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Europe - [07/15/2008]

Spain's policy in the face of the challenges of the European Union

The same day on which Spain became the 23rd country to ratify the Lisbon Treaty, after it was approved in the Senate, the Secretary of State for the European Union, Diego López Garrido, speaking at a breakfast organised by the CIDOB Foundation, gave his analysis of the situation created by the Irish "No" vote, and explained the main areas of action of Spain's presidency of the European Union in 2010.

In the face of the “uncertainty produced by the result of the referendum in Ireland”, the Secretary showed himself to be optimistic. He claimed that the EU should not allow itself to be paralysed by the result, and sketched out a favourable panorama, with 26 out of 27 ratifications completed in the near future, leaving the case of Ireland for future negotiation, following October’s Council of Europe which must, he claimed, produce a ‘road map’ that will enable the Treaty to come into force before the European elections in 2009. The only parliamentary ratification processes that remain are in Italy, Sweden and the Czech Republic. In the latter country, the procedure has been suspended, pending a constitutional report, though the government has declared itself to be in favour of ratification. López Garrido played down the threat by Poland's president, Kaczynski, not to sign the text, and said that the Polish leader had promised Sarkozy and Zapatero that he would not hinder the ratification process.

The Secretary declared that the Lisbon Treaty is an essential instrument for tackling the European Union's challenges, the main ones being, he said, the fight against climate change, the distribution of energy, the food crisis, dealing with emerging countries (China, India and Brazil), the geopolitical instability caused by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, fighting radical Islamist terrorism and organised crime, and managing immigration. He championed the idea of an active European foreign policy, to take advantage of the interregnum in America's power until the US presidential elections are held.

The secretary claimed that we can no longer put up with the damaging view of successes and failures whereby Member States claim responsibility for the former and blame Europe for the latter, because “If something is bad for Europe, it's bad for all of us”. He claimed that this explains why countries that do not border the Mediterranean, such as Germany, have become so involved in ensuring that the Union for the Mediterranean is one of the EU's central policies. The Mediterranean declared that "It is no longer simply a question of the countries of the Mediterranean ". He also declared that the Paris Summit, at which the Union for the Mediterranean was institutionalised and which was attended by 42 heads of state from both sides of the Mediterranean, represented a success for all Europeans, and "not just for Sarkozy”. He minimised the perception that Spain had lost its central role as a result of Sarkozy's initiative. In López Garrido’s opinion, the Union would not have been possible without the Barcelona Process, which he viewed as an antecedent. He went on to declare that the Government of Spain will make every effort to ensure that Barcelona is the headquarters of the Secretariat of the Union for the Mediterranean, a candidacy for which the city is competing against those already submitted by Morocco, Tunisia and Malta.

López Garrido stressed that Spain's presidency in 2010, which it will be sharing with Hungary and Belgium, could be very important if, at last, "It’s time to apply the Lisbon Treaty”. He announced that one of the central elements of Spain's policy was to develop the social model (of which Spain, he said, "is an example") and to promote the value of equality of the sexes. As for the Union's foreign policy, he said that its objectives included signing an association agreement with sub-regional organisations in Latin America, promoting cooperation with Mediterranean countries and making progress with the enlargement of Europe, with the impending membership of Croatia and continuing negotiations with Turkey.

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