Spain restricted to low key foreign policy
By Fabrice Randoux | Monday 04 January 2010
With the Treaty of Lisbon, the role of the rotating Council Presidency will shrink in the field of foreign policy. It will no longer be part of the famous troika, which, from now on, will be made up of the European Council President, the EU High Representative and the Commission President. Yet Spain sees its time at the helm as “a transition presidency” and therefore aims to influence the EU agenda.
Some ten summits are planned during the six-month presidency, several of them in Spain - EU-Latin America (May in Madrid), EU-United States ( May or June in Madrid), EU-Morocco (March in Granada), EU-Pakistan (April in Madrid), EU-Mexico (May in Santander) and EU-Egypt (June in Barcelona) - despite the fact that all such summits should now take place in Brussels. The Spaniards point out that these meetings had to be planned well in advance, before there could be any certainty over the Lisbon Treaty’s entry into force.
José Luis Zapatero was perfectly clear, however: it is Herman Von Rompuy who will chair these summits and the head of the Spanish government will merely host them. Zapatero will not participate in the summits held in third countries, namely Japan, Canada and Russia. While Zapatero does not seem to regret having to hand over the star billing, doing so seems harder for Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos.
Indeed, Catherine Ashton will chair meetings of foreign ministers, not Moratinos. He has pledged to remain “entirely at the disposal” of the new High Representative. On an issue like the Middle East, he will contribute his “modest experience” as the EU’s former special representative to the region, but “she has not delegated the matter”, he added. Moratinos will, however, head an informal (Gymnich) meeting in Cordoba in early March.
DREAMS OF AGREEMENT WITH CUBA
Moratinos wants to push for a bilateral cooperation agreement between the EU and Cuba. Relations between Havana and the EU are subject to a 1996 “common position,” which links political dialogue to the respect of rights and freedoms on the Communist island. Spain was at the front of the queue in seeking to lift European sanctions and renew cooperation between Brussels and Havana in 2008. The situation had been frozen since 2003 because of the arrest of 75 Cuban militants. But several states, including Sweden and the Czech Republic, do not want to abandon the “common position”.
Spain also wants to take advantage of its Presidency to conclude negotiations on two association agreements: on the one hand with the Andean community (even if this now only concerns Colombia and Peru given that Bolivia and Ecuador pulled out of the negotiations for a free trade zone); and on the other hand with Central American countries where the negotiations, which are almost complete, have been blocked since the
coup d’étatin Honduras in June.
Finally, Spain will try to relaunch the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), stuck more than ever at an institutional level since its inauguration with great pomp in Paris in summer 2008. Spain is all the more interested in this subject since the general secretariat of the UfM is in Barcelona. But there is still no agreement between the 43 member states on the name of the secretary general, the powers of the deputy secretaries and various other statuary issues.
SETTING UP THE DIPLOMATIC SERVICE
Paradoxically, the biggest EU foreign policy difficulties in the first half of the year will in fact be internal. They relate to setting up the European External Action Service, Ashton’s resources for carrying out her policies. Using the guidelines adopted by the European Council in October as her base, she must draw up a detailed legislative proposal on the functioning of the service, covering issues such as budget, areas of competence, organisation, recruitment and legal status of national diplomats. The proposal will have to be adopted by the Council by the end of April in agreement with the Commission and after consulting the European Parliament. Setting up this service will be one of the key areas during Ashton’s hearing at the European Parliament (which will have a word to say on the budget) in mid-January.