Spain’s EU Presidency must embrace the Med 

Spain’s EU Presidency must embrace the Med 

Spain takes over the helm of the rotating European Union Council Presidency on June 1. As a member of the EU since 1986, this is Spain’s fifth EU Presidency.

Spain is a Mediterranean country with interests and values embedded in Europe. By joining the European family 37 years ago, it has been part of the European project’s evolution and understands that “if Europe does well, Spain does well,” as Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares commented in his recent remarks introducing the priorities of its upcoming European rotating presidency.

A rotating EU Presidency’s business is to ensure that the business of the European institutions runs smoothly and that countries of the EU reach consensus at critical decision-making junctures. To mark a rotating presidency each country that presides adds a set of priorities that are authentically relevant to its geopolitical and European significance.

Given the current geo-economic context – a post-pandemic, inflationary pressure and conflict set with Russia’s war on Ukraine – Spain recognizes the importance of consensus for “urgent and coordinated measures” to safeguard Europe’s strategic autonomy by: Reducing Europe’s energy dependency on Russia and speeding up the development of renewable energies through European gas and electricity interconnectors; the governance and decision-making required for an effective response to inflation and the need for Europe-wide fiscal rules.

Pedro Sanchez, Spain’s leader and a European Socialist, in his decalogue for the EU Presidency, places focus on policy themes that have impact on European families on health, food and energy. The EU’s strategic agenda for Green, Social and Digital Europe is at the core of the president’s focus as he leads the European Council in the next six months.

Spain’s Mediterranean orientation is of critical significance. This is a Mediterranean Presidency of the EU and the opportunity to embrace the Mediterranean as an integrated partner to Europe’s green transition and strategic autonomy should not go amiss.

Spain has a unique opportunity. Her geo-economic interests are embedded in the region.

Her trade profile ranks Germany, France, Italy and Portugal as top export partners and equally Germany, China, France, Italy in her top tier import partners.

The Mediterranean cannot be left behind; it needs to be integrated into Europe’s strategic lateral vision

Spain’s Mediterranean neighbors – Morocco, Greece, Turkey, Algeria, Tunisia, Israel and Egypt – are equally balanced trade partners to her trade profile.

Her borders to the South are part of the Western Mediterranean Europe’s frontline to North and West Africa, significant for trade, security and defence partnerships.

Digital interconnectivity, technology and climate change are shifting global, regional and national strategic interdependencies. The Mediterranean cannot be left behind, it needs to be integrated into Europe’s strategic lateral vision. The Mediterranean is a region of 500 million people, producing 10% of global GDP, but only a quarter of its trade is intra-regional. It is the least connected region in the world.

The recent pandemic and conflict with Russia in Ukraine are causing shifts of focus from global value chains to regional ones.

In order to safeguard Europe’s growth and potential, in this new context, it would necessitate leadership that embraces the Mediterranean (Europe’s South Neighborhood policy including Turkey and the Levantine countries) with new geo-economic models, effectiveness and governance tools that are co-designed with the people of the countries in the neighborhood. The countries of the region need to transition their economies to safeguard peace and prosperity in this changing global context, and this opens the door for a redesign of strategic interconnections.

This moment and its timing are important.

This Spanish EU Presidency is unlike its preceding others, as it is beginning at a time of a snap domestic political transition. Spain’s leadership, given her unique geo-economic interests, must ensure that the Mediterranean becomes a key tenet of Europe’s strategic autonomy, with a contemporary governance framework for Europe’s dynamic, green interconnected frontier to Africa and the Middle East. This would certainly leave a positive Spanish leadership legacy for the EU.

Cleopatra Kitti is a senior policy advisor at the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP) and founder of The Mediterranean Growth Initiative.

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