As NATO leaders gather in Madrid for today’s summit, His Excellency José Pascual Marco Martínez, Spanish Ambassador to the UK, reflects on the meaning of European values in today’s world.
This blog forms part of a mini-series on European values, which will comprise of contributions on this subject from EU Ambassadors to the UK and UCL academics, running from 28 June-8 July 2022..
European values are not abstract; they are not something outside us. Values are just who we are, what we are. That is something I always say to audiences in the EU: you are the EU. You are a continent where you can go to a hospital and they will accept you immediately. Where you see a policeman and you can ask for help and not feel afraid. Where you will have unemployment benefits and you will have social protection. Where the people that are more vulnerable and in need of help are not left alone by the rest of society.
We have kept the faith in our ideas for 60 years, and during this period we have changed dramatically. One of the main changes is that we have become more democratic, internally. The EU started as a hybrid experiment but it has evolved and the European Parliament now has a much more important role. The President of the Commission is now elected taking into account the results of the European elections. The decision-making process has also become more open and more transparent, as European leaders are often in Brussels holding public debates. As a result, we can listen to them discussing very important issues and they are openly criticised for their decisions, as is happening now with the debates about oil, gas and the Ukraine.
Another important change has been the European population itself. We are a lot more diverse than we were 60 years ago, before the waves of immigration that have enriched the continent. Spain had negligible immigration back then and now 15% of its citizens were born abroad. We have gone through the pandemic together and we have retained our belief in a better, more democratic world. There is always space for greater generosity, but the EU is already the largest international aid donor in the world. Although we have been criticised over vaccines by some people, we have also been the biggest exporter and donor of vaccines globally.
Focusing on Brexit, I think we in the EU were responsible, and we made citizens and residents our priority. I was one of the negotiators and we protected both the rights of Spaniards here in the UK, and the rights of the 400,000 British residents in Spain.
And now we see EU leadership in relation to climate change and the war in Ukraine. I am proud that we have helped people. We are in the first line of fire as we are more dependent on Russian oil and gas than the UK or the United States and, still, we are making big economic and security sacrifices. I think that the EU has underpinned the effort of NATO with its internal cohesion and its determination. And NATO has been crucial in ensuring that the West stands up united to tyrants everywhere.
Today a very important NATO summit will take place in Madrid with a new Strategic Concept on the table. This is an opportune moment to reaffirm our solidarity. In fact, Finland and Sweden will be there and have applied for NATO membership. All heads of state and government, including partners from Asia and the Pacific will be at the table. I firmly believe that friends of freedom must stand together, that is the strength we have, standing together to fight for our values, the European values of the EU.
H.E. José Pascual Marco Martínez is the Spanish Ambassador to the UK.
This blog is based on remarks made by the Spanish Ambassador at a UCL roundtable on the values of Europe, which took place as part of Quo Vadis, a four day festival convened by the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, co-hosted by the UCL Institute of Advanced Studies and supported by the UCL European Institute.
A recording of the full event is available here.
The views expressed in this post are those of the author, and not of the UCL European Institute, nor of UCL.