EU presidency baton goes to Spain

Spain will need to put national interests aside if it is to help give the post-Lisbon Europe real influence on the world stage

Head, ECFR Madrid
Senior Policy Fellow

As 2009
comes to a close, Spain is
getting ready to take over the Presidency of the EU from Sweden. Economic
and institutional dilemmas will play a role in shaping the Spanish presidency’s
agenda as it works towards giving Europe the
‘one voice’ it says it desires and, more importantly, desperately needs. In
what many see as a difficult and confusing time for Europe, Spain will need to define and strengthen the
‘new look’ Europe’s role in the world, post Lisbon.

 Most importantly,
Spain
needs to realise that this is not the moment for national glory – the goal is
not to be remembered as the ‘country which held the rotating EU presidency in
the first half of 2010′. Recent history shows that if people forget the
intricate details of who did want and what bureaucratic procedures you set up
during your presidency, then you have probably done a good job – see the
Czechs.

Neither is
the goal to be the nation which did
some pretty amazing stuff. It is about Europe doing its bit on the
world stage. This will be the first time that the Presidency’s foreign office
will have to take a secondary role. Spain
will need to lead by example: national interests – such as Spain’s stance on Kosovo – must be put aside if Europe is to have any hope of speaking with one voice.

Sweden saw the Lisbon Treaty come alive.
It is now for Spain
to give it life. The goals of the Treaty – namely giving Europe
one voice and the capacity to be a real world actor – need to be put in place.
One arm of this agenda is the creation of the External Action Service under
Cathy Asthon’s leadership. Ashton will require Spain’s
support in bringing the Brussels’
institutions and member states together. The fusion of Brussels and national capitals will be both a
necessary and difficult process.

Getting
over the economic crisis will remain a European priority during and after Spain’s
presidency, and beyond. It is no secret that Spain, still reeling from the
financial crisis more than most EU member states, is in a bit of an economic
mess. With one of the highest rate of unemployment in Europe at 20%, Spain must
ensure that it does not allow national concerns to dominate the European
agenda.

The
importance of using the presidency to replace the failed Lisbon Agenda of the
past 10 years – Europe’s dream of creating a competitive, knowledge-based
economy that can compete with the US and emerging powers – cannot be
overestimated. Spain need to use the next six months to steer Europe into a
deep and meaningful discussion about it’s economic model, which needs to
include things like the regulation of the EU and national markets and monetary
policy. There have already been calls for the establishment of a ‘green
economy’ – an economy that does not rely on carbon emissions and continues to
grow in a carbon reduced world – as Europe’s next big project after the
enlargement era.

Institutional
uncertainty means it is a confusing time to take over the EU presidency. Hard
hitting issues, like the economic crisis and climate change, mean it is a
presidency filled with responsibility. But the institutional changes and global
challenges mean it is a time when Europe
should strive to speak with one voice, and a presidency which can allow it to.

For more…Listen to the latest edition of the podcast ECFR reports, where Jose Ignacio Torreblance talks about the big issues facing the Spanish EU Presidency.

 

The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. ECFR publications only represent the views of its individual authors.

Author

Head, ECFR Madrid
Senior Policy Fellow