Arancha Gonzalez Laya, Morocco, Spain, Front Polisario, Brahim Ghali, Algeria, Pegasus, spying, Western Sahara
Gonzalez Laya: « Everything was involved in the crisis with Morocco: eavesdropping, denunciations and press campaigns ».
The former head of MFA assures in an interview with ‘El Periódico de España’ that everything was used to « muddy » the attention to BrahimGhali, alluding to Morocco. « And when I say everything, has been everything »
Sacrificed in the remodeling of the Government last July to try to calm Morocco, Arancha González Laya (San Sebastián, 1969), is now dean of the Paris School of International Affairs*. She remains linked to what could be summed up as ‘power’, because this institution acts as an incubator for some of the next international leaders. But she doesn’t seem to miss him. She exercised it in the Ministry and lost it, without an iota of nostalgia. She also helps the wide network of contacts that she treasures. Having concluded her stage of « public service » – it is obvious that she feels more like a high-ranking official than a politician – she is now going to dedicate herself to rethinking Europe and imagining the idea of a new political community on the continent, launched by Emmanuel Macron.
Q. She was dismissed in July of last year, in the middle of the diplomatic crisis with Morocco. Did she become aware that this matter was going to cost her job?
A. I have never acted either to keep myself in office or to lose it. I have always remained faithful to the principles, interests, and values of my country, which are what I had to represent.
Q. What did the PM tell you when he called you?
A. That must be within the discretion between the PM and his ministers.
Q. Morocco turned the reception of BrahimGhali into an element of confrontation against Spain and against you, but the root of the problem was something else: the fact that the Government had not made any gesture of support for the change in the US position on Western Sahara.
A. Everything served at that time to muddy a decision of a humanitarian nature towards a Spanish citizen, who needed immediate help. Humanitarian care has a long tradition in our foreign policy. Saharawis and many other nationalities. We must defend this tooth and nail because it is part of our identity as a country. And we also must be defenders of relations with our neighbors, Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Senegal, Mauritania, and many others, understanding that they will only be good if they are managed from co-responsibility and represent the interests of both parties.
Q. Was it a mistake to welcome Ghali without measuring the consequences? I mean, you must have been aware that there was a prior malaise about Western Sahara. Shouldn’t he have at least minimized the impact by warning Rabat instead of opting for a discreet entry by the leader of POLISARIO?
A. It is that they are issues that run through different channels. Spain has always been very clear about the need to seek an agreed solution, and this is very important, in accordance with international law and giving the maximum support to the UN. That has been the constant in our country’s position and it had to be defended very clearly, helping the parties, trying not to do anything that could frustrate that agreement, but bearing in mind that it was one more issue (in the relationship with Morocco), not the only one. We must not mix the plans because if we do, we may fall into the temptation of restricting Spain’s ability to exercise its foreign policy.
Q. But a previous call would not have prevented Morocco from using it against Spain and against you.
A. History cannot be remade and that is why it makes no sense to enter in considerations of the type what if, what if, what if… I insist, Spain must have the capacity to exercise an autonomous foreign policy, always seeking the best relations with our neighbors. I did it during my tenure. I have been the FM who has made the most visits to these countries and I paid particular attention to all of them.
Q. Has Spain given in to Morocco, first with your dismissal and then with support for its autonomy plan for Western Sahara?
A. You will allow me not to enter intosuch considerations. I am extremely respectful of the principle of loyalty to the Government in which I have served. I will not go into those considerations.
Q. Your telephone number, like that of the PM and other ministers, was attacked at the worst moments of the diplomatic crisis with Morocco
A. Everything has served in this crisis to muddy that humanitarian aid. And when I say everything has been everything: wiretaps, complaints, campaigns, including press campaigns. It has been quite evident. For me it is a chapter that belongs to the past.
Q. Minister, but it has not been known if your phone, like the rest, was spied on with Pegasus. In the Executive they have not wanted to confirm it. They maintain that they are not aware that in their case it was with this ‘software’, which Morocco has.
A. The telephone numbers of those responsible for government have a channel for their protection and to investigate violations of their integrity and I believe that this question should be addressed to whom it belongs, which is not me.
Q. But did you put your phone in the hands of the competent authorities within the Government, when you thought that your mobile could have been attacked?
A. Yes, but all these questions, I would prefer if you addressed them where they belong, which is not me. I want to be, I repeat, tremendously scrupulous with the rules of the game, especially in a matter like this, which is very serious.
Q. You pointed to wiretapping, complaints… the accusations against you for Ghali’s entry have just been dismissed. Do you think Rabat was behind? I say this for two circumstances. There was at least one accusation with Moroccan interests and the judge’s actions have been very striking. He never accepted any of the MFA arguments and just completely changed his mind a week before the agreement with Morocco on Western Sahara was known. The Court has knocked down all his investigation.
A. Of this episode, certainly a bit curious, I am left with the decision of the Provincial Court of Zaragoza, after an appeal filed by the State Attorney, to whom I have much to thank, for the good work in defending the interests of our country. The court has said the same thing that I have maintained from the beginning. First, that it was a humanitarian decision. And second, that it was done in accordance with the law. But we have a very serious problem in our country, which is a judicialization of politics and the growing politicization of justice.
Q. Do you think that after the Western Sahara, Mohamed VI’s next claim will be Ceuta and Melilla?
A. We must be very clear to anyone who has any doubts: Ceuta and Melilla are part of Spain and, therefore, of the EU.
Q. Can you help them understand the establishment of commercial customs at the two borders, which is one of the issues included in the joint statement with Morocco?
A. I don’t want to make value judgments about which are the elements that would reinforce or not… It is very clear: Ceuta and Melilla have been and are part of Spain.
Q. How deep do you think the diplomatic crisis with Algeria is now?
A. I am going to be very cautious on this issue as well, but I do believe that Spain should have the best relations with all its neighbors. With Algeria, with Morocco, with Libya, with Mauritania, with Senegal. And when I say the best, they must be the best. In a neighborhood we all need each other.
Q. Can the gas supply to Spain be at risk?
A. I hope not, and I want to believe not. Spain and Algeria, and more broadly Algeria and the EU, have a framework of relations that should allow them to deepen, also in the energy field. Spanish firms are committed to investments in Algeria and to their industrial project in this area.
Q. Can’t Italy get ahead of us?
A. I believe that relations between Spain and Algeria must be redirected. It’s very important. For the two countries.
Q. I mentioned before the historical position of Spain of a solution on Western Sahara around the UN, but in the last two years several countries, the US, France, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, have spoken in favor of the Moroccan plan.
A. There will only be long-term stability if there is an agreement between the parties. That pact can be illuminated only through the PESG de Mistura.
Q. But, is it more difficult now, when Spain has opted for an option?
A. It is more necessary than ever.
*(Paris School of International Affairs (PSIA) is a graduate school of Sciences Po [also referred to as the Institutd’études politiques de Paris])
El Periódico, Jun 07, 2022
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