War in Ukraine

S&D-president García Pérez: “Putin is fighting against Europe”

Karin NinkKai Doering22. März 2022
Europe is united, and our common values are more important than ever, Iratxe García Pérez, president of the S&D Group in European Parliament, says.
Europe is united, and our common values are more important than ever, Iratxe García Pérez, president of the S&D Group in European Parliament, says.
Europe's response to Putin's war on Ukraine is its unity, says Iratxe García Pérez, president of the S&D Group in European Parliament. She sees the EU better prepared for refugees than in 2015.

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Did you ever expect to witness a war in the heart of Europe?

These days are the worst moment for Europe for the last decades. Putin is fighting against Europe! Four weeks ago, no one could have imagined a situation like the one we have now. It is horrible to see the pictures from Ukraine, with innocent people dying every day. Nevertheless, I am relieved about how the European Union reacted to this threat.

In which way?

Europe is united, and our common values are more important than ever. It was good to see that European countries reacted very quickly with sanctions against Russia, as well as helping the refugees fleeing Ukraine. We have to be united, because Putin is not only attacking the territorial integrity of Ukraine, he is attacking freedom and democracy. His war is a war against European values. Therefore, the only answer is our unity, which makes us stronger. We are taking different measures and our first goal is to stop this horrible war.

What can the EU do?

We have to continue the dialogue to find a diplomatic solution while at the same time supporting Ukrainian citizens. Ukrainians are not only defending their country but also our European values, and they need our full support.

How can the European Parliament support them?

First of all, we must keep our unity within the European Union. This is our task as representatives from all European countries. We recently listened to Ukranian president Volodymyr Zelensky addressing the plenary of the European Parliament via video, and he sent us a strong message that greatly touched many MEPs. We have already adopted important sanctions against President Putin and the Russian oligarchs close to him, because this could be a crucial factor to stop this war. Apart from this, other sanctions against the Russian economy are also very important. Stopping “Nordstream 2” was a good decision and I am happy the German government took that step.

Iratxe García Pérez

The European Union is confronted with millions of refugees to come. Is the EU prepared?

Yes, we are preparing. I see a lot of solidarity among the member states. It is a different situation to the refugee crisis back in 2015, when the European Union did not find a common answer. We Socialists and Democrats already called for a Common Migration and Asylum policy based on solidarity, but we were not strong enough at the time. Today, in the current situation, we have more arguments to defend our position. This time all countries understand why solidarity is important and that we all must help as Europeans. We should use this momentum not only to solve the current situation, but to build the common policy the EU needs.

What for?

For something we S&Ds  have been demanding for years. The EU needs to adopt a real and comprehensive common asylum policy. The Commission has already put forward its proposals for this in the New Pact on Migration and we now need to speed up the negotiations, which have stalled for too long. This situation cannot be solved by only a few countries. A common European response is urgently necessary.

Are you afraid of a two-class-system – refugees from Ukraine and refugees who cross the Mediterranean Sea?

We cannot permit that! This would go against our values and the fundamental rights we have in this Union. That is another argument for why we need a coherent strategy for all refugees who come to Europe. We must not forget that there are countries in the south of Europe that have been receiving many refugees for years. They need the same support and solidarity that Poland and Hungary need right now. So I hope that now the Council will adopt the migration pact, including a mechanism for solidarity, so that no Member State is left alone simply due to its geographic location. All external borders are EU borders.

Ukraine wants to become member of the European Union. Ursula von der Leyen already gave Ukraine a warm welcome. When can this dream become a reality?

All European countries have a right to join the European Union. Ukraine is a big country right in the heart of Europe, so I appreciate they want to become a member. But of course, they must fulfil all the criteria that every member state has to fulfil before accession.

Other countries like Albania or Moldova even applied earlier. Will there be a ranking to become a member?

No, definitely not. We must understand the situation in each of these countries, and the situation is very different. All the applying countries must accept the same criteria, so a ranking does not help. The message is clear: We are open, and everybody has the right to apply.

Some weeks ago, Chancellor Olaf Scholz named the current situation as a “Zeitenwende” for German politics. What does this mean for Europe?

This is a historic moment; it is undoubtedly decisive for our future. When we talk about a “Zeitenwende” in Europe we must mention a common European defense and foreign policy. Sometimes difficult situations can become opportunities. We realised that already during the covid-crisis, when we took groundbreaking decisions together. I really hope that we as Europeans can respond to the threat of Putin’s war by becoming a stronger union.

Does it make a difference that the German chancellor is part of the S&D-family?

Of course! The victory of SPD in Germany and the new progressive government strengthens our political family across Europe. The government of Olaf Scholz is clearly pro-European and supports the European dimension. With Germany, Portugal, Spain and the Scandinavian countries among others, we have a momentum to build a better and fairer Europe.

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