Former Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Javier Solana spoke about challenges the European Union and transatlantic community currently face at the Mortara Center Tuesday afternoon.
Solana, who also formerly served as secretary general of the Council of the European Union, currently serves as president of the Center for Global Economy and Geopolitics in both Barcelona and Madrid, as a distinguished senior fellow in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution and as a senior visiting professor at the London School of Economics.
The talk began with a discussion of the 2008 economic crisis and its longstanding effect on the European Union. Solana argued that the crisis was especially influential for the E.U. because it was in the infancy of economic unification.
“It was a global event no doubt, but for the European Union, it was very important because we didn’t have at that time the whole structure of the monetary union finished,” Solana said. “Therefore it has been more difficult to get out of the crisis … and we are still suffering with how to completely overcome the problem of the economic crisis.”
According to Solana, the economic crisis caused a divide between northern and southern Europe.
“The European Union began to create a line. I suppose that the line is imaginary for the moment between the North and the South. The crisis was better controlled in the North of the European Union and it was more difficult to control in the Southern Part of the European Union,” Solana said.
He also mentioned that the United Kingdom fluctuating on the issue of leaving the European Union is a prominent issue that has deep consequences for the E.U. Solana spoke to the issue of the east-west divide in the E.U. that he attributed to the crisis in Ukraine and the influx of refugees into Europe.
Discussing the first cause of the east-west divide — Ukraine — Solana suggested working solutions to the problem, including placing increased sanctions on Russia and possible International Monetary Fund efforts to promote energy independence for Ukraine. Solana also argued that relative failures in the Arab Spring have led to the great influx of refugees into Europe, which is especially dramatic because of its geographic location on the Mediterranean Sea.
With regard to the refugee crisis, Solana expressed his belief that the European Union is tackling the issue in an appropriate and effective manner.
“I think the response of the European Union … is the adequate one. We are trying to resolve that problem and we are going to do it by allocating in different countries of the European Union refugees,” Solana said.
He also discussed solutions to the many problems the E.U. currently faces. His first piece of advice was to finalize and cement the economic unification of Europe. Secondly, Solana suggested that the union undergo a unified energy policy.
“We have to do something very, very important with energy. .… We have to move in a direction of constructing this policy,” Solana said.
Diego Garcia Represa (GRD ’16), who attended the event, said he was honored to have the opportunity to speak to such a pivotal actor in the European Union’s government.
“I am a foreign student — I am Spanish — so from the European Union … having the former secretary general of NATO here, it’s an honor and a unique opportunity. I have never had the chance before even in my country or in the Union, so I am honored,” Represa said.
Another attendee, Felix Petri (GRD ’17) said he found Solana’s unique view of the north-south and East-West divides in the EU fascinating.
“I hadn’t really thought about it that way in terms of east-west divide still being a thing. …I was particularly interested in what he had to say about that,” Petri said. “It definitely leaves me with something to think
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