Cablegate: Spanish Reaction to Kosovo's Independence

DE RUEHMD #0186/01 0520909
P 210909Z FEB 08

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MADRID 000186




E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/21/2018

REF: A. STATE 16319

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Classified By: DCM Hugo Llorens for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (C) SUMMARY: FM Moratinos' Chief of Staff Javier Sancho
told DCM February 20 that it was politically impossible for
Spain to support the Kosovar UDI at this time, and that this
is the position of both the ruling PSOE government and the
opposition Partido Popular (PP). Sancho said the Spanish
have tried to be as constructive as possible in Brussels and
have stuck to the position they have consistently elaborated
with high-level USG officials in Washington and Madrid:
UNSCR 1244 does not provide for a unilateral declaration of
independence by Kosovo; therefore, Spain wants a new UNSCR or
a negotiated settlement between the parties. Nevertheless,
Sancho said, Spain did not try to oppose an EU statement on
Kosovo in Brussels, instead crafting a consensus text that
focuses on the EU's commitment to the Balkans while leaving
the issue of recognition to the individual member states.
The GOS will continue to support KFOR, EULEX, and the OSCE
presence in Kosovo. Sancho said this is the final GOS
position on Kosovo until after the elections. If Zapatero
wins reelection, the GOS will be willing to discuss further
avenues for progress toward peace and stability in the
Balkans and to work constructively with the U.S. Ambassador
Aguirre will have lunch with Deputy FM Bernardino Leon
February 21 and will press Leon on how Spain can move forward
in the Balkans after the elections. END SUMMARY.

2. (C) The DCM delivered ref A demarche to Javier Sancho,
Chief of Staff to Foreign Minister Moratinos. Moratinos, who
is running for Parliament representing Cordoba, was
unavailable from the campaign trail in Andalucia as he was
under the weather.

3. (C) Sancho told the DCM that it was politically
impossible for the GOS to support Kosovo's unilateral
declaration of independence in the middle of a hotly
contested campaign, and to have expected otherwise was not
realistic. Sancho noted that both the ruling PSOE government
and the opposition PP opposed the UDI and had said so
publicly numerous times in the months leading to February 17.
Sancho said that the GOS had maintained this position
consistently both in Brussels and with high-level USG
officials, but had tried to be as constructive as possible in
supporting an EU consensus. Sancho noted that Moratinos had
led the GAERC in producing a consensus conclusion on Kosovo
that did not discuss recognition, when he could have proposed
a text opposing the UDI.

4. (C) Sancho told the DCM that there would be no more
public statements from the MFA on their Kosovo position prior
to the elections, adding that the GOS wants it out of the
headlines. If Zapatero wins reelection March 9, Sancho said
the GOS would be open to further discussions on working with
the U.S. and toward EU consensus for peace and stability in
the Balkans.


5. (U) Major international and Spanish media seized on
Moratinos' comments in Brussels prior to entering the
February 18 GAERC, in which he said, "The Spanish government
will not recognize the unilateral act proclaimed yesterday by
the Kosovar assembly, and it will not recognize it because we
do not believe it respects international legality... The
Spanish government has always defended respect for
international legality. It defended it when it decided to
withdraw troops from Iraq, and it defends it again now when
talking about the secession of a state... If you examine the
nations who are against this recognition, they are the
countries that know best and are the most similar to the West

6. (U) Moratinos went on to say that Kosovar independence
would be legal if brought about by a new UNSCR or by a
negotiated agreement between the parties, and that Spain
wished to uphold the international principle of territorial
integrity. He also said Spain would continue to support
stability and security for the Balkans. The GOS has stated
that it will maintain its presence in KFOR and its support
for EULEX and the OSCE mission in Kosovo.

7. (U) Asked by reporters February 19 whether Spain's
elections impacted its policy on Kosovo, Moratinos denied
this and said, "Yesterday we made a proposal to guarantee a
minimum of unity among EU partners, and above all, to support
and monitor stability and security in the region, which is

MADRID 00000186 002.2 OF 003

part of Europe and which we are interested in preserving and


8. (U) As both the GOS and the PP predicted privately to
post, Kosovo's independence has prompted numerous provocative
statements by nationalist parties in the Basque Country and
Catalonia. Catalan Left (ERC) spokesman Joan Ridao said
February 18 that Kosovo was "a very important precedent" for
Catalonia and the Basque Country, adding that "when the
people want independence, it must be accepted... Any country
or nation under the scope of the EU in the 21st century can
achieve its independence if it is democratically decided...
no one can avoid this." In a blog entry entitled, "Spain
does not have the balls to send tanks against us," ERC
Parliamentarian Joan Puig wrote that Kosovo was "another
proof that our nation will be independent if a political and
social majority decides it. Spain understands this very
clearly, which is why it has reacted in this way." Josep
Carod-Rovira, vice president of the Catalan Generalitat and
renowned Catalanista, called on the GOS to recognize Kosovo
as soon as possible on January 18, as did Artur Mas, the
president of Catalan centrist party Convergence and Union
(CiU). On February 20, representatives from CiU and ERC
announced they would travel to Kosovo to "study the secession

9. (U) Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) spokeswoman Miren
Azkarate said Kosovo's independence was "a lesson in how to
resolve conflicts of identity and belonging in a peaceful,
democratic manner... the will of the people is the key to
resolving entrenched political problems... Kosovo is a new
example of the vigor of the democratic right to self
determination enshrined in international law, and it betrays
once more those who maintain that this right does not exist
in democratic nations."

10. (U) By contrast, the PP has maintained staunch unity in
its position against Kosovo's independence. PP founder and
elder statesman Manuel Fraga said February 19 that Spain must
not support Kosovo because one could "draw the same
conclusions about Spain in (the Basque town of) Galdakano or
in a Catalan town. Spain cannot accept that any group
whatsoever can declare itself independent with all the
complications this has implied" in the Balkans. Fraga also
called on the GOS to withdraw its forces from KFOR.

11. (U) PP President and presidential candidate Mariano
Rajoy said February 18 that Spain "should not send or
maintain the presence of civilian officials" in Kosovo after
its UDI, which he said was "contrary to international
legality." Speaking on a conservative news program, Rajoy
said, "If there is no agreement between the parties and no
new resolution from the UN Security Council, this is against
international legality, such that I believe Spain should not
recognize Kosovo as an independent state." Rajoy went on to
add that the situation had nothing to do with nationalist
movements in Spain. He said, "Spain is the oldest nation in
Europe with more than 500 years of history... In Kosovo there
is a military and religious conflict, and here there is
absolutely nothing of the sort." The next day, February 19,
Rajoy took it one step further, calling on President Zapatero
and Moratinos to explain the "incongruity" of opposing
Kosovo's independence yet maintaining support for
international missions to Kosovo. He added that he would
have preferred "that Spanish diplomats had better managed
this fight."

12. (U) Gustavo de Aristegui, PP foreign affairs expert and
ranking member of the Spanish Foreign Affairs Commission,
wrote February 18 in EL MUNDO that, "the unilateral
declaration of independence is unacceptable, illegal and a
defiance to the peace and stability of all of Europe."


13. (U) The tone across the entire political spectrum of
Spanish press expressed concern for the potential
ramifications in Spain and Europe. An ABC editorial
declared, "Kosovo is going to be an economic and political
burden for the European Union, but a sweet gift for the U.S.,
which will have a new ally and a gigantic military base in
the only majority-Muslim country in the world where U.S.
flags are sold in kiosks." A February 18 editorial in
liberal EL Publico stated, "The negotiations of the Spanish
foreign ministry and of Aznar failed in Washington. The
attempts to convince the U.S. of the danger that independence
implies did not convince." Pilar Bonet wrote in the Catalan
paper LA VANGUARDIA February 18, "Kosovo's independence opens

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up a Pandora's box and reopens healed wounds in the
territorial configuration of the successor states to the
Soviet Union." Andres Ortega wrote in EL PAIS February 18,
"More than a declaration of independence it seems like a
declaration of dependence. Kosovo does not appear to be a
prepared or viable country." A February 20 op-ed in
conservative La Razon stated, "Europe has set a very
dangerous precedent, one that will affect the territorial
integrity of some nations that have supported the process."
EL PAIS published a February 20 op-ed stating, "Kosovo is
today an 'Ulster' in its potential for nuclear combustion in
the Balkans and beyond." Julia Navarro wrote in a February
19 op-ed for wire service Europa Press, "In Spain we can
already start soaking our beards; Kosovo's independence will
have consequences on our country, more so now that all the
politicians have said you cannot compare one situation with
the other. We all know you can, and that it is simply a
question of a few soulless rulers in the United States and
the European Union deciding one day that in Spain there are
other Kosovos."


14. (C) If the leftist and nationalist parties are happy
about Kosovo's independence, if the PSOE government needs the
leftist and nationalist parties to form a coalition
government after the elections, and if all mainstream parties
agree that Spain and Kosovo are not the same, then what is
the PSOE government so worried about? The answer lies in the
PSOE's need to assure the centrist, mainstream Spanish voter
that all of the PP's accusations about Zapatero "Balkanizing"
Spain and "presiding over the dissolution of the 500 year old
Spanish kingdom" are groundless. By recognizing Kosovo prior
to the elections, the GOS would have opened itself up to
renewed attacks from the right about pandering to nationalist
minorities, when in fact the PSOE gains nothing electoral by
joining nationalist minorities on Kosovo. These minority
parties will have no choice but to join with the PSOE after
the election if they hope to govern. The nationalist parties
are understandably pumping up the issue to increase their
turnout, but they too understand the state of play.

15. (C) The PSOE's biggest fear is not criticism from the
left but abstention from the center. Low turnout by
distraught left-leaning centrists combined with the strong
mobilization of the "king and country" PP base would put a
PSOE victory at risk. In this sense, the PP has left no
wiggle room whatsoever by laying out clear markers, including
by former President Aznar, that the PSOE would not be able to
slide by on EU consensus on Kosovo. Speculation about how
Kosovo might have fared under the PP is somewhat pointless,
but all indications are that a Rajoy government would have
been no more amenable to a UDI had the matter been pushed
until after the elections. In any case, the PP can now argue
that Kosovo's independence is bad for Spain and that the
Zapatero government was too weak internationally to prevent

16. (C) For its part, the GOS is caught in a logical trap -
how to reconcile their continuing military and civilian
presence in Kosovo with their refusal to recognize Kosovo's
right to independence. As statements by nationalist
politicians and editorials by mainstream Spaniards show, this
issue is not completely foreign to Spanish politics, and the
average Spaniard does not want Kosovo to imply a precedent
for the Basque Country and Catalonia. Their best option, and
the one which they are following, is to keep Zapatero out of
it, get the issue out of the headlines, and move on.
Moratinos, Defense Minister Alonso, and former Defense
Minister Pepe Bono have done the heavy lifting. Moratinos
even earned rare praise from French FM Kouchner who said "the
Spaniards were intelligent and generous" in their maneuvering
at the GAERC.


17. (C) The PSOE caught a break with the February 19
announcement of Fidel Castro's resignation, which takes
Kosovo off the front page in Spain and also allows Zapatero
and the GOS to engage the rhetorical machine on how Spain
must help Cuba toward democracy. Additionally, their policy
of engagement, while obviously not a driving force in
Castro's resignation, enhances GOS credibility with the
pro-Cuban Spanish populace, as well as with the pro-Castro

18. (C) Ambassador Aguirre will have lunch with Deputy FM
Bernardino Leon February 21 and will press Leon on how Spain
can move forward in the Balkans after the elections.

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