“Mediterranean state of mind” could transform Europe’s future

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Series Details Vol.7, No.46, 13.12.01, p25
Publication Date 13/12/2001
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Date: 13/12/01

President of Andalucia Manuel Chaves Gonzalez, below, examines his country's challenges in the forthcoming six months

AS SPAIN prepares to take on the European Union presidency, the EU finds itself facing a critical internal challenge.

The international environment is burdened with doubts and conflicts that continue to leave their mark in the 21st century. Also, we have seen the events of 11 September diverting the direction of European affairs.

The Spanish presidency now needs to restore the EU's internal impetus, especially by way of open and frank debates on its own future organisation, on enlargement, Treaty reform, the Euro-Mediterranean Conference (Euromed) and its position on immigration.

These are all issues that will define the future of Europe and will determine Spain's situation in a new scenario that will be played out by ever-more actors.

The precise future of Spain in an enlarged Europe may well depend on the role it plays now, particularly with respect to the Common Agriculture Policy and regional policies. These issues will have to be decided in the next few months.

Our support for enlargement can never turn into a blank cheque that might force Spanish or other Mediterranean countries' interests to shift.

It is my belief that Spain now has the opportunity to turn this 'Mediterranean state of mind and opinion' into a common position in future negotiations in Europe. The Euromed Conference, taking place in Valencia on 22-23 April, will help achieve this; but time and effort must be given to clearly defining its objectives.

In addition, the Spanish presidency will have to pull its weight when it comes to social issues.

Certainly, the new European construction must not ignore less-favoured sectors nor delay policies that, because of their likely social and economic impact, could 'upset' the European political project. I am referring here to the necessary elaboration of a policy that considers immigration in all its aspects and which, if possible, regularises what is an irreversible trend.

It will be interesting to see José María Aznar's government demonstrate concern about this, along with its recurrent theme of encouraging economic liberalisation - a topic in danger of being seen as its sole objective.

Finally, this weekend's Laeken summit must form the basis of the EU's future institutional architecture; a process that will finally be decided at the Intergovernmental Conference in 2004. It is crucial that the role of regional participation in decision making is properly defined.

The presidency of the European Union provides the tempo for this community of nations. Spain, on taking on this responsibility, must aspire to be recognised for its contribution in promoting key decisions that will deepen and improve the integration of Europe.

Author, who is President of Andalucia, examines his country's challenges in the forthcoming six months. Article is part of a special report on the Spanish Presidency of the EU, January-June 2002.

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