By: Sebastian Mariz, Managing Director of Influence Spain
There is just over a month left, before Spain assumes the Presidency of the European Council. As President of the Council, it will set the Council agenda and priorities, based on the legislative and policy initiatives deemed a priority for the Spanish Government. The last time the Spanish Government held the Presidency of the European Council was in 2010.
Spain will take over the Presidency from Sweden, which had established its main policy priorities in the areas of security/defense, competitivity of the EU economy, environmental and energy transition, and civil rights. Sweden will continue to form part of the new “trio” of presidencies formed on the 1st of July. This will be made up of Sweden, Spain and Belgium, who will agree on a common programme of priorities for the European Council over the next 12 months, until the 30th of June 2024.
The Spanish Government has not yet announced its Presidency Programme, nor the agenda of events that will take place from the 1st of July to the 31st of December, but the Joint Senate and Parliament Committee on European Affairs, has agreed on its draft recommendations to the Government, on what these priorities should be. These recommendations still need to be voted on and ratified in Committee.
According to the Joint Senate and Parliament Committee on European Affairs, the Spanish Presidency should prioritize:
- Immigration and border controls: Agreement on the European Pact on Migration and Asylum, with ratification of the Pact by the European Parliament within the first half of 2024. A joint reinforcement of Europe’s borders and unification of Europe’s visa policy. An extension of the temporary reception of Ukrainian refugees until 2025.
- Energy policy – Complete reform and overhaul of the electricity market, decoupling gas from electricity prices and regulating electricity prices from electricity generated in both nuclear power plants and hydro plants.
- Artificial intelligence – Speed up adoption of an EU regulatory framework for Artificial Intelligence, including the creation of an EU Agency on AI.
- International trade and EU economic sovereignty – Adoption of new strategic priorities in trade policy, at the informal European Council, to be held in Granada, in October.
Within the framework of international trade and economic sovereignty for the EU, the Spanish Government should seek to launch joint research into identifying Europe’s main strategic economic and trade weaknesses in the areas of energy, foodstuffs, healthcare and digital technologies.
The Spanish Presidency should also seek new international trade partners so as to reduce EU dependency on China and the United States, prioritizing existing trade talks and updating existing trade agreements with Latin American countries, in particular Chile and Mexico.
The Spanish Presidency should pursue the ratification and entry into force of the MERCOSUR Agreement with Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. This will eliminate 91% of the tariffs on European goods and services to MERCOSUR countries, and 95% of the tariffs on goods and services from MERCOSUR countries.
The EU-Latin American Summit, which will take place on the 17th and 18th of July in Brussels, should seek to address greater trade relations between the European Union and Latin American countries, in strategic areas including: agriculture, biofuels, wood products, financial services and digital technologies.