In Box

Life After 3/11

Ana Palacio served as Spain’s minister of foreign affairs from July 2002 to April 2004, in former Prime Minister José María Aznar’s government. She recently answered FP‘s questions on topics ranging from Iraq and the future of Europe to the March 11 terrorist attacks in Madrid. FOREIGN POLICY: What is the most important thing you ...

Ana Palacio served as Spain’s minister of foreign affairs from July 2002 to April 2004, in former Prime Minister José María Aznar’s government. She recently answered FPs questions on topics ranging from Iraq and the future of Europe to the March 11 terrorist attacks in Madrid.

FOREIGN POLICY: What is the most important thing you know now that you didn’t know when you first became minister of foreign affairs?

Ana Palacio: How important and difficult it is to explain foreign policy to the public. Foreign policy has become critical in domestic politics, yet, unlike in other political arenas, people have little personal experience with which to interpret it. For example, citizens assess inflation figures through their perspective as consumers. But, in normal circumstances, nothing in our daily lives helps us grasp the importance that major foreign-policy developments have for each of us.

FP: Who was the most inspiring figure you met while in office?

AP: Pope John Paul II, because of his humanity and capacity for leadership.

FP: After the March 2004 election in Spain, you stated that Spanish voters gave "a signal to terrorists that they can have their way because we have given in." Do you still believe that?

AP: Since the attacks of March 11, the terrorists have clearly perceived certain developments in Spain with great satisfaction. I refer not just to the election, but also to the withdrawal of our troops from Iraq.

FP: Did the election results make future terrorist attacks more or less likely?

AP: I see no link between the two. Those who believe that in the war on terrorism individual salvation is possible are just as mistaken as those who think that the beast can be appeased.

FP: If you had known how difficult the occupation and democratic transition in Iraq would be, would you still have supported the invasion?

AP: I never thought it would be easy. The decision to back intervention in Iraq was not based on an instrumental notion of politics.

FP: Is Spain part of New Europe or Old Europe?

AP: The Old Europe was the divided one, the Europe of the Cold War. The New Europe is a united Europe that realizes its future is a common future.

FP: Should Turkey become a full member of the European Union (EU)?

AP: Absolutely. It is in Turkey’s interest, but it is also in Europe’s interest. Having Turkey in the EU will help us integrate our growing Muslim communities. It would also demonstrate that a clash of civilizations is not inevitable.

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