Analysis of the situation and challenges of the Spanish Presidency in Europe

Congreso de los diputados, Madrid.

FNF Madrid

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Spain assumed the Presidency of the Council of the European Union from Sweden on July 1, However, the announcement of general elections in Spain on July 23 have introduced a level of uncertainty and potential complications to this transition.

The early general elections in Spain – announced by President Pedro Sanchez the morning after the results of the regional elections – present a complicated scenario for the country. The conservative “People’s Party” (PP), achieved victories in major capitals, including historically social-democratic strongholds, such as Seville. Meanwhile, the left-wing populist party, “Unidas Podemos”, suffered setbacks, disappearing from influential cities across the country. These election dynamics shape the landscape in which the upcoming general elections will take place.

Despite the results obtained by the PP in the regional elections, with less than two months to go at that point in time, they have to prepare for the upcoming general elections in a very complicated scenario. Firstly, Alberto Núñez Feijoo, the new president of the party, will have to face the very real possibility of agreeing on a coalition with the Spanish rightwing populist party, VOX, headed by Santiago Abascal. Part of the social-democratic PSOE is currently very unhappy with its leader, Pedro Sánchez, because of the different alliances he has signed with extreme left and separatist parties in order to govern in Spain. As previously mentioned, Unidas Podemos’ popularity has witnessed a downfall. In view of these results, all the formations of the extreme left have opted to present themselves in a coalition, under the name of “Sumar” and presided by politician Yolanda Díaz.

Regardless of the election outcome come July, Spain faces significant challenges with regards to its EU Presidency. Sweden defined four priorities during its tenure: security-unity, competitiveness, ecological and energy transition, and lastly democratic values and the rule of law. For Spain, it is clear that one of the primary challenges will be maintaining the European unity that emerged during the Ukraine conflict, which is at risk due to differing strategic approaches across member-states. Spain's well-established diplomacy will have to play a crucial role in navigating this issue, while being especially careful with the growing concerns towards migration.

The ecological transition and the establishment of a green hydrogen market are another issue to consider. The "Next Generation" program aims to achieve sustainability through renewable energy deployment and reduced emissions. This is a clear and ambitious strategy and work is already underway to close major European agreements to establish a green hydrogen market. On the one hand, Spain’s Presidency will involve securing European agreements, ensuring the complete renewable nature of green hydrogen, and defining financial frameworks at the European level.

Additionally, Spain must focus on strengthening the Euro-Latam strategic axis. By acting as a nucleus, Spain can bolster European companies in Latin America and attract investments from Latin American companies seeking global growth. However, revitalizing this tactical axis will require strategic planning and coordinated efforts.

The early elections may have implications for the country's ability to fulfill its responsibilities as the EU Presidency. Indeed, Sanchez, leader of the social democratic PSOE party, had limited time for campaigning due to mandatory European engagements, such as an appearance before the European Parliament on July 13, directly preceded by the NATO Summit on July 11 and 12 in Vilnius. Still, despite the challenges and the tight schedule, the Spanish government has been working on the Presidency preparations for months.

While concerns exist that the early elections may divert attention from the EU Presidency, it is important to understand that the Presidency of the EU is not a government presidency but a mission to address political issues and foster cooperation. Some diplomats view the electoral advance positively, emphasizing the need for a stable government to lead the European mandate. Teams in Madrid and Brussels continue their work and commitment to coordinate the Presidency amid election preparations. Overall, it is clear that while Spain’s upcoming Presidency in the EU comes with challenges, it is also abundantly accompanied by opportunities. Navigating the complexities, preserving European unity, driving the ecological transition, and strengthening Euro-Latam relations are key priorities. By effectively fulfilling its role, Spain can contribute to the collective progress of the European Union.