Spain’s president José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero received a welcome boost to his foreign policy yesterday with the visit of Jacques Chirac to Spain. In what was billed as a summit meeting between the Spanish and French governments, the two presidents held a meeting in the morning, followed by a press conference and a walk around Zaragoza, the city chosen by Zapatero to host the meeting. Members of both governments also attended the summit, and had fringe meetings with their respectives.
For the first time in Spanish history, the central government invited the presidents of all the Spanish regions bordering with France to attend a Franco-Spanish summit meeting. Presidents Maragall (Catalonia), Sanz (Navarra) and Iglesias (Aragon) all accepted the invitation, and participated in the summit. One of the items on the agenda was to think how to improve air, rail and road connections over the border or, in the words of the Spanish government, “how to make the Pyrenees permeable”.
The only regional president to refuse the invitation was Juan José Ibarretxe, who decided not to attend the meeting because, according to sources from the Basque government, he “wouldn’t be allowed to express his own opinion”. The same sources did not explain how or why they had reached that conclusion. The participants who were present agreed to hold the first ever Franco-Spanish Border Regions Summit in 2005. Maybe the Basque Government will attend that one.
The press conference held after the summit was predictably affable. Chirac declared France’s support for the new Spanish foreign policy towards Cuba, and said that the recent liberation of Cuban dissidents by the Castro dictatorship was proof that Spain’s new approach was having a positive effect. Both presidents expressed their support for UN chairman Kofi Annan, accused by US republican senators recently of allowing corruption in the “oil for food” program.
Both Chirac and Zapatero said they believed the attacks to be unjustified.