Yesterday the Spanish president, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, hosted a meeting with his German and French colleagues, Gerhard Schröder and Jacques Chirac. After what is hailed today as a historic meeting by the Spanish press, the three leaders posed smiling for camaras and Zapatero said to reporters “The Old Europe has taken on a new lease of life”.
This meeting is the latest confirmation of new Spanish foreign policy under the Socialist government which is to strengthen Spain’s role and presence in the European Union. Zapatero believes that is is vital for the EU to become stronger and more united and to have more influence in world politics, and he wants Spain to have a central role in that process. He also (on a more practical front) wants to make sure Spain continues to receive European funds inspite of the fact that since the EU welcomed its new members Spain has ceased to be one of the poorest states elegible for European funding.
Spain has benefitted tremendously from the EU over the past 15 years and many of the Spanish motorways, restored heritage, Spain’s modern railway network and hydraulic works have been built thanks to European money. Yesterday Chirac confirmed that the issue of how European money should be shared among member states was “one of the few issues” acound which the three leaders had not been able to reach an agreement yesterday but, in a clear reference to the Spanish government’s change of policy and style, that now none of the three countries was defending its position in an arrogant manner, and that this was a positive move because arrogance leads to failure in negotiations.
During their meeting in la Moncloa, Zapatero, Chirac and Schroeder analyzed the current state of the European Union aswell as international events further afield. They underlined their common vision that a strong Europe represents the best way of “solving the problems of our citizens” and they stressed the “importance of successfully ratifying the European Constitutional Treaty, which is to be signed in Rome on 29th October. They expressed their support for the appointment of Javier Solana as Foreign Affairs Prime Minister for Europe, and they discussed the need for Europe to have a stronger united military presence in international conflicts by way of the so-called Battlegroups concept.