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CARLOS BARBA (EFE)

Vox and the European Union: Who defends national interests?

Guillermo Iñiguez

7 mins - 10 de Julio de 2023, 07:00

Among the proposals contained in Vox’s electoral programme there is one particular aspect that is striking: Chapter 15, dedicated to the European Union. It begins by proclaiming that “all the harshness that Sánchez’s government has shown against honest, hard-working Spaniards has disappeared every time the president had to defend national interests in Brussels”. Vox then turns against “European institutions” and “radical environmentalist and ideological lobbies”, before declaring the party itself the great defender of “European nations and their citizens”. 

Amidst illegal proposals thus outlined (imposing “border controls on all third-country products coming into our market” would undermine the free movement of goods in the internal market, and thus contrary to the very essence of the EU), climate denialism (reducing “any European initiative that entails more ‘green’ obligations”), and anti-political demagoguery (“reducing superfluous political spending in EU institutions”), comes the star proposal: “to defend the primacy of the Constitution over European law”, disregarding the rulings of the Court of Justice of the European Union when they are contrary to the supposed interests of our country.

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The flouting of ECJ rulings is a cause championed, at different times, by parties such as Fidesz (Hungary), Law and Justice (Poland), and the most hardline sectors of the British Tories. The latest to join this list is Vox, a party that already governs in numerous Autonomous Communities and which will most likely determine whether the Popular Party leads the next national executive. Taken to its ultimate consequences, such a proposal could lead to Spain’s withdrawal from the European Union. For this reason, and despite the language of Vox, so obsessed with its own “patriotism” and the supposed foreign “anti-Spanish” critics, there is no measure more harmful to the interests of Spaniards than ending the primacy of EU law. In other words, and using their own vocabulary, Vox’s platform is an anti-Spanish programme.

Vox is anti-Spanish, in the first place, because it would entail a frontal clash with the European institutions. This would have, above all, two consequences. On the one hand, it would expose Spain to a cascade of infringement proceedings and condemnatory rulings by the CJEU, which could lead to significant financial penalties. This was the case in Poland, whose judicial reforms led it to pay a daily fine of €1 million for almost a year and a half. It could also expose Spain to a withholding of its EU funds, as was the case for Hungary last December. In this instance, the amounts would be even higher: Hungary’s suspension meant the freezing of more than €6 billion euros. Based on the precedents of Hungary and Poland, Vox’s exercise in “Spanishness” seems less and less patriotic: it could mean, among other things, a loss of income for Spanish universities (Erasmus, Horizon, or Copernicus funds), for our farmers (Common Agricultural Policy), for our less developed regions (Cohesion Funds), or for the ecological transition or digitalisation (Recovery Plan).

Beyond these economic calculations, Vox’s programme would also directly attack Spain’s political interests in Brussels. A political and legal crusade against the European Union - and, as its programme indicates, against the Council of Europe – would isolate us from the European political mainstream: we would go from being allied with France, Germany, or Italy to joining a select club formed by Poland and Hungary in the Union’s forums; and by Russia and Belarus, the only two European countries that do not belong to the Council of Europe. Faced with such an act of patriotism, one might ask two questions. First, would it denote “Spanishness” to lose influence in Brussels, the forum in which most of our laws are determined and in which the interests of Spaniards can be best served? Secondly, would Vox take its new Frankenstein alliances to their ultimate consequences – positioning itself, for example, in favour of Putin’s Russia, as Orbán’s Hungary does? Surprisingly, its electoral programme, so preoccupied with showing its patriotism, gives no clues in this regard.



Equally fallacious is their victimhood logic, according to which taking a stand against the European Union is nothing more than a response to the numerous humiliations that Spain has (apparently) suffered in recent years. After all, it is precisely EU law that has protected Spain’s interests in the cases denounced by Vox. It has done so, recently, in its response to the ‘procés’, disavowing the Belgian courts that refused to execute the Euro-orders issued by Spain and endorsing the withdrawal of Carles Puigdemont’s parliamentary immunity. Also, as Ignacio Molina points out, it was certain European institutions – specifically Mario Draghi’s “Whatever it takes” – that most protected us from the austerity programme led by Angela Merkel’s government. A Spanish withdrawal from the Union’s legal order would not give Spain more strength, quite the contrary: it would leave us defenceless in the face of similar situations.

Finally, it is worth considering what Vox means by a “patriotic” European policy. According to the RAE, a patriot is someone “who has love for his country and seeks all its good”. Analysing the major crises of recent years, it is difficult to square this definition with the party’s aspirations to leave, de facto or de jure, the European Union. Would a withdrawal from the Union have facilitated the vaccination of millions of Spaniards against COVID-19? Would it have allowed us to participate in the recovery fund, slowing the collapse of our economy after the pandemic? Would it have led to a more effective response to the economic and energy consequences of the war in Ukraine, containing inflation and the scale of energy prices? If Vox’s programme – optimistic, fallacious, and demagogic – omits these questions, it is for one obvious reason: despite its rhetoric, the party is well aware that its programme neither shows love for its homeland, nor does it show the slightest interest in pursuing its good or that of its citizens.

Above all, Vox’s programme is unpatriotic because it ignores the reality of its own country. In recent months, the party has adopted increasingly harsh rhetoric against the “Brussels bureaucrats” – that supposedly grey and Machiavellian body of civil servants – far removed from the interests of Spaniards and defenders of a globalist regime (a globalist regime, it must be said, to which its own MEPs have no problem belonging). And yet, nothing could be further from Spanish public opinion, one of the populations that most strongly supports European integration. A Spanish exit from the EU would mean abandoning a political, social, and economic union that, for four decades, has contributed decisively to the modernisation and transformation of Spain, the country whose interests they claim to defend. It would also mean doing so against the criteria of the vast majority of Spaniards. The paradoxes of patriotism.
 
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