The EU Presidency in the second semester will give the president a new opportunity to showcase his international profile
MADRID, Jan. 2 (.) –
The President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, will have a busy international agenda in 2023, which will intensify in the second semester with the current Presidency of the EU, and whose first litmus test will be the summit with Morocco scheduled for the coming weeks with the that seeks to seal the new stage in the relationship.
Following his meeting with King Mohamed VI on April 7 in Rabat, both countries agreed to hold a High Level Meeting (RAN) before the end of 2022, the first since 2015. The meeting was scheduled for December 2020, but it was initially postponed due to the pandemic but then the diplomatic crisis as a result of the reception of the Polisario leader and Spain’s position regarding the Sahara left it postponed sine die.
After Sánchez said by letter to the Alaouite monarch last March that Spain considers that the Moroccan autonomy plan for the Sahara of 2007 is “the most solid, credible and realistic basis” for a solution to the dispute, the two countries have initiated a new phase in relationship.
In an interview with Europa Press, the Foreign Minister, José Manuel Albares, has ratified that the plans for it to be held in the last week of January or the first week of February are maintained and both governments are working to finalize the date, since in a large representation of both governments will participate.
Before that, the minister also confirmed that the expected reopening of the Melilla customs office and the opening of a new one in Ceuta, where it did not exist before, will take place in an “orderly and gradual” manner. The idea, as he indicated, is to proceed as was done with the transit of people, which was resumed in phases from mid-May.
This is undoubtedly one of the key aspects in this new stage, which was already announced by Sánchez himself during his visit to Rabat. After the doubts raised by Morocco in this regard, finally its Foreign Minister, Naser Burita, has publicly ratified the kingdom’s commitment to comply with each and every one of the points of the joint declaration.
THE CRISIS WITH ALGERIA, UNSOLVED
The thaw with Morocco resulted in an unprecedented crisis with Algeria, which called its ambassador for consultations in March after learning of the government’s turn with respect to the Sahara and in June opted to suspend the Friendship Treaty.
Although Algiers has maintained the supply of natural gas, with a price rise as has occurred with other countries, the relationship has not yet recovered. Sánchez already said a few months ago that he would “love” to travel to Algiers, so this could be one of his international destinations if both governments manage to turn the page, although nothing indicates that this could happen in the short term.
The Government has insisted at all times that it has an “outstretched hand” to Algeria and to extol the ties of friendship between the two countries, although Albares has acknowledged to Europa Press that today there are still commercial operations by Spanish companies that “they are still blocked” and that the EU, responsible for trade policy, maintains contacts with Algiers to resolve it.
EU PRESIDENCY AND ELECTIONS
Circumstances have meant that Spain assumes what will be its fifth rotating Presidency of the EU on July 1, so Sánchez will face the final stretch of the year and will carry out the electoral campaign as head of the Council.
This coincidence is not something unusual and in fact was what happened during the French Presidency in the first half of 2022. French President Emmanuel Macron was re-elected in April as head of the Council at a particularly delicate moment given the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine because of the Russian invasion.
Everything seems to indicate that when Spain takes over from Sweden, the war will not be over or, if peace has been achieved, its consequences will still have to be dealt with. This circumstance will leave Sánchez with a prominent role to play, since he will be in charge of leading the summits and calling extraordinary meetings if necessary.
For now, the head of the Executive will have to preside over the two Councils that will be held in October and December in Brussels, as well as an extraordinary one that the Government has already announced that will take place in the city of Granada.
In addition, the Government has already confirmed that a summit between the EU and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), whose leaders have not met since 2015, is scheduled for July in Brussels, and has also expressed their wish that there could be another meeting at the level of heads of State and Government with the countries of the Southern Neighborhood –Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine and Tunisia– which, if it took place, would be the first.
But apart from the European semester, Sánchez has before him other important appointments at the bilateral level, within the framework of the periodic contacts that the Government maintains with countries with which there is a particularly close relationship. The first of these will be on January 19 with the summit with France in which, together with Macron, he will seal the first Treaty of Friendship between the two countries.
OTHER INTERNATIONAL APPOINTMENTS
On the other hand, the president together with King Felipe VI will attend the XXVIII Ibero-American Summit at the end of March, which on this occasion will be hosted by the Dominican Republic. On July 11 and 12, the capital of Lithuania will be the scene of the next NATO summit, after the successful meeting in Madrid last June.
Apart from these events with dates already scheduled, it is expected that the president will make other trips. After the stoppage forced by the pandemic, Sánchez has shown great interest at all times in reinforcing Spain’s presence abroad, with an eye especially on countries where the Government considers that there are more business options for Spanish companies. or a greater investment interest in our country.
In this sense, he toured Latin America last August with stops in Colombia, Ecuador and Honduras. For this year it is to be expected that he will also make some trips to a fundamental region for Spanish foreign policy. With the presidential replacement in Brazil, with the return of Lula da Silva, this country is one of those that seems to have more options. In this sense, the president could take advantage of, for example, the Ibero-American Summit to add some other scale in his displacement to the region.
The same can be expected to happen with the G-20 summit, which this year will be held in India, the country that holds the current presidency. Sánchez took advantage of his displacement to Balí (Indonesia), on the occasion of the conclave to also travel to South Korea. Here, one of the a priori countries that could be of greatest interest would be China, with whose president, Xi Jinping, he met precisely in Bali, since 2023 also commemorates 50 years of the establishment of relations.
On the other hand, Sánchez has paid special attention during his tenure to fostering relations with Africa. Last October he traveled to Kenya and South Africa, countries that a president of the Government had never visited, so it is expected that throughout 2023 he will also make some trips to this continent.
The cherry on top of all these meetings and trips would be a visit to the White House to meet with Joe Biden, whom Sánchez already received at the Moncloa Palace at the end of June, taking advantage of his attendance at the NATO Summit in Madrid, although Neither of the two governments has indicated that it is planned for the moment, especially when a state visit from the King and Queen is also pending since the one scheduled for April 2020 was postponed due to the pandemic.