Josep Borrell

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== You are Josep Borrell, European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy ==

Notable Quotes

You advocated for the recognition of the State of Palestine, saying that “it is obvious that the situation in Palestine must not continue as it is. If the EU is not able to reach a unanimous decision, then each to their own.”

“The Americans decided to kill [the Iran Nuclear Deal], unilaterally as they do things without any kind of previous consultation, without taking care of what interests the Europeans have…we are not children following what they [the Americans] say. We have our own prospects, interests and strategy, and we will continue working with Iran.”

You were chosen as the face of European Union’s Foreign Policy in Summer 2019, and you took on that role at a time when EU foreign policy regarding Israel and Palestine was in flux, with the EU taking a harder line against Israeli settlement building, with several European nations either recognizing Palestine as a state, or passing non-binding parliamentary resolutions to that effect, and with the EU actively seeking to keep the Iran Nuclear Deal alive, even after the American withdrawal from it. Be prepared--your skill as a diplomat is about to be severely tested in a most controversial and visible context.

Your Story

Born in 1947 in the Spanish village of La Pobla de Segur, you were trained both as an economist and an aeronautical engineer, studying in Spain, France, and the United States. You have been involved in politics since the late 1970’s, serving in several roles during the government of Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez, which was in power from 1982 to 1996 during the early years of Spain’s transition from a dictatorship to a democracy. You served as President of the European Parliament from 2004 until 2007, a highly-visible post in which you oversaw all activities of the European Parliament, and represented the parliament in its international relations. You expanded your work in international diplomacy when you were chosen as Spain’s foreign minister in June 2018, and you served in that position for just over a year until you succeeded Italy’s Federica Mogherini as European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

EU Middle East Policy

On the settlement issue, you clearly convey the EU’s policy. The EU respects Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign nation, however, it views the Israeli presence in the West Bank as an illegal occupation under international law. Settlement construction is viewed both as illegal and as a roadblock to peace. Here, it is important to note what the EU views as the rightful boundaries of Israel. The EU adheres to U.N. resolution 242, which views the borders of Israel as those existing before the 1967 war. This is the so-called green line. Any Israeli construction that occurs on the other side of the Green Line is seen by the EU as illegal and is termed a settlement. Importantly, the Green Line divides Jerusalem in half. The EU views East Jerusalem as the rightful capitol of a Palestinian nation, and West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

You must be a cautious actor who does not stray from the policies of the EU, as it is your job to represent these policies at all times. You attempt to seek a middle ground that will both facilitate progress for the Palestinians and the cause of peace, and simultaneously not alienate the Israelis. It is important, however, that you not shy away from condemning Israeli actions that you see as running counter to EU policies. Here you have more leverage than American politicians. Israel desperately needs EU trade; however, there is no large pro-Israel lobby in the EU. This means that there is not a large amount of pressure on you to turn a blind eye to Israel’s policies. The EU could lose all trade with Israel and walk away with just a black eye. However, for Israel, the EU is a pivotal trading partner. You understand this and you should not shy away from levying criticism at Israel (or the Palestinian Authority) where necessary. You support the idea that the EU should recognize a Palestinian state, though such a possibility remains distant. In December 2014, the EU parliament passed a resolution that "supports in principle the recognition of Palestinian statehood and the two-state solution, and believes these should go hand in hand with the development of peace talks, which should be advanced.” Though the resolution has been portrayed by some as signaling EU recognition of a Palestinian state, the actual resolution stopped well short of this, supporting the idea of a Palestinian state “in principle,” and employing much less definitive language than resolutions passed by the parliaments of several EU member nations. Though many view the resolution as an attempt to show European displeasure over continued Israeli settlement building, the Israeli government views this and other measures as not only bypassing, but ultimately undermining the necessary Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. You would argue that Israeli settlement building policy is, in and of itself, an impediment to any meaningful peace process, and that European political and economic pressure can force changes in Israeli policy that would actually make negotiations possible. You are also strongly supportive of the Iran nuclear deal, even as you acknowledge that “Iran wants to wipe out Israel; nothing new about that,” adding that “you have to live with it.” In short, you believe that a nuclear deal with Iran is at the core of a policy of managing the threat, in contrast with those in Jerusalem and Washington, D.C. who feel that the only way to deal with Iran is to use economic and/or military means to force them to disarm. Especially given the American decision to abandon the nuclear deal, this too will be an issue on which your actions and words will be closely monitored.

You must be a cautious actor. You should not stray from the policies of the EU, as it is your job to represent these policies at all times. You do not take the EU’s ties with Israel lightly. A true diplomat, you attempt to seek a middle ground that will both facilitate progress and not alienate the Israelis. Still, your strong stance on human rights issues, settlement construction, the separation barrier, and Gaza have made you unpopular amongst more conservative politicians in Israel, and have led to significant concern in Israel over your appointment as leader of Europe’s foreign policy. It is important that you not shy away from condemning those actions that you see as running counter to EU policies. Here you have more leverage than American politicians. The EU could lose all trade with Israel and walk away with just a black eye. However, for Israel, the EU is a pivotal trading partner. You understand this and you won't shy away from levying criticism at Israel and the Palestinian Authority where necessary.

The High Representative

What exactly is the role of the High Representative? The High Representative is charged with carrying out the will of the Council of Europe in foreign affairs. He is particularly tasked with the carrying out of bilateral relations, meaning the relations between the EU and other countries. Unlike others, you are charged with the direct handling of relations. The High Representative is expected to conduct state visits with other nations and to engage directly in talks with the representatives of those nations. You are the chief diplomat of the EU. However, you do not have the ability to create your own policies. Statements that you make must adhere to the positions of the EU, and this can sometimes place you in a difficult position. How should you react to something that is not outlined in the EU policies? Thankfully, EU positions are generally vague enough to allow you some wiggle room. You must look at existing policies and extrapolate from them what is likely to be the EU’s policy going forth. Here, it is important to discuss with those team members also engaged in foreign affairs (the President of the Commission and President of the Council) what exactly should be the reaction and how to justify it within the broad guidelines issued by the council. This will provide the EU with a united front and also provide you with political cover, preventing you from being seen as championing your own personal positions and views. It is also important to note that you are also the EU representative to the Quartet. The quartet is comprised of the EU, U.S., U.N. and Russia. It was hoped that by working together these four powerful entities would be capable of finding a unified position and pushing the AIC towards peace. As a member of the Quartet it is your job, should the Quartet be convened, to represent the EU’s policy and attempt to influence other members. The Quartet is an important tool as it provides added significance to any position that the member entities can agree to. These are not broad areas as there are differing views within the Quartet. However, Quartet nations generally agree on three important issues from which you can benefit.

The first is agreement on the lifting of the blockade of Gaza. The second is the need for freedom of movement within the Palestinian territories (currently Israel controls the roads of Palestine through the use of checkpoints). These hinder not only travel, but also the economy. The Quartet and the EU recognize the importance of the removal of all checkpoints within Palestine that do not lead to Israel. The third point is the promotion of good governance and economic development within Palestinian territories. Finally, there is the matter of Area C. This is the section of Palestine that comes under direct Israeli governance. The Quartet does not agree on full Israeli withdrawal, which is the EU’s position, however, they do agree on the need for increased financial aid, economic development, and freedom of movement within this area. Within the Quartet it is important not to attempt to change the policies of others. Rather, focus on points of agreement which you can utilize to further your own goals, and seek to prevent the implementation of policies which run counter to the EU’s goals.

Being Josep Borrell

Within the Arab-Israeli conflict, it is important that you appear pro-active and engaged. You have been placed in a position of power and influence, and you must manage the delicate act of being both a leader and a team player. It is also important to act thoughtfully and to adhere to EU policies. Do not act alone; convene with your teammates in order to present a unified front. You should be concerned with directly engaging those nations with which you have diplomatic cause. Whether it be Iran, Israel, or Palestine you have a vested interest in being engaged. This does not mean that you will be the only member of the EU team to speak with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. To the contrary, you are strengthened by the presence of your teammates. However, it is very important that you not appear to be riding on the coat tails of your colleagues. It is also important that you provide well-thought out statements and that you not over-reach with those statements. It is best to remain vague rather than to say something that the EU does not agree with. If a violation of human rights is noticed, the issuance of a statement of denunciation is very important. The issue of human rights presents you with leeway because of the EU's strong stance in support of the furtherance of human rights. You must act and you must be visible, but you must also avoid burning bridges. For example, it is one thing to denounce Iran's nuclear policy, but it is another thing to implement harsher and harsher sanctions until it reforms. You will advocate for the idea that it is only through engaging with Iran that regional safety and security can be protected, but you should be well aware that there are many people—including leaders in Israel and the US--who believe that such an approach actually empowers Iran, giving them needed diplomatic cover to build a further develop their nuclear program. Your ability to persuade your fellow leaders, and to make a persuasive case on a matter of extreme urgency, will truly be tested.

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