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Ana Palacio

Ana Palacio

Ana Palacio, a former Spanish foreign minister and former Senior Vice President of the World Bank, is a member of the Spanish Council of State, a visiting lecturer at Georgetown University, and a member of the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council on the United States.

Articles by Ana Palacio

Europe’s Misadventure in Moscow

13 days ago

To keep from being outplayed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, the European Union must get its act together. Perhaps EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell’s disastrous visit to Moscow will provide the needed impetus.

MADRID – When the European Union’s foreign ministers convene on February 22, they will have to confront the political fallout from the ill-fated visit to Moscow by Josep Borrell, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. One hopes that the reckoning catalyzes much-needed progress toward developing a coherent European Russia policy.

No Time to Waste

PS OnPoint

John Keatley 
Free to read

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Leaderless Liberalism

January 20, 2021

Today, the US is hardly the hegemon it was a generation ago, with its democratic institutions under attack by a sitting president and millions of his unhinged supporters. As a result, global liberalism has lost its compass, with the EU demonstrating little appetite to uphold core values.

MADRID – The United States’ presidential transition, culminating in Joe Biden’s inauguration, has been a roller-coaster ride. It has brought moments of horror and flashes of hope, dismay at how fragile democracy seems to be, and a sense of relief that it has survived thus far. But, for Europeans, this tumultuous transition should also bring something else: honest reflection about the state of liberalism in today’s world.

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The City on a Hill Besieged

January 11, 2021

The storming of the US Capitol by a mob egged on by President Donald Trump was a violent bid to disrupt the world’s oldest democracy. But while it made for a truly dark day in US history, it need not become a defining day.

MADRID – In 1940, with Europe gripped by a war from which the United States remained aloof, US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared that the country needed to be “the great arsenal of democracy.” He meant it literally: he was appealing to Americans to “put every ounce of effort” into producing arms for European democracies, especially the United Kingdom, in their fight against fascism. But his words also carried powerful symbolic significance, positioning the US as the world’s leading

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COVID and the Comeback State

December 29, 2020

If the pandemic turns out to be only a temporary disruption, it will be remembered as little more than another tragedy – memorable, but essentially a discrete event. If, however, the disruption of 2020 spurs deeper reflection on the relationship between government and the governed, then this horrible year will come to be viewed as a focal point, rather than a data point.

MADRID – Some years are barely mentioned in history books; others get their own chapters. The last year certainly feels like the latter, and there is no doubt the COVID-19 pandemic, like the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-20, will be long remembered. But what makes a year truly remarkable is not how it unfolds, but rather how it changes the world. An anomalous

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America, Heal Thyself

November 20, 2020

President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the US election has raised hopes that the US is ready to re-engage with the world and the multilateral system. But if the US is to resume its role as the beating heart of the liberal international order, it needs to overcome the domestic divisions that the election confirmed and reinforced.

MADRID – In 1998, then-US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright famously defined the United States as “the indispensable nation,” declaring that, “We stand tall and we see further than other countries into the future.” Two decades later, the US remains the indispensable nation. And yet, rather than seeing into the future, it has lately seemed to have its eyes closed. Does Joe Biden’s victory

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A Modest Hope for the Post-Trump World Order

October 21, 2020

As consequential as the upcoming US election is, the relentless hype has fueled expectations that it must be followed by some grand or revolutionary transformation. A far more plausible hope is that, once the dust settles, international relations gets back to basics.

MADRID – With the US presidential election nearing its apotheosis, predictions about what will come after are dominating discussions well beyond the United States. When it comes to international relations, forecasts range from apocalyptic to cautiously optimistic. But what is needed is an actual way forward, grounded in realism.

The Everlasting Mao

PS OnPoint

Tao Zhang/Getty Images

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The EU Merry-Go-Round

September 24, 2020

EU leaders have tended to operate on the assumption that Europe is inevitable, and that Europeans are inescapably bound together in a community of fate. But many citizens don’t see it that way, and if they aren’t given a more convincing rationale for European integration, the only inevitability will be the EU’s demise.

MADRID – In her first State of the European Union address, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen offered a wide-ranging view of the current moment. She touted Europe’s recent achievements and identified its goals for the coming years. She dedicated significant attention to the European Green Deal and the Digital Agenda, and called for the completion of the banking union and capital-market

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NATO Is Dying

July 15, 2020

Last December, NATO commemorated 70 years of underpinning peace, stability, and prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic. But cracks in the Alliance are deepening, raising serious doubts about whether it will reach its 75th anniversary. The time for Europe to shore up its defenses and capabilities is now.

MADRID – NATO may be “the most successful alliance in history” – as its secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, claims – but it may also be on the brink of failure. After a turbulent few years, during which US President Donald Trump has increasingly turned America’s back on NATO, tensions between France and Turkey have escalated sharply, laying bare just how fragile the Alliance has become.

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Multilateralism in a G-Zero World

June 22, 2020

When effective global leadership eventually reemerges, the world can get to work building a better multilateral system, underpinned by common interests and a sense of shared responsibility. In the meantime, political leaders must do whatever it takes to keep the current multilateral system, flawed and limited as it is, alive and viable.

MADRID – This year’s gathering of world leaders for the United Nations General Assembly in New York has been called off. The news of the cancellation – the first in the UN’s 75-year history – came a week after a planned G7 meeting at Camp David was scrapped, and a month after the G20 abandoned plans for a virtual summit. At a time when the global nature of today’s most pressing

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Disunited States

April 20, 2020

Long held up as a model for Europe, the United States is now also suffering from balkanization, internal competition, out-of-touch and short-sighted leadership, and narrow turf battles. Given the large number of pressing global challenges, the world must hope that America does not go further down that road.

MADRID – In 1946, with war-ravaged Europe exhausted and in disarray, Britain’s wartime leader, Winston Churchill, gave a speech in Zurich in which he emphasized the need to “recreate the European fabric” in order to restore peace and freedom to the continent. “We must build a kind of United States of Europe,” Churchill declared. It was a foundational moment for what would become the European Union, even if

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Can Liberal Democracy Survive COVID-19?

April 3, 2020

Even if Western leaders manage to limit the COVID-19 outbreak’s immediate fallout, it will mean little without forward-looking efforts to strengthen liberal-democratic systems from within. Such a failure would could well amount to handing China victory in the global contest of ideas that is now underway.

MADRID – By some mix of cruel irony and remarkable prescience, the theme of last year’s Venice Biennale – the biennial art exhibition’s 58th incarnation – was: “May you live in interesting times.” The line, purportedly a translation of an old Chinese curse, was meant to highlight the precariousness of life in this dangerous and uncertain age. With the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the world, and credible global

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A European Strategy Is Missing in Action

March 2, 2020

While the single market is a valuable asset, it cannot be Europe’s sole frame of reference. To become an effective strategic actor, the EU must make the most of all of the tools at its disposal, and that requires developing a compelling strategic vision and engaging in effective longer-term planning.

MADRID – Each February, the Munich Security Conference offers an opportunity to take the temperature of international affairs, especially transatlantic relations. This year’s results are far from encouraging. Speeches and conversations highlighted, yet again, the widening divide between the United States and Europe, even as they pointed to a shared preoccupation with China. Perhaps more consequentially, they highlighted the world’s

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Forgetting Auschwitz

January 22, 2020

75 years after the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz, anti-Semitism is again on the rise across the Western world. This trend – and the weak response to it – is a harbinger of democratic decay.

MADRID – This week, world leaders are gathering in Jerusalem to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz. At a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise across the democratic world, recalling the lessons of this painful history could not be more important.
Restoring Fiscal Order in the United States

Tsokur/Getty Images

The Truth About the Trump Economy

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PS Say More: Ana Palacio

January 21, 2020

This week, Project Syndicate catches up with Ana Palacio, a former Spanish foreign minister and senior vice president and general counsel of the World Bank Group.

Project Syndicate: You’ve argued that the European Union needs to recognize that the United States is an unreliable partner, and take action to bolster its own security. Now, after years of trashing NATO, US President Donald Trump says the Alliance must increase its involvement in the Middle East to rein in an Iran that, thanks to Trump’s own actions, is no longer bound by the 2015 nuclear deal. How should European NATO members respond?Ana Palacio: One of the unfortunate realities of Trump’s mercurial administration – and a leading source of global uncertainty – is

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Europe Must Avoid Self-Fulfilling Pessimism

December 18, 2019

Despite the pessimism that has pervaded Europe in recent years, the fact is that the EU remains an economic and regulatory superpower, with massive diplomatic potential. If Europeans recognize this, regain their collective self-confidence, and take constructive action, their future can be bright.

MADRID – Over the last decade, the requisite year-end reflections and predictions have become increasingly bleak. This pessimism is understandable: inequality has been rising sharply in much of the world; democratic values and norms of governance have been steadily eroded; and technology has transformed our societies and economies so rapidly that many have been left feeling overwhelmed and insecure. But we must take care not

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Europe on a Geopolitical Fault Line

November 12, 2019

China has begun to build a parallel international order, centered on itself. If the European Union aids in its construction – even just by positioning itself on the fault line between China and the United States – it risks toppling key pillars of its own edifice and, eventually, collapsing altogether.

MADRID – Two months ago, in his address to the United Nations General Assembly, UN Secretary-General António Guterres expressed his fear that a “Great Fracture” could split the international order into two “separate and competing worlds,” one dominated by the United States and the other by China. His fear is not only justified; the fissure he dreads has already formed, and it is getting wider.

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Russia Is a Strategist, Not a Spoiler

October 4, 2019

From Iran’s audacious attack on major oil facilities in Saudi Arabia to the launch of an impeachment inquiry against US President Donald Trump, the last month has underscored the volatility gripping the international order. Now, three major players – Europe, Russia, and the US – are transforming their global roles.

MADRID – On October 1, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced his government’s support for an agreement that would lead to elections in the eastern provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk – large parts of which were seized by Russian-backed separatists in 2014 – with the ultimate goal of granting them special self-governing status. It was an important development, not only because it signaled Ukrainian

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The Twilight of the Global Order

September 2, 2019

The recent G7 summit in Biarritz signaled a broader shift in international governance away from constructive cooperation and toward vague discussions and ad hoc solutions. The conclusion of the summit could be a marker of the world order’s future – ending not with a bang, but with a whimper.

MADRID – We live in an era of hyperbole, in which gripping accounts of monumental triumphs and devastating disasters take precedence over realistic discussions of incremental progress and gradual erosion. But in international relations, as in anything, crises and breakthroughs are only part of the story; if we fail also to notice less sensational trends, we may well find ourselves in serious trouble – potentially

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The European Parliament’s Misguided Ambitions

August 6, 2019

The European Union’s core institutions are undergoing leadership successions while besieged by well-known internal and external challenges. And yet, at a time when the EU desperately needs to be able to act effectively, it seems simply to be engaging in more political jockeying.

MADRID – In moments of political transition, initial signals make all the difference, because they set the tone for the process that follows. As new leaders take over the European Union’s core institutions, the first signs are not promising – and in particular those coming from the European Parliament.
What’s Next for China’s Political Economy?

PS OnPoint


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Europe’s Partnership with Morocco

July 29, 2019

Morocco has lately been strengthening its ties with the rest of Africa, through a combination of religious outreach and commercial linkages. For Europe, this represents an important opportunity to build on and benefit from a relationship that has progressed significantly in the past 20 years.

MADRID – Twenty years ago this month, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI ascended to the throne, and a new era in European-Moroccan relations began. Given Morocco’s importance to the European Union – not only on matters relating to migration and security, but also as a bridge to the rest of Africa – it is worth considering where the relationship stands, and where it is headed.
Their Faintest Hour

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American Power Without Wisdom

June 20, 2019

Over the last seven decades, US global leadership has been underpinned by a delicate balance between persuasion and raw power. By relying solely on force to advance US interests, President Donald Trump is undermining America’s international position and courting catastrophe.

MADRID – In Greek mythology, it was prophesied that Zeus’s first wife Metis, the goddess of wisdom, would bear a son who, equipped with his mother’s cunning and his father’s power, would eventually overthrow the king of the gods. To protect his position, Zeus swallowed the pregnant Metis whole. The prophesied usurper-son was never born, though a daughter, Athena, sprang from Zeus’s forehead.

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The EU’s Four Challenges

May 22, 2019

Whatever the next European Parliament’s composition, the imperative will be the same: EU institutions must trade ambition for humility, focusing their attention not on their own power or status, but rather on upgrading and fortifying the project for which they claim to stand. If they fail, the road ahead will only become more perilous.

MADRID – This year’s European Parliament election has spurred months of nail biting. Will the pro-European center hold? Will the body be too fractured to function? Will a vocal contingent of nationalist-populists disrupt every sitting?
Europe’s Only Decision

Norbert Kamil Kowaczek/EyeEm/Getty Images

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Closing Europe’s Confidence Gap

April 12, 2019

The dearth of public trust and self-confidence in the European Union is contributing to policy paralysis, fueling public outrage, and undercutting the EU’s ability to determine its own destiny. Both before and after next month’s European Parliament election, these deficits must urgently be addressed.

MADRID – In Spanish, the word confianza has a double meaning. On one hand, it describes a firm trust in something or someone – the kind of trust that people around the world, from Brazil to the United States to North Africa, increasingly lack in their leaders and even governance systems. On the other hand, confianza refers to confidence in oneself – something that is in particularly short supply in Europe.

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Democracy vs. Disinformation

March 11, 2019

Efforts to combat disinformation in the West have so far focused on tactical approaches that target the "supply side" of the problem. To succeed, they must be accompanied by efforts that tackle the demand side of the problem: the factors that make liberal democratic societies today so susceptible to manipulation.

MADRID – These are difficult days for liberal democracy. But of all the threats that have arisen in recent years – populism, nationalism, illiberalism – one stands out as a key enabler of the rest: the proliferation and weaponization of disinformation.

Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Getty Images

Wojtek Radwanski/AFP/Getty Images


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What Venezuela Tells Europe About Russia

February 12, 2019

Russia’s enduring support for Nicolás Maduro, the Venezuelan president whose legitimacy is now being challenged, underscores the extent to which the Kremlin, buoyed by its success in Syria, is doubling down on its role as global disruptor-in-chief. But, unlike in Syria, Russia’s resolve in Venezuela seems to be weakening.

MADRID – On January 23, National Assembly President Juan Guaidó swore himself in as Venezuela’s interim president before thousands of citizens, in an open challenge to the legitimacy of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s disastrous regime. The enduring political crisis – with the international community split over whom to recognize as Venezuela’s legitimate leader – has been revelatory.


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The Transatlantic Leadership Void

January 14, 2019

Since the end of World War II, the United States, as the dominant European (and world) power, has piloted transatlantic security. But under President Donald Trump, the US isn’t doing much leading, and it is not always even clear who in Trump’s administration is really in charge.

WASHINGTON, DC – Transatlantic security today looks a lot like a ghost plane. With the “crew” incapacitated – that is, bereft of ideas or leadership – it is flying on autopilot until it inevitably hits something or runs out of fuel and comes crashing down. To avoid disaster, those in the cockpit need to wake up – and soon.

Dominic Lipinski/PA Images via Getty Images



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A Reprieve for Global Governance

December 17, 2018

As the deal struck at COP24 in Katowice shows, world leaders can address myriad shared challenges when they embrace compromise and cooperation. But they will also require something more: new ideas about how global governance should be organized.

MADRID – The last-minute deal struck at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP24) in Katowice, Poland, offers a glimmer of hope for the future not just of climate action, but also of global governance. After a year in which leaders reverted time and again to the failed policies of the past to address shared challenges, COP24 showed that there might still be room for innovative instruments for responding to common threats. To navigate the current era of global turbulence, the

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A Reprieve for Global Governance

December 17, 2018

As the deal struck at COP24 in Katowice shows, world leaders can address myriad shared challenges when they embrace compromise and cooperation. But they will also require something more: new ideas about how global governance should be organized.

MADRID – The last-minute deal struck at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP24) in Katowice, Poland, offers a glimmer of hope for the future not just of climate action, but also of global governance. After a year in which leaders reverted time and again to the failed policies of the past to address shared challenges, COP24 showed that there might still be room for innovative instruments for responding to common threats. To navigate the current era of global turbulence, the

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The Hollowing Out of the G20

November 29, 2018

Since helping to mitigate the global financial crisis, the G20 has degenerated from a platform for action to a forum for discussion. In the age of Donald Trump, it could sink even further, becoming a vehicle for legitimating illegal behavior, from Russia’s aggression in Ukraine to Saudi Arabia’s murder of a journalist.

WASHINGTON, DC – In the run-up to this year’s G20 summit in Buenos Aires, observers have been buzzing about the meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump. But with the announcement that the current international bête noire, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), would attend the event, followed by Russia’s naval attack against Ukrainian ships in the Kerch Strait, that

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Did the Global Order Die with Khashoggi?

October 29, 2018

A world in which all that matters is the deal is one where citizens do not know what to expect from their leaders and countries do not know what to expect from their allies. Such an unpredictable and unstable world is not one that we should blindly accept.

WASHINGTON, DC – Earlier this month, Jamal Khashoggi – a Washington Post columnist and prominent critic of the Saudi government – walked into Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul to pick up documents that would enable him to marry his Turkish fiancée. Instead of receiving help from his country’s government, he was tortured, murdered, and dismembered by a team of its agents.
It is a shocking crime that raises some serious questions, not least regarding the appropriate balance between

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