feels like after 9/11, that the world has changed.

MAM: That will be in order to respond to your question…

RB: Yes, yes…

MAM: And then well, of course, for our electoral campaign, the party and the Secretary-General, before you become President of the government, has announced that once he would be elected, Spain will withdraw the Spanish troops from Iraq.

It was a hot potato, inverted commas, for a foreign policy, so I convinced before getting formally the post, to President Zapatero that they should give me some time to prepare the setting, for the context to withdraw or not to withdraw, in conversation… But you know, politicians and heads of government have their own political views and and they have their own political time. Politics is how you use time. When you take decisions, you know, you have to balance the good and the bad of taking decisions.

So, the day I swear my new mission in the Real Palace with His Majesty King Juan Carlos, the 18 of April 2004. After all, the new cabinet was there and the President of the Government took me apart with His Majesty King Juan Carlos, and he asked me what time it was in Washington, and I told him, well, it’s a six hour delay. So, he said, when it will be 8 o’clock, please call the Secretary of State Colin Powell to announce that in a few hours I will announce myself that Spain withdraws.

 RB: So he wanted you to give advance notice of this?

MAM: Yes. But it was the first day, the first hour, the first second after, you know.

So, I was, I had prepared my first day in office, of course. And I have agreed with the Bush administration, the U.S. administration, that the first day of my office, I will go through Europe first. I will make a scale in Dublin, it was the Irish presidency, and then come to Washington to explain that we are going to consider to withdraw. But I didn’t, in my plan it was to have some time…

So when then President Zapatero told me, you have to announce that it is going to be in a few hours, when I called Colin Powell and said “Dear Colin, I have to announce you…” There was a silence in phone, thirty seconds, then he said: “I’m fully disappointed.”

So my fear was that he is going to cancel my trip to Washington, but I succeeded to maintain the trip, and I arrived to Washington the following day, Monday, and I had my meeting with Colin Powell. It went quite well, but unfortunately at that time my meeting with the National Security Adviser, Condi Rice, was very difficult.

I am telling you that that is the context of why we launched this idea of the Alliance of Civilizations, that goes with what you say about, you know, this concern and, of course, a total change in the international paradigm about, you know, security. And, of course, the 9/11 first, London, Madrid. So, when we arrived to this new government, we were aware that in international affairs, in the Foreign Ministry and the President of the Government asked me if I have in the Ministry a department for dealing with counter-terrorism threats and I have to recognize that that was not a tradition, not only in the Spanish Foreign Ministry, any, apart maybe there was the State Department maybe. But I can tell you France, Italy, UK, there was not…

RB: Not back then.

MAM: No, that was more in the Interior Ministry, intelligence, but not in the Foreign Ministry umbrella. So he told me that this is a new challenge, a new threat that we all have, so the Foreign Ministry, the Spanish diplomacy, have to really work out some instrument in order to really defeat and change this challenge. So, we create a department inside the Ministry, I mean, this department…

RB: On counterterrorism?

MAM:  Yes, Zapatero was there and in my Foreign Ministry we started to work, of course, on international cooperation, the normal stuff, but then the Director General I appointed, a very bright Spanish diplomat, told me why we as Spaniards, we are living close to the Arab and Muslim world, it’s history, so we understand much better what their concerns are… And what we saw are borders: we have a frontier with Morocco only 14 kilometers. But also we have this long tradition of having…

RB:  Only 14 kilometers?

MAM: Only 14 kilometers from the Strait of Gibraltar, it’s only 14 kilometers.

RB: Wow.

Kissing cousins!

MAM: The frontier in Europe and Africa, is Spain and Morocco. So that is another issue to discuss about the new strategy of politics in today’s world. Anyhow, we discover that the divides between the West and East, between Islamic countries, Muslim countries and Western countries, were getting more and more, you know, huge and serious. So at the same time, we acknowledge that Muslim countries, Arab countries, were also suffering the scourge of terrorism.

So it was not only the Western, but it was in Bali, it was in Morocco, it was in Nigeria that had been under these attacks. So the idea came that we should join efforts, all of us, in order to combat together jointly these fanatics, these barbarians. So I produce myself the terminology of the conference I give in July 2004, of the time that we have to establish a strategic alliance between the Western world and the Arab and Muslim world, well…

RB: To get all the good guys together.

MAM: Yes, the good guys together. It got some headlines in the Spanish national press, but no more than that. And then when we came to New York in September 2004 for the first, the first attendance of the new Spanish President Zapatero, in the plane, he was coming, in the draft of the speech, you know, speeches are always difficult… The Foreign Minister makes a draft, the National Security Advisor or Sherpa or Advisor changes it… So, I introduced a paragraph about this strategic alliance between the West and the Arab and Muslim countries. But when I saw the draft, this paragraph was deleted, so Zapatero said “I don’t like the speech”, and I said I had mentioned… And he said, bring your draft, so I introduced the draft, and he said: “Well, the level, the name, the conceptual presentation is not so good.” So he said: “let me think”. And he was the one, President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who said why instead of talking about the Clash of Civilizations, you know the presentation, the proposal of a very outstanding politolog, American politolog, Samuel Huntington, why don’t we create an “Alliance of Civilizations.”

So he came to the UN the 24th of September. Great speech, tremendous impact and Secretary-General at that time, Kofi Annan, got the idea and said that should be a UN initiative. And so next year, in July 2005, he launched the initiative. So that was the beginning of our government, of our policy at that time and looking back now 20, 17, 18 years ago, well, you see that the world is, with what is going on in Ukraine, and after having Covid, things have changed, but I mean, some of the similar challenges are still there, you know?

RB: We will get to Ukraine a little later. I want to go back because you’re a treasure trove – [with] your accomplishments, and you have still many, many more accomplishments to do… 

MAM: Well, I don’t know…

RB: Because the Alliance of Civilizations is, you know, even the name “the Alliance”,  not  “competition,” because in the history of mankind, it’s civilizations fighting each other. This is to bring them together.

So this it’s a very necessary idea of a very small world of 8 billion people where everybody is next to everybody. So I want to go back a minute. You mentioned Ukraine. I know that you were involved, just like you talked about Colin Powell the very first day you became Foreign Minister, so, as Foreign Minister, now, there was President Putin of Russia. He’s been speaking about his concerns about security and, you know, of course, there is a great history of 1989, the Berlin Wall coming down. James Baker, Secretary of State James Baker, Gorbachev doing a great job. President George H.W. Bush doing a great job. So with all of that, when Boris Yeltsin left and his handpicked successor, Vladimir Putin, came to power, he more or less announced to the world that things were not quite fair as he saw the world for Russia. That he wanted to recalibrate Russia’s standing in the world. So, I want to ask you, because I think, you know, the world needs to know what you went through, and your personal involvement, because it ought to inform current policymakers so that we don’t necessarily have to make every single mistake we’ve made in the past. So…

MAM: Yes, I think, as you said, we were in a context of, let’s call it a Pax Americana, the end of history, Fukuyama, and the US was, as the French Foreign Minister Védrine put it, “l’hyperpuissance”, no? Hypoerpower country. So that is true.

But at the same time, the Iraqi war again, because that is at the beginning of this new initiative, showed that there were countries that were not following 100% the U.S. foreign policy, and they didn’t consider that the invasion of the military coalition in Iraq was the right one. So that made the division within Europe, and you have France and Germany, and of course, this France and Germany have the same point of view of Russia. And so.

RB: You mean Germany and then…

MAM: Germany. It was Chancellor Schroeder and President Chirac and President Putin. So they did a kind of initiative to meet together, to exchange views on how to handle, because they were opposing the way the US had decided to go to war in Iraq.

So, after Iraq was more or less stable, they continued to have this kind of informal-formal exchange. And, when President Zapatero came to power, they asked him to join the club. So, immediately, President Chirac, Chancellor Schroeder, asked Zapatero to join and to have certain meetings with President Putin. And at the same time, at the level of Foreign Ministers, so I had the chance to have a meeting with Fischer, with Villepin, and with Ivanov, who was before Lavrov, the Foreign Minister.

So we have this setting and there were several meetings, I think I remember four meetings and in one of the last meetings, even if the Russian Federation and President Putin was very much in favor to maintain and to work together in the NATO council, Russia and NATO council, it started to really present to us to France, to Germany, to Spain at that time that they were considering to have a new security architecture for the whole of Europe. Understanding Europe in the larger, you know, the traditional from Charles de Gaulle, from the Atlantic to the Urals. So the big, the large…

RB: The large picture.

MAM: The large Europe that are all included in the OSCE, the Organization for Security Cooperation of Europe, that has ruled European affairs and security since 75, Helsinki Act…

RB: Helsinki Act, yes.

MAM: And we have not to forget that in two years time, three years time, two years and a half, we will have… I’m not very good at mathematics…1975. So it will be 2025. Yes, 50.

RB: Wow. 50 years [Helsinki Act].

MAM: 50 years! So that will be with what is going on, I will send a message for the ones who are involved in setting new formulas, that will be a good moment, you know, for having a second Helsinki or whatever, and that we can plan… So this idea of having a new architecture in Europe was launched.

I remember that they formalized the proposal and I remember to have my formal statement in favor of that because… You know, I’m not a great intellectual, but I try to base my political action, based on certain thinking and reflection that give, you know, the sense of how we are going to move forward. And one of the main concerns I had when I arrived to be Foreign Minister, is the complexity of the world. I already caught that. I know I have two: complexity and uncertainty. So you have to combine both, but you don’t know what is going on because it can happen at any moment. At the same time, you have to address the issues not in a simple way but taking into account all the elements that, well, are part of the reality. So I always try to look for synergy.

So, you want to be a member of NATO? Of course yes. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t want to have a kind of security and defense policy within the European Union. Of course not. I want to have, also it can be complementary.

RB: Sure.

MAM: So, when the Russians proposed to us having like a global architecture of security, I said, well, if it is well negotiated, it is well structured, it is well elaborated, it can complement and everybody will be happy.

RB: Happy. Yeah, if it’s done properly…

MAM: Unfortunately, like it happens in this kind of initiative, is the suspicion of why are they asking for this, they want to dismantle NATO, and substitute, it’s an alternative. So, apart of our three countries, of course, the reaction in general was not positive. Even when Medvedev talked, you know, the President of the Russian Federation, they insisted on that, and when Lavrov came, I remember one of my first meetings with Lavrov, it was discussing this paper. So it didn’t fly. And then, well, recently and in the last years there has been some attempt to go in this direction.

It is true that during the crisis with Georgia and South Ossetia and Abkhazia, there were moments of difficulties with the Russian Federation, and the NATO Council, the NATO – Russia Council was frozen, suspended. And I remember when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came with President Obama to the first meeting of NATO under the Obama administration, she was the one who asked for reengaging Russia to the club. So there was an attempt from the Obama administration to start to work with them and to open the way to have ideas.

But unfortunately, that, you know, the situation didn’t develop correctly and we come to today’s situation that is extremely dangerous for… And unjust because the Ukrainians are the ones who are suffering in unacceptable ways.

RB: I want to take you back a little bit prior to 2008, prior to the Obama administration, when you were working in this, or at least trying to try this new effort to have a “complementary security system for all.” At some point Angela Merkel became Chancellor. What was her reaction to this?

MAM: Well, Angela Merkel, that was the end of this kind of quartet. We didn’t call it a quartet at that time. But Merkel has a tremendous personality. But, of course, I have to say that Schroeder was SPD so he had a very good relationship with Zapatero. Merkel and Zapatero, even if they get on well, but it was not the same let’s say… And Merkel had her own view about German relations with Russia. And so she preferred to really have a bilateral channel…

RB: Germany and Russia.

 MAM: Russia. And so, she decided not to have this kind of group of discussions. So, unfortunately, this this group was not called, we were no longer invited; the tandem, French German tandem, how we called it at the time within the European Union and later on, so, well, Sarkozy and Merkel had their own wheel, so these ideas disappeared and we didn’t participate anymore.

Well, it doesn’t mean that Merkel was not very much engaged with Russia. The proof is that Putin didn’t question her policy. I think she was right from my point of view. But anyhow, she preferred to go through that bilateral framework better than in a small format.

RB: Because privacy is essential to diplomacy, isn’t it?

MAM:  Absolutely.

RB:  You cannot really have meaningful diplomacy in public.

MAM: Well, that is a golden rule of diplomacy. But there is a kind of confusion because, you know, one thing is that you have to have accountability, that’s balancing, because public opinion in a democratic, in a democratization of diplomacy was what [Woodrow] Wilson, when he came to Paris in 1919, to the Paris Peace Conference, he brought his famous 14 points. One of the great lessons of this is that he came with the support of the U.S. Congress. It was the first time that he came to negotiate with democratic support. That’s fantastic. He changed the way. But, that’s one element. Whatever you negotiate, whatever you agree, has to be supported democratically. You have to really respond to your mandate. But it doesn’t mean that when you are negotiating, you have to have all the cameras, all the microphones, all the people involved in the negotiations, so that privacy is part of… When you have to open your cards, and what is going on today to negotiate, unfortunately, this, of course, new world, new technology…

I mean, I’m not against that, but I’m expressing the difficulties to negotiate with a certain kind of…

RB: Social media has changed the world.

MAM: Because, as soon as some offers or some proposals or some compromise are known, it depends how you reach to this compromise, that leak or presentation in the media can, you know, make the agreement impossible. So that is the tool, the two faces that you have to combine in a democratic environment and that, unfortunately, is confused. People and journalists want to be around the table and they cannot be around the table. They are fantastic, they have a fantastic mission, but each of us… And now everything is confused because now everybody wants to be a diplomat. No. I mean, not everybody can be a diplomat. With all my respect, you know. If you are the owner of a football club, Abramovitch, with all my respect, I don’t know him, but he cannot be a diplomat, I mean, the diplomacy is like everything. If you’re going to be operated on the heart, you ask for the best [surgeon]. So that is what I think when we talk about diplomacy, that today it’s a bit confusing.

RB: Well, you know, I want to tell you that from the very first time I met you, you struck me as a person that Abraham Lincoln would adore because he understood that the job of a government is “for the people.” The people aren’t here for the government, but the government is here to help the people. And as long as that goal is maintained and the result is maintained, how you get there requires the Republican form of government, you know, two representatives who can sit and talk privately, who can make compromises. And you with your very rich history of accomplishments, as I said, many, [many] more to come in the Alliance of Civilizations.

I want to just switch topics a little bit to a success you had in an area where there is, there’s almost no success, and that’s in the the Palestinian-Israeli issue. So, you know, so you handled one of the most difficult topics during your time.

MAM: Well you know… I cannot say I succeeded, on the contrary. But, recently, I went to Israel and to the Palestinian territories one month ago, one month and a half. I stayed for four days. And of course, I met a lot of my old friends of mine. I’m very, very popular there because I stayed for seven years. You know, seven years is a long period…

RB: As minister, as Foreign Minister?

MAM: Then later on seven years as Foreign Minister so all together it was 14 years, going there…

But for me, my recent visit gave me very mixed feelings, you know, because every time I went there into a meeting room, they would recall me: “Ah, during your time, you, you were with others, the one who create the quartet, you know, you are the one who create the roadmap. You were the ones who succeeded to solve the Nativity Church, you know, crisis. You were the ones… Everybody praising my work.

But when I left in 2003, I didn’t succeed to get both parties…  We were very close in many occasions. I went to Taba as a witness of the, I think it was the most advanced proposal for a final settlement between Israelis and Palestinians. It was very close, but it was at the end of Barak being Prime Minister. There were elections in Israel, and then Sharon was elected. And then it became, like it happens always, last minute the political environment was not appropriate so it was difficult to get a final debate. But the two delegations went extremely far. We had a fantastic dinner at Sabat, the two delegations, it was a full moon, we were touching the peace with the fingers of our hands, you know, so it was very, very, very close.

But, unfortunately, both sides didn’t get the final agreement because once the Israelis were ready for making a deal on territory and borders, but President Arafat wanted to have a comprehensive agreement, and so, at that time it was just two or three weeks before the elections. So, Barak couldn’t agree to have a comprehensive because that included Jerusalem and Jerusalem is very difficult… So they decided, well, let’s wait for the elections and then if we continue we can finalize you know the whole issue. So, they didn’t, but for the first time we took note and I took note of the proposal of each side and what were their differences and the remaining…

RB:  This is back in 2003?

MAM: 2000… No, 2001. So that’s what they called the Moratinos Paper, agreed by both heads of delegation, and that is a reference that is there. Maybe they will change some part, but in the future, any final, and I hope and I’m sure and convinced that there will be an agreement, it will be very close to what they discussed at that time.

RB: I would like if you have a copy, I would like that,  because I think that all of the efforts that were done, all the good efforts, they should not disappear into the sand of time. They should continue forward. They should be built on.

MAM: That’s what we all agree because in the previous negotiations, in the Oslo Agreements and the Madrid Peace Conference, and the shaking of hands between Prime Minister Rabin and President Arafat there have been several attempts, but then the two parties separated themselves and then there was no records of the meeting. Well, there were records, internal records, but not joint records. So, at that time, both parties agreed to have a witness and that was myself, I was lucky to be there. And so those are the records agreed upon by both sides. Well, they have not been recognized formally because unfortunately that’s politics. But this is a good assessment of what they have agreed and what are still the minor differences, because they were, as I told you, very close to reaching a final settlement.

RB:  You know, United States because, even though we were born out of England, out of Great Britain, and fought against the British, but really we started off as an extension of England. So that’s why we have a special relationship with England. And because, you know, Marquis de Lafayette was part of our revolutionary movement. You know, France has always been very close to the United States. But the truth is, in human history, and in European history in particular, Spain actually has been more important to European history because it was a bridge between civilizations. So if there is a country that knows how to live better with neighbors who don’t necessarily have the same faith, who don’t necessarily look the same, you know, may have different cuisine, different culture, whatever. But to be able to live as good and happy neighbors, that’s a very special DNA. So the Spaniards have that. And you, as an exemplary Minister, you know, seven years, you know, as you said, as [Special Envoy] and then, you know, seven years as a Minister,  I mean, this is quite a long time, that experience, I don’t think has fully informed – and by that I mean not just you but I’m talking about even Spain – I don’t think it has the learning and education and wisdom that Spain learned through history, going back to 1492 and before and all the rest. It somehow got lost in the Great Powers debate, and when we don’t know our history, we are doomed to repeat it.

Speaker Tip O’Neill said, you know, one of the universal truths: “all politics is local.” You have referenced politics many times in your responses. In each, in any issue, you have local politics of both sides if its a bilateral issue, if its multilateral then each participant has their own local politics. What would you suggest, given the current situation that we’re in: we have poor Ukrainians who are dying, a nation is being destroyed, the war that was started by President Putin isn’t about Ukraine. He started a proxy war against us and NATO, and we’re supporting Ukraine to continue the war. but it’s only Ukrainian blood that’s being shed. And, you know, it’s very difficult.

How would you, what would you recommend that the Great Powers that currently exist keep in mind so that civilizations continue to survive and New York sky doesn’t light up with nuclear weapons?

MAM: Well, you mentioned, you know, two important things in international affairs that are absolutely essential to understand, to solve the crises of the conflicts. That is, you have to know history and you have to understand geography. Unfortunately, today it seems that we are in this virtual world, that everything is in this global world, and in today’s world you don’t look to the past, etc.

You mentioned the Spanish situation. We are, I think, very lucky country. In terms of geopolitics, I don’t think there is any country in the world, maybe one or two that can contradict my thesis, but very few, but I think we are the best placed ever. I think that God put as in the Iberian peninsula. We have the Atlantic so we have this dimension to the United States, North American and South America; we have the Mediterranean, so we are 14 kilometers with Africa, we have the Mediterranean who brings us to the Middle East, to the Levant and to Asia; and so we have up to Europe which is part of our, you know… So all the main dimensions in the world are concentrated, they are, you know, they have a certain saying in our history and our geography. And that has created that Spain has this living together between Judaism, Muslims, Islam and Christianity, well, Toledo, Cordoba, all these nostalgic periods of history.

But, the main element, having that in mind in history and in geography, the first element of any country, any diplomacy, is to have good neighbor relations. When I come to the government, when I came to power, I asked: “What about the borders? We are in good terms with [our] neighbors?” And if you are not in good terms with your neighbors, that’s the first priority, it’s the ABC of diplomacy.

So, thank God, when we came to government, we have some difficulties with Morocco, we solved them. We have… Because we cannot, any country can’t be in bad terms with what are his neighbors.

RB: I like that, that is a very good principle.

MAM: Second principle: what kind of neighborhood? What kind of borders? Unfortunately now, we are putting borders or defending borders against the other. We are not using borders to be the bridge of two. A frontier is something that separates or divides but it can unify. So, the recent mentality and I’m not criticizing the West or the Russians or whoever, but in this case it’s “I need a border, I need a stronger separation” without understanding in today’s world that what you need is a good neighborhood policy, that we put all the benefits together.

One of the differences… Now, thanks God, because the European Union is more united even though there is internal divides, when we decided, I think rightly, and I was part of the decision, to welcome all the Eastern European countries coming from the Warsaw Pact from the Eastern Bloc to the European Union, where we create this 28 with UK, now 27, European Union, our relation with Russia had certain difficulties because when we were on the Council, there was two types of reaction. There was addressing Russia as a global actor, I think we could really agree about that. But, then, we as Spain have no border with Russia. Italy has no border with Russia. France has no border with Russia. Okay. But the new EU members, they have borders with Russia.

RB: It’s true.

MAM: And unfortunately, the relationship of this neighborhood [] was not a positive one.

RB: Oh, yes. Yes.

MAM: So,  they had bad experiences with Russia, with the Soviet Union, when it was… So, I’m not blaming them, but I’m explaining to you that the neighborhood policy was not what could be a positive neighborhood policy. So they always create problems. We want to engage with Russia and they said: “please be careful, we have to do it gradually, we don’t trust them.” So we missed a lot of opportunities to create a better relationship between Russia and the European Union.

RB:  On the issue…

MAM: So for that, to respond to your question, what do we have to do? I mean, we have to really, of course, to defend the territorial integrity of Ukraine. That is number one. I think, I always say that, I have a good relationship with all of them, but I think if we don’t reflect and apply the international legality and the main principle of the U.N. Charter, we cannot handle the whole international affairs and the international community. So, that is number one.

But once we have that, we have to create an environment for understanding and cooperation between the parties. And for that reason, we have to go to this, let’s say “new architecture of European security.”  Well, in a frank and serious dialogue with the Russian Federation, we can get, you know, this understanding. Now it’s much more complex because there is, there have been some areas that have been taken by the Russian Federation, first it was Crimea, but then we have what is going to happen in Donbas and Luhansk. So, we are going to have a more complicated negotiation. But, I mean, at the end of the day you have to negotiate and you have to engage and you have to compromise. But, I think that should be the way to handle that.

RB: Let me ask you. I want to benefit from your experience and wisdom, and particularly the Spanish DNA, because I think it’s very rich and underused and underappreciated. And so you talked about borders, that people are protecting borders as opposed to [using] as a bridge. So I want to turn to [that] issue [for] me. For example, we’re in the United States. We have two borders. We have Canada above us, and we have Mexico south of us. Our policy about our border with Canada is not the same policy as we have with the South. Now, my understanding, and I’m asking this of you to tell me why I’m wrong, because my understanding is if every country on Earth had the same rules, the same laws, the same standard of living, then people could move around from one country to another, like an American can move around from New York to California and every state in between to Alaska to Hawaii, okay, because we’re all [in] the same rules. When countries have different rules, different standards of living, different histories, the movement of people, if it is not on an invited basis, like in my home, I love to invite my friends, but I invite them. I don’t like a burglar coming in.

MAM: Of course.

RB: Okay? I don’t want someone breaking in or worse, a criminal who wants to do violence. So, when it comes to this issue, you know, the European Union is sort of creating an America, a United States of America, sort of, not even as strong as that in Europe, which is a good thing. Now, I wish we could do this for the world. I wish we could create a European Union for the world. A United States of America for the world. Many issues would go away.

Given the reality of that there are people in every culture, in every country, who enjoy conflict rather than consensus, who enjoy making war rather than making peace, how do you… You know, in the United Nations, in the garden, there is a wonderful statue, you know, of, you know, making, you know, swords into ploughshares. Okay. That’s and, you know, that’s the job of the United Nations. This is the ideal of humanity. How do we get humanity to survive governments who are playing not for the benefit of humanity, as Abraham Lincoln wanted, but for self-benefit?

MAM: Well, I mean, as I told you, I’m a politician, a diplomat, I’m a politician. I’m not naïve. And also, when I’m telling you about the borders, you need borders, because today you need borders. You have to protect yourself, you have to protect your citizens. So I’m not a kind of utopian who says “let’s go to open” and then everybody is coming. No, that’s not going to solve the problem. But, at the same time, you have to work in order so that what you are indicating can be reached. I mean, why they are coming? You say you have the southern border. Why are people coming from Central America to try to come to the United States? Because you have a better offer,  because you have employment, you have some tremendous opportunities for the families. And then countries, unfortunately, they are very happy to be in the family they have poverty, they have not any kind of dignity for their family, their children. And so they try to move forward. So, the first element is how we succeed to build this part of the work. In the case of Europeans, we have the African continent which is going to be a nightmare in the future if we don’t really make a joint policy. And that is what we have to do immediately.

We had in my time as minister a very, very difficult experience of immigrants. In 2007, we suddenly became quite well-off, the economy was blooming, and so, well, from West Africa every day to the Canary Islands or to the Peninsula were coming 7000, 10,000 people, and well we put a full fledged initiative to really regulate and stop this so called “invasion”.

Okay. And actually we succeeded.

RB: Right.

MAM:  We succeeded because we worked with the countries of origin, the countries of transit. We used diplomacy. Because in migration issues, that’s another issue and another lesson I learned, that the people who take care of migration issues are ministers of interior and ministers of security, but not of foreign affairs. What I’m going to tell you? Minister of Interior, Minster of Security… They are doing what they have to do because they have to protect their country and they have to take measures, but it’s too late for them.

RB: Ah, it’s already a problem.

MAM: It’s really a problem. Because, a single question: these people are coming internally? No, no, they’re coming externally. So external means foreign affairs, it is not internal affairs, it’s foreign affairs. But unfortunately, neither in Europe, because I criticized my European counterparts, we did a different approach. I took my plane and I went to 12 African countries. We opened six embassies, we opened seven cooperation centers. We changed the agreement of how to transfer and to revert so-called immigrants to their country of origin, even when they didn’t want to receive them. But I succeeded to negotiate a new agreement with these countries of origin.

And, so, gradually, we changed what was a crisis to an opportunity. Now, we have an African policy that we, Spain, are respected by these African countries and we have an exchange of security information. We work together because foreign affairs was involved. But, today, the only way people react: fences, walls. And, where is the element of how to settle these people? How do you really succeed? Of course, you have to have a cooperation program, a development program. You have to have local communities to decide and know that you may die in the Mediterranean Sea, so the mothers… So we mobilized a lot of elements in order to fix the population and not to come to Europe through Spain at that time.

That requires, my friend, a lot of work, permanent engagement and, unfortunately, not always it he’s been followed. But we were very proud about that. And I remember an anecdote that in the G-7, I don’t know which, Spain was not part of G7, we were not part, we are in the G20. But they invited  the President of Senegal, President Wade,  and there was President Bush. And so they talk about migration. And so, President Wade who was in good terms, because a lot of people came from Senegal, and he said to the President: “Do like the Spaniards”.

RB: He said to President George [W.] Bush, do what like the Spaniards?

MAM: Yes. What the Spaniards have done? They have created Casa Africa. Africa House. I created in Las Palmas a center where we are engaging with entrepreneurs, with people, intellectuals, so we get them involved.

RB: So I get a copy of that protocol? I’d like to publish that.

MAM:  Yes. So that was how the President of Senegal was telling President Bush of what you said about the Spanish history and the Spanish way of trying to solve issues. We are not perfect…

RB: Because nobody’s perfect [but Spain is very special]!

MAM: I mean, in this issue…

RB: There’s a great old movie – “Some like it hot” – with Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon. At the end, the last line is “well, nobody’s perfect.” But let me ask you: we’re talking about migration and with migration, the only migration that governments can even try to affect, control or regulate, is human beings. No government is capable, no matter who is, of regulating for example, the animal kingdom, for example, viruses from going anywhere. We’re not capable of controlling climate. So, if the sea water levels rise, it’s going to rise for all of us. So, what? You know, I want to come back and conclude with you back to the Alliance of Civilizations, which you are leading –  and I’m so grateful you are, because you personify our hope that humanity will learn maybe after millions of years or thousands of years of whatever one believes in, that we can actually live together, that we don’t have to kill each other, you know, we have to work it out. Okay. As the environment is moving in response to what, you know, whatever is causing it, whether it’s manmade, man affected or whatever or humanity affected, this is going to undo governments.

If it is the low level countries which are close to the sea level, if the water comes in and people now have to move because they are moving not for political reasons, not for economic reasons, but for bare survival, no border can hold this.

MAM: Well, you’re absolutely right and that is the great challenge of today and the great, let’s say, contradiction that we are witnessing, I mean, we were coming in our conversation from what was our world in 2004, you know, where we started our talk, and from 2004 to today the world has totally changed. It’s still, of course, in any transition of the evolution of humankind, you’ll see things happen, but human beings and humanity doesn’t realize that the changes are taking place. We are very stubborn. We are very conservative that we walk, as I said to you, because we wake up on the 1st of January 2000 after a big feast of the 31st of December 1999, with already awareness of the global citizenship is that you will not be able to confront and to respond to the challenge if you don’t have this fantastic concept that we have in our Organization that is: “One Humanity, Many Cultures, Many Civilizations.”  Because we are One Humanity and we have to preserve One Humanity. And so how we are going, and that is what really makes most of us a bit angry, not frustrated but with anger, because you’re concentrating in the many challenges we are going to face, we are going back to the traditional way of handling the international problems. I’ll explain myself.

Most of us that we are being involved in recent years in this global world, we already were absolutely convinced that we have to change, that the UN have to reform, that we couldn’t continue to have the same methodology, the same instrument of 1945, because it’s a different world, because it’s not only Nation States. Nation States will continue, again, complexity: they have their place in government, to be Prime Minister is very important. But you are not the only actor.

RB: Right.

MAM: You have a private sector. You have activists, you have media, you have civil society. You have… that are moving.

RB: Mother Nature.

MAM:  Yes. The world of 1945 that is represented in the UN in New York is fantastic, but it has to adapt or reform. I’m not talking about change because I mean the UN will continue to be there, but we have to really give them the new elements to respond to what is the reality of today. And the reality is global. Globalization that you can of course criticize. I’m the first to maybe criticize that we have made differences and disparities, but it’s a fact.

Now, people are trying to deglobalize. You know the new thinking and there are a lot of readings and of articles saying that we have to… That is the reason that with the Ukraine War we are in a very strange momentum because if you go for breaking, you know, the international system, sooner or later, now it’s Russia, but in the future, who will it be? What debate? Why did we allow China to go in the World Trade Organization? Well, because… What is better? To have China in or out? So the logic, my logic, was to have it in because at least you can engage. But now people they want to disengage. So, how are you going to disengage against the virus?

So we were already aware of that, but it was difficult to convince decision makers to make the change and I remember giving a lecture to my students in Sciences Po and they said: “Professor, so you are telling now that only after the Third World War the people will decide to have this global governance and to shape, you know, the architecture of today?” I said: “No, no, no. We have learned from World War One, World War Two, and we will get the lesson, and we are more clever now and we will get towards a certain momentum of rational.” So, we were in this momentum when COVID 19 came, and I thought, with a lot of naivety, I thought that the people they will understand.

RB:  And come together.

MAM: And come together. So the first two or three days that we were, of course, extremely frightened, extremely concerned, at the same time, intellectually and in my speeches, my conferences, in the webinars and in the video conferences, I was optimistic saying that we were going to have this global solidarity finally, because… No. We didn’t take any lesson from our mistakes.

And not even after we succeed, more or less to get out of Covid, we jump into this Ukraine War. That is of course not to blame the people because I don’t understand why the Russian Federation enter… I can understand, it’s not to justify the war, but it’s also that the sooner we put an end to the war and we put together everybody around the table it will be good. Because then, to refer to my mandate of the Alliance of Civilizations, what will be… First, it’s going to be impossible, number one. It will be an attempt that will conduct to even more crises and even more confrontations. So, even if they try to go back to the blocs or to the division of the world, it’s not going to work.

Number two: even Samuel Huntington who was the one who created this concept that was very successful with the conservatives in a negative manner, in his final words, he says “but at the end, we should try to live together.” He tried to say that in a manner, well, I will not say footnote, but practically. The headline is “The Clash”. And everyone who wants the clash, had a clash. But they didn’t read the whole, let’s say, paper. And the whole evolution… Because practically at the end of the day, either we understand each other, and I think the West, and I’m a pro-Western 100%. In this sense I’m like Pope Francis who said that if you are convinced of your principles or your beliefs or faith, you are not at the defensive.

RB: Correct. Because that’s who you are.

MAM: It’s up to you. But it doesn’t mean I have not to respect the other. I have the right to understand, to listen. And what is my fear today is that, of course, in principle the West is defending a very clear role and I have nothing to say, on the contrary, I’m in favor of that. But the way to defend our position should be different. We have to understand why the others are having certain doubts about the West’s behavior. And that is where the Alliance of Civilizations has a new mandate, my friend. So, we’ve been meeting with the Advisory Board recently, we had a very interesting exchange of views, and we come to the conclusion, of course, at the beginning we started the conversation with the concern about East-West. I mean, Islam and West, Western societies. But today, the mandate of the Alliance is larger because we have the African countries that they say, well, we are coming from a colonial period that we need and we ask for our legitimacy to have our point of view. We go to Latin America and we see the indigenous that say well, you have been there, but we part of that. We have China, we have all this historical civilizations that say… And then we have Russia that has all this mix, you know? They try to be a civilization being part of European because Russia has to be part of… Of course, we’re not going to enter into the concrete details of the negotiations, but the Alliance can play a fantastic role to create an atmosphere and an environment for the understanding and respect of all of us.

RB: I was going to say to you that listening to it, first of all, it’s just not only exciting and heartwarming and, as I said, you are Hope personified. But World War Two taught us that we are correct in in rejecting Neville Chamberlain and appeasement because this gets nobody anywhere. If we have to choose between Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement and Winston Churchill, we pick Winston Churchill every day.

But the truth is, neither are the correct way. The ultimate answer is to live together in harmony, which is the Alliance, which is… So I want to conclude by saying, you know, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who’s doing a magnificent job under very difficult circumstances, his mandate is humanitarian, and he recently had a successful trip, albeit difficult, to Moscow and Kyiv, but you know, so, and he got the humanitarian corridor and relief started and announced it, but I’m looking to you, Minister, for… Your mandate a little different. Your mandate is softer. Your mandate is longer. This is when you talk about civilizations, it’s not in an instant, it’s not in a century. There are many, many centuries. So, you know, from the Chinese civilization, there’s the Indus civilization, you know, there are multiple religions. So, you are the sort of, like, Pope Francis of all of that. And, you know, Pope Francis, who I adore; and one of the things he says is, even though he’s the head of the Catholic Church, he says: “treat every religion with respect.” How can you disagree with this? Nobody can.

So I’m going to close by asking you to consider taking a trip to Moscow and Kyiv also. And when you’re finished doing that, go to Asia, because we don’t need a new [war to] start up in Asia either. We do need to find some way which is just and equitable for people to live together because ultimately each country’s government needs order, whether it’s a democracy or an autocracy. Both need order. As the Greeks taught us: order is beauty, beauty is order. So, order, we all agree on. But if we can, because you have this gentle touch and you have the Spanish DNA of being able to bridge civilizations, look at solving the ultimate problem of Hope, which is that statue that turns swords into ploughshares.

MAM: Thank you. Thank you.

RB: Great having you. Really, it’s such a pleasure and honor.

MAM:  Thank you.

 

(Publisher’s Note: This inaugural “Deep Dive” discussion was actually had on June 23, 2022, at UNAOC H.Q. in New York City. The genesis of this is the June 5, 2022 “Retreat 4 Peace,” presided over by then-United Nations Security Council President, Albania’s Permanent Representative, H.E. Ferit Hoxha. See, related Op-Ed: “‘Russian Roulette’ results in “Mexican Standoff’!?” In order to honor Spain for her many contributions, including, support of Christopher Columbus’ August 1492 trip to the Americas, I requested of dear Miguel to permit The America Times to publish this Discussion in the August 2022 monthly issue. As an added bonus of doing so, it would also serve to better inform the High Level United Nations General Assembly debate among the world’s leaders, starting on September 20, 2022.)

About the author

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Ravi Batra, starting September 11, 2021, is a publisher of The America Times Company Ltd., and since January 2022, is the Editor-in-Chief. He is a member of the National Press Club, in Washington D.C., and a member of its "Freedom of the Press" and "International Correspondents" Teams/Committees.

A member of the bar since 1981, he is the head of a boutique law firm in Manhattan, The Law Firm of Ravi Bat