When the European Union resumes after this week’s elections, it is going to have a very different make-up - the traditional left-right axis will have been broken by a new wave of political parties with a much broader political stance. One of these parties is going to be the Spanish right-wing party Vox, with the Catalan state lawyer, Jorge Buxadé, directing Vox’s group in Europe.
Vox is a pro-European party which, contrary to some political pundits, has no intention of pulling Spain out of the union. However, it wants reforms - similar to David Cameron before he was pushed into calling the referendum.
Buxadé explained to the Bulletin last week that Vox intends to shake the European Union up, with the aid of a number of other parties. "Firstly, we want the European Union to show Spain and other member states more respect. We want to have more sovereignty. The Germans and the French have taken over in Brussels and that has to be broken up. Sadly, we have the UK leaving, and that would not have happened had Vox had representation in the European Union, because we agree that Brussels has become far too involved in matters which are neither the EU’s direct concern nor remit.
"There is far to much bureaucracy and not enough respect for countries to make their own decisions about important issues. For example, the new directive on the working week which Brussels introduced this month. Here in Spain we were not even able to debate it in congress of parliament, we had no say whatsoever. We want to bring an end to Brussels meddling in matters which should be left up to individual countries to decide on.
"Let’s go back to the beginning, whatever happened to the ‘opt out, opt in’ option? That appears to have gone by the wayside and now we all have to obey Brussels, whether we like it or not. That is the primary reason the UK is leaving, it grew frustrated by the continuing lack of flexibility offered by the European Union and we, as a party, want to change that - slim the union down and get back to true roots of what the union stands for. With the UK leaving, Spain has an opportunity to fill the void which will be left,d become an important player in Europe and break up the Franco-German narrative for Europe. Having travelled around Europe, spoken to numerous MEPs and candidates from other parties in Brussels, there is a lot of ill feeling towards the union as it stands, and if changes are not forthcoming and Brussels is not taken down a peg or two, the European Union will eventually disintegrate.
"It’s not only in Brussels where we’ve come across an apathy, we’ve also noticed it in Spain. On the campaign trail I have covered pretty much the whole country and in general, after decades of politics having been dominated by the traditional Socialists and the Partido Popular, the majority of people were resigned to the fact that one or the other will win. Well not any more and we’ve managed to transmit that message.
"What Vox has done is shaken up the political environment. We’ve injected some energy back into the system and we’re prepared to address the concerns of the Spanish people. We want to give people more freedom, liberty to decide how they live their lives and educate their children. We don’t agree with governments imposing upon parents that their children have to learn Catalan, for example. Parents should have the right to decide, not politicians.
"We need to control immigration and we need to do that in cooperation with the rest of Europe, in particular the UK. It may be leaving the European Union but the country will always be part of Europe and we need the UK. We all do for various reasons and one of those is helping combat illegal immigration. I have been to areas in Catalonia and Andalusia where Muslims now account for seven to eight per cent of the local population. Once that figure reaches 15 to 20, as we have seen in other European countries like France, Germany, the UK and Belgium, you’ve got problems and there is no shying away from it.
"Security is a primary concern for us. I’ve met mothers who want their 14-year-old daughters home by 9pm every night, fathers who are having to constantly collect their daughters from cinemas etc. People are scared and that is not healthy for a country like Spain. We have no issue with legal immigrants who come to work, we need them in some sectors. They go to work and go home, they don’t cause any problems, but we have to get a grip on illegal immigration. Europe has to as a whole.
"I hope that as soon as Brexit is eventually sealed, the Spanish and British governments reach a sensible and favourable deal as quickly as possible. We are not only concerned about the rights of the hundreds of thousands of Spaniards working in the UK, especially in the health and financial sectors, but also Britons living and working here. We want that to continue. The two countries share an extremely important relationship and everything has to be done to protect and enhance that bond and quickly. Yes, the UK leaving is going to cause problems. I have been talking to scores of farmers who depend on exports to the UK, they are worried about London increasing taxes or levies on imports. I don’t honestly think the UK will do that, but they would be within their rights to do so should they choose. So swift action is going to be needed on behalf of both countries and we will be making that clear in Brussels.
"Vox is going to be the new voice of Spain and the Spanish people in the European Union. We intend to fight for changes and improvements and for sensible help from Brussels to resolve serious matters such as Spain’s record high unemployment, for example. At the same time we also want to improve relations with the United States and Ibero-America. We already have some 15 overseas Vox associations from Miami to Chile. There are some 400 million people across the Atlantic who speak the same language as us and share common values, but the previous governments of Zapatero (Socialist) and Rajoy (PP) turned their backs on trans-Atlantic relations and trade.
"The same goes for Catalonia. Yes, the law has to be respected but Spain needs to open its arms and welcome Catalonia back in to the fold, make it want to be part of Spain again. All Madrid’s done so far is push it further away. I’m Catalan, I know how people feel. Spain has to be a united and strong nation."