The Minister for Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, José Manuel Albares, presented the EU ambassadors in Spain with the priorities of the Spanish Rotating Presidency of the European Union in the second half of 2023. During the meeting, organised by the current Czech Republic Presidency of the EU, the minister stressed the government’s commitment to the European project. “We have it clear; in order for Spain to do well, Europe needs to do well and Spain needs to do well in Europe”, he said.
Before setting out the pillars that will mark the half-year of the Spanish Rotating Presidency, the minister recalled the difficult current context, marked by the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and the unjustified Russian invasion of Ukraine. José Manuel Albares stressed that the response to both crises has been one of European unity and called for this to be further strengthened, “We need more Europe”.
In particular, in reference to the Russian aggression, he recalled “the solidarity that all European countries have shown”, approving the largest raft of European sanctions seen to date and providing unprecedented economic support. “Furthermore, for the first time, we have provided military support financed through a European instrument”.
For the Minister for Foreign Affairs, there are two aspects in which European agreement is key. Firstly, energy, “which requires urgent and coordinated measures to provide a response to the serious crisis we are facing”. In this regard, he stated the importance of reducing energy dependence on Russia “by speeding up the development of renewable energies, improving energy efficiency and pushing through European gas and electricity interconnections”.
The second aspect on which agreement is essential is European governance, which will allow a response to be provided to the inflationary pressure on food and energy, and increasing public investment in the green and digital transitions. The minister warned that fiscal policy must not increase inflation levels and stressed that “Europe-wide fiscal rules need a reform”.
Spanish Rotating Presidency: strengthening unity
Despite the volatility and complexity of the international context, Spain is working on a presidency to strengthen the European Union “so that the EU is able to continue responding to the crises that emerge and continue promoting institutional and legislative development to respond to the expectations of Spanish and European citizens”.
The work programme, specified the minister, will be tied into the working pillars of this European Commission: green, social and digital. José Manuel Albares recalled the decalogue of the main lines set out by the President of the Government which include, among other aspects, social and territorial cohesion, strengthening the identity of European citizenship, sustainable economic growth, equality and inclusivity and the reform of decision-making methods, with a particular emphasis on strategic autonomy “in the fields that most affect the daily lives of our citizens: health, food, and especially, energy”.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs recalled that 22 informal ministerial meetings will be held in Spain, distributed geographically and over time, and an informal European Council meeting in Granada. He also pointed out the main pillars of work: the revision of the Recovery and Resilience Plans; the Social Agenda of the EU, completing the European Pillars of Social Rights and the Social Pillar Action Plan; and the Green Agenda of the EU to consolidate the fight against climate change to the benefit of biodiversity, the reform of the energy market and the development of interconnections.
To close, José Manuel Albares pointed to the chance to increase the EU’s focus on two crucial regions: Latin America and the Southern Neighbourhood, with the EU-CELAC Summit in Brussels and the ministerial meeting in Barcelona of the Southern Neighbourhood.
Pictures of the meeting are attached here:
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