‘Politically close’ Macron and Sánchez hope for diplomatic reset at Barcelona summit

Discussions on how to defeat terrorism once dominated Franco-Spanish diplomatic summits, but when the two sides meet on Thursday, talk of bullets and bombs will be replaced by more peaceful dialogues on energy and border links.

Renewable energy supply from Spain via France to the rest of Europe will be discussed during Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s welcome to French President Emmanuel Macron in Barcelona.

More than a decade ago, both countries worked together to defeat the Basque separatist organization ETA, but now developing border cooperation between Spain and France will be the main preoccupation.

In a diplomatic lovemaking, both countries will use the summit to demonstrate their close ties with the signing of a Treaty of Friendship. France has only two such friendship agreements with Germany and Italy.

“We will want to show the neighborhood between Spain and France, the two big European countries of great importance,” a Spanish government source said.

Macron and Sánchez ‘politically close’

Ignacio Molina, a Spanish foreign policy researcher at the Real Elcano Institute, a think tank in Madrid, said both France and Spain have a warm relationship on a political and personal level.

“Macron and Sánchez are not friends, but they have a good relationship and are politically close, although more centrist than Macron Sánchez.”

“Relations have improved. Both countries have common interests in energy, migration, trade and how to deal with Africa. Both countries are interested in European Union reform,” he said.

“After Italy and Germany, Spain is France’s most important ally in the European Union.”

Molina stated that politically, Spain is closer to France than Italy, which voted for a centre-right coalition government last September, adding that the UK left the EU after voting on Brexit.

Last year, the controversy over the MidCat gas pipeline through the Pyrenees, which France opposes for environmental reasons, was a stumbling block to Spain’s efforts to sell more energy to Europe.

The compromise solution was: BarMar underwater pipeline, now renamed H2MED, Transporting green hydrogen and other renewable gases from Barcelona to Marseille could be finished by 2030.

Strong trade links highlight the importance of the alliance between both countries.

While France’s exports to Spain are greater than to China, Spain’s exports to France are greater than its exports to North and South America combined.

Hector Sánchez Margalef, an inspector at the Barcelona Center for International Affairs, said it would be important for Spain to establish closer ties with France as Madrid prepares to take over the rotating presidency of the European Union from July.

Spain prepares for EU presidency

Madrid will move forward with two priorities for its foreign policy: reducing Europe’s dependence on Russian energy and reducing the inflationary pressure on food and energy. Like Portugal, Spain wants to sell more electricity to the rest of Europe.

A closer relationship with France would help Spain achieve these goals.

“It is about to start the European Union Presidency for Spain. Closer ties with France will help to ensure this is successful, Sánchez Margalef told Euronews.

“Obviously, the reason this summit is in Barcelona is about energy and the recent agreement to build a pipeline between Barcelona and Marseille.”

Since taking power in 2019, Sánchez has sought to have a more ambitious international policy than previous Spanish leaders. Sánchez Margalef said a closer relationship with France will help Madrid make Spain one of the most important states in Europe.

The foreign policy success of Spain’s minority left coalition government could yield benefits on the domestic front as voters prepare for local and regional elections in May and general elections this year.

The selection of Barcelona for the summit was not accidental.

“Barcelona was specifically chosen because it is close to France and is where the natural gas pipeline to France will begin,” a Spanish government source said.

The province of Barcelone also has the largest number of French expatriates in Spain.

Taking a moderate stance towards Catalonia to try to cool the separatists’ ambitions to secede from Spain, Sanchez invited the Catalan regional president, Pere Aragonès, to the summit.

The Spanish prime minister insists that warmer relations between Madrid and Barcelona mean more than a decade since the ‘procès’, the Catalan independence move, began in 2012, according to Sánchez.

A poll conducted by the Autonomous University of Barcelona earlier this month revealed that only 4.2% of respondents believe Catalonia will gain independence from Spain, the lowest figure since the polls were conducted.

Sánchez took political risks by pardoning nine Catalan separatist leaders imprisoned in 2017 for a failed independence referendum.

But some independence supporters disagreed and planned demonstrations to show that the fire of rebellion was still alive.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *