Economic revival, the EU’s global standing and citizens’ rights also top the Spanish agenda.
Spain assumed the rotating presidency of the European Union at the start of the year, promising to make the Lisbon treaty its top priority.
The treaty took effect in December, ushering in a host of changes to help the EU take decisions efficiently and play a prominent role in international affairs. Changes include revamping the six-month rotating presidency to ensure close cooperation with two offices created by the treaty – the EU president and the foreign affairs chief. As the first country to hold the presidency under the treaty, Spain has an opportunity to set the course.
Over the next half year, Spain will seek to strengthen the EU’s role as a global player, working closely with new EU president Herman Van Rompuy to project European unity and help the bloc speak with one voice.
Spain also will be involved in setting up the EU foreign ministry and diplomatic corps (or “external action service”) headed by the high representative, Catherine Ashton.
The treaty requires the EU presidency to work closely with the next two countries to hold the office – in Spain's case, Belgium and Hungary. The practical outcome of this ‘trio of presidencies’ is a joint 18-month programme.
With the EU jobless rate reaching 9.3% in 2009 (19.3% in Spain), the focus will be firmly on economic recovery. Adopting a new European strategy for growth and jobs and improving supervision of the international financial system will be priorities. Spain plans to pay special attention to gender equality.
Promoting a people’s Europe will round out Spain's agenda – bringing the EU closer to ordinary people through a citizens’ petition introduced by the Lisbon treaty.
Spain also hopes to make progress on energy security, climate change and immigration.