International 21/08/2021

Von der Leyen says EU does not recognise Taliban politically

Sánchez claims Spain's role during two decades in Afghanistan: "We have sown a seed"

3 min
The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen; the President of the European Council, Charles Michel and the President of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sánchez, visit the Torrejón de Ardoz air base

Torrejón de Ardoz"There will be no political contacts. We do not recognise them". This is how the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has expressed herself forcefully when asked about the relationship that the European Union will have from now on with the new regime in Afghanistan. In a joint appearance in Torrejón de Ardoz with the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, and the president of the Spanish government, Pedro Sánchez, the European leader has questioned a hypothetical change of image of the Taliban and has made it clear that she will deny economic aid if human rights are not respected.

"The Taliban have spoken of an inclusive government and respect for women within the framework of Islam, whatever this means, I want to make it clear that the 1 billion euros earmarked for the next seven years are linked to respect for human rights and the treatment of minorities and women", stressed Von der Leyen, adding: "Not a single euro for development will go to a regime that denies these rights". Both she and Sánchez agreed that "actions and deeds will tell the degree of credibility that the Taliban have", days after the high representative of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, affirmed that it was necessary to talk to the Taliban because "they have won the war". The President of the Commission wanted to differentiate between "operational contacts" with the Taliban to facilitate the departure of local people who want to leave the country and "political talks".

Sánchez has restarted the political year in the company of European leaders at the military air base in Torrejón de Ardoz, which is serving as a european hub for evacuees from Afghanistan. During the last 72 hours around 240 people have passed through the facility and now there are 192, because some collaborators with the EU in the Asian country have been relocated to other countries such as Germany, Denmark and Lithuania. "It is a tragedy", Von der Leyen wanted to make clear, and thanked Spain for its "solidarity" in leading the reception. "It is an example of the European soul", said the president of the Commission, who announced that in the coming days she will make a proposal to increase the budget for humanitarian aid. For 2021 it was 57 million euros.

In this sense, she called for continued action in Afghanistan, supporting NGOs working on the ground and assisting people fleeing the country. As she said when the Taliban came to power, the aim must be to enable Afghans to return and, if not, to enable them to settle in neighbouring states. Von der Leyen has also set herself the challenge of preventing migrants from falling into the hands of traffickers and offering "legal and safe" channels. "The relocation of people is a must. We have to think about the imminent danger for human rights defenders, women and journalists", he said. Michel admitted the uncertainty of the moment but stressed the goal of achieving "stability and respect for human rights" in Afghanistan.

Appearance in Parliament

Sánchez has appeared for the first time now that he has returned from his holidays and after criticism from the opposition. The Spanish president stressed that the government has reacted to the change of regime in Afghanistan "from the first second", and did not want to enter into controversy with the head of the opposition, Pablo Casado. Next week Wednesday in the permanent deputation in Parliament several requests to appear, both his and by other ministers, will be debated and the chief executive has promised that he is "at the disposal of the Spanish courts". In his first words, the Spanish President defended the role of Spain and Europe during 19 years in Afghanistan, asserting that "it has not been in vain", and assured that the EU will be present "through thick and thin".

"No one is playing down the importance of a tragedy, but it is important to vindicate what Europe has done because we have sown a seed. Today it is not evident, but many countries have lived through dark times and then the seed of education and values ends up germinating", said the head of the Spanish executive. Specifically on the Spanish mission in the province of Badghis, he recalled that there were no roads, health centres or schools and that "hospitals and clinics have been built thanks to the efforts of everyone" and water has been provided to the citizens of the region. "We have sown and we hope it will germinate in greater security, freedom and prosperity", he said.