STRASBOURG — The leaders of the two largest political groups in the European Parliament traded barbs Tuesday over the Spanish government’s stance on Ukraine.
Spanish Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is preparing to send Leopard tanks and more weapons to Ukraine, despite opposition from the far-left Podemos, the junior partner in the ruling coalition, which has warned this will only escalate the war and has pressed for peace talks.
Manfred Weber, the leader of the center-right European People’s Party, said at a press conference that the tensions inside the government in Madrid could mean problems when Spain takes over the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU in July.
“I would ask that Sánchez clarifies what is the opinion of the Spanish government in regard to Ukraine. We cannot accept any kind of uncertainty in such a moment of history,” the German EPP leader said, referring to a series of votes in the Spanish parliament last week in which Podemos voted differently to the Socialists on Ukraine.
Weber also argued there is a double standard in the way he was treated in European media after incendiary remarks by Silvio Berlusconi last month. The former Italian prime minister blamed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for the war.
“I canceled a very important meeting of [the] EPP in Italy due to a crazy statement of Berlusconi, who is not in government, who is not having any kind of governmental responsibility. But I do my job to clarify things in my team. And the same [should go] for the Socialists,” he said.
Weber’s remarks drew a withering reply from Iratxe García, the leader of the Socialists and Democrats group and who is from Sánchez’s PSOE party. “There are other ways of doing politics,” she said minutes later from the same podium. “Mr. Weber perhaps needs to improve his advisers.”
“I don’t know what your colleagues from the Spanish Popular Party are telling you, but calm down, Spain’s support to Ukraine is very clear,” García said, adding that it is “really stupid” to suggest this could jeopardize the Spanish EU Council presidency.
Podemos MEP Idoia Villanueva wrote in a statement to POLITICO: “In Podemos we have a firm commitment to peace, calling for a ceasefire and more diplomatic efforts. What we should ask Mr. Weber, who boasts of being a pro-European, is when did he abandon the EU’s values of defending human rights, diplomacy and peace?”
When asked if the disagreements inside the government will impact the presidency of the EU Council, a spokesperson for the Spanish government replied: “Not at all, no. There can be political nuances among different political parties in Spain but the government’s position on this remains very clear and is expressed by the prime minister himself.”
The spokesperson continued: “We recognize what the origin of this war is, and it’s pure imperialism and it’s [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and we are with Ukraine and we show steadfast support and solidarity with Ukraine and with its people, and with its territorial integrity and with its sovereignty. On this issue the government speaks with one single voice.”