Luis Garicano: "Aid is limited to Spanish companies, Montoro said that Plus Ultra is Spanish, with 57% Venezuelan ownership"

The Ciudadanos MEP stopped by the microphones of Atalayar on Capital Radio
Luis Garicano

 -   Luis Garicano

Luis Garicano, MEP for Ciudadanos, was interviewed on the Atalayar programme on Capital Radio, which was broadcast this Monday from 22:05 to 23:30. The economist and vice-president of the Renew Europe parliamentary group discussed current European affairs, the sanctions against Belarus, his denunciation of the Plus Ultra bailout and vaccination. Garicano also spoke about the conflict between Spain and Morocco and immigration from Morocco.

The month of May ends with a migratory, political, diplomatic and neighbourly relations crisis between Spain and Morocco.

Well, yes, it is an issue that could carry a lot of weight, because the border between Spain and Morocco in Melilla is the border with the greatest economic inequality on the planet. This is a very sensitive place that has a lot of potential for complexities. Really, what Morocco has done using minors as a spearhead is a serious violation of the human rights of its minors. Of course it is a matter of great concern to us.

To what extent has the European Union come to the aid of the Spanish government? Because the President of the European Commission took action and Morocco changed its attitude, took back control of the border and prevented under-age immigrants from continuing to cross that sea border. 

That is my opinion. The French government and the European Commission have played a key role in de-escalating this issue by siding with Spain and making it clear that this form of action by boarding the borders is blackmail and is not acceptable for a country that is one of the major recipients of European aid. Europe offers a lot of development aid and it is not normally conditional on the country's behaviour. Frankly, Morocco needs to start thinking that nothing comes for free and if this is its attitude, all aid is in jeopardy. Nor does Morocco really have much to gain from this kind of spectacle.

Do you agree with Pedro Sánchez, who has insisted that Morocco's best friend in the European Union is Spain? 

Yes, we are like partners who are condemned to understand each other. We have a common border and we have a lot to lose. It is better for both of us to behave like best friends. Rather than escalate in a fight that would hurt us in the end. It is in our interest to be friends, that is what I think Mr Sanchez means. It is in your interest to be our friend, Mr King of Morocco.

On the report that was presented last week in the European Parliament, in relation to the aid that Spain, the Spanish Government, has granted to the Plus Ultra airline company. We knew that this rescue has cost the Spanish public coffers a good deal of money, more than EUR 50 million. But now, you have presented the relevant documentation, the company is not only going to cause this hole in the Spanish public coffers, but it is also going to make a loss of a further EUR 35 million. How can this be quantified? 

For a start, it is embarrassing to know that since 2015 when the company was launched, they have not made a profit in any year. They have accumulated losses of 13 million out of the 18 million of capital they put in. If they already had 5 million of capital left, it was 5 million. They have lost more than half of the capital and they made an accounting manoeuvre to pretend that they had no such loss, that it was a simulated loan. But even in their figures they have 35 million euros in losses over the next three years. It is impossible to pay back with an accumulated 50 million euros, how are they going to pay back this money from 2024 onwards that they owe Spain? Not even with their own numbers can they do it. The argument I have made is that it is neither viable, the Spanish know that it has 0.1% market share in Spain, nor is it in any way a company that is not in crisis because it has lost more than half of its capital. Moreover, the Spanish government has injected more than it could. The injection should be limited to the maximum allowed. This would be what they have lost in the year of the pandemic and they have been injected three times more than what they have lost, in short, something very murky, with a very strange plot behind it. Practically all Venezuelan people are involved in the company's loan. Added to the fact that they have a past of money laundering with accusations from bankers in the United States, accusations of corruption by the Venezuelan prosecutor, it is all very strange and requires an explanation from Spain.

Luis Garicano

Moreover, there is a scandalous background because there were many reports that warned of the fiscal and financial risk of rescuing a company like this one, and the Spanish Transport Minister denied on several occasions that his department had intervened in this operation, when Fomento had made reports in favour of the rescue that finally took place. Spain's transport minister denied on several occasions that his department had intervened in this operation, when Fomento had produced reports in favour of the bailout that finally took place. What does Ciudadanos in the European Parliament think may be behind it? 

The aid is strictly limited to Spanish companies, Minister Montoro has repeatedly said that the company is Spanish. A Spanish company with 57% Venezuelan ownership, rescued first by this simulated loan from Panama, which was also with Venezuelan capital by a Bank of Panama that is dedicated to making loans to the Venezuelan state. All of this, effectively, are links to Chavismo, to Maduro's regime and to the narco-dictatorship, and all of this really gives a lot to think about. I honestly have no way of understanding what can unite a Western government, which claims to be progressive, with this type of Bolivarian manoeuvring, which is typical of the way the Venezuelan economy works. Unfortunately, the government has many other leavings in this direction, such as the occupation of all public companies by PSOE officials in order to place cronies. In reality, this schizophrenic government that sometimes goes about being modern in Europe and green and then does these absolutely inconceivable things, I have no explanation for it. It must be something similar to what you point out, explanations that are of interest to the Spanish economy and that are strategic in nature.

Spanish public opinion seems to forgive these things. In the end, months and years will pass and unless the European Parliament or the Congress of Deputies demand accountability, there will be no consequences. 

Yes, this has already happened with all those resignations of ministers who should have resigned, who stayed on and in the end have been forgotten. I will continue to do my job from Brussels, which is what I have left. The party will fight for transparency and we will fight from Madrid and from Brussels. And then things have to take their course and the people have to make their decisions. I hope that the Spanish people, faced with this accumulation of abuses, will demand political accountability. I hope they do, but that is obviously for them to decide.

Another big issue making headlines in Europe these days is vaccination. We seem to have entered a cruising speed. Both in Spain and in the rest of the countries. In the end, it has been shown that the option of collegiate purchasing between the member countries of the European Union was a good option. In spite of those initial errors of supply failures and what seemed to the public to be negligence on the part of Europe. 

It is true that European procurement has had problems getting started, starting late, with a bit of laziness, but now all European countries are vaccinating practically at the same time. People are coming, perhaps in Spain we have a drop since a fortnight ago with respect to the maximum moment when we were vaccinating about 0.8 of Spaniards every 100 every day for 100 days, 80% of the population, now we are close to 0.6. But well, the result is a rapid and forceful vaccination and clearly the key is that the number of cases is separated from the number of specialisations. People over 50 are vaccinated, there may still be cases, but they no longer have deaths, and they have far fewer hospitalisations. Across Europe we are starting to see a return to normality and everyone has this feeling that it is going to be an unforgettable summer, with an overwhelming desire to enjoy it. People are looking forward to enjoying their holidays on the beach, or in the mountains, or with their parents or grandparents, with their friends, with everybody.

Do you foresee a good summer for tourism, Europe has opened borders between different countries. We have the problem of the United Kingdom, which continues to cast a shadow over some tourist destinations, but it seems that in Europe, with the COVID certificate, it is going to be a good year for tourism.

I think so. The Commission continues to say that the certificate that we states approved 15 days ago is going to be in electronic format. Any vaccinated person can cross borders by showing the certificate and that will mean that Spain, which is the best tourist destination, if people want to free themselves and have a good time, and they cannot go to Indonesia, or Bali, or Mexico because they cannot cross, it is logical that they come to the Canary Islands, the Balearic Islands, Marbella and Catalonia. I hope for a great summer of tourism in Spain.

Luis Garicano

The Belarusian people were awarded the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for their resilience in the face of President Lukashenko's dictatorship. This regime is capable of stopping a plane in mid-flight and then illegally detaining a citizen whose crime is to be critical of the government of a country. In view of this, even the sanctions that Europe has imposed on Belarus so far seem to us to be too few. Don't you think so?

If Europe has this tendency, let us all remember that the common foreign policy is made by unanimity. Any country can block a sanction. The consequences of that are that if Putin manages to make friends with Malta or Cyprus or a small country, it can be used to block things. This creates a huge internal conflict, in fact, often everyone wants to act except one and everything is paralysed, as happened the other time with Lukashenko because of Orbán. It is true that sometimes there is too much talk and not enough action. That is what we Spaniards and MEPs demand of the states. The reality is that European foreign policy is a club of partners who sit around the table and decide whether to do something together. It is not like many other policies where the majority decides and if we vote for something, that is how it is. This is not the case here and it should be possible to force them to eat their actions. But Europe has to grow in foreign policy and it will grow, we will be able to do things together and we will get better and better.

Perhaps it is the fear of Russia and its reaction that is at stake. Belarus seems to be a country run as a puppet by Vladimir Putin. I don't know if the EU is a bit chastened in its relations with Russia and Putin. It is better to tread on safe ground and tread lightly before provoking an incident with Russia, which would be much worse.

Putin is undoubtedly the great ally and Putin has a modest but clear key ally in Germany. Germany is building a gas pipeline to receive part of its gas from Russia, and it is known that it has shut down all its nuclear power plants. So Germany's dependence on Russia poses a huge risk for Europe because it is going to be very difficult to stand up to Putin.

I don't know if you think that Putin is behind everything that is happening in Belarus and in some other countries of the former Russian Federation. That his influence is still enormous everywhere it seems that Russia has influence.

I agree with that. In the case of Lukashenko, certainly Lukashenko knows that without Putin he is nothing. And indeed, Putin is in charge there.