Zapatero, Berlusconi plot defence of EU treaty

30th November 2004, Comments 0 comments

30 November 2004, MADRID- The Spanish and Italian prime ministers were meeting to plot a joint defence of the European Union constitution and try to overcome their differences over Iraq.

30 November 2004

MADRID- The Spanish and Italian prime ministers were meeting to plot a joint defence of the European Union constitution and try to overcome their differences over Iraq.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said the constitution was the dominant topic at the summit meeting in the central Spanish town of Cuenca.

Zapatero and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi -- accompanied by their ministers of foreign affairs, defence, interior, culture, industry and labour – were seeking to reinforce the special relationship between the Mediterranean partners, the spokesman said.

Berlusconi and former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar were close allies in supporting the US-led invasion of Iraq last year. But Zapatero, who came to office in March following the devastating terrorist attacks on Madrid suburban trains, quickly complied with a pre-election promise to pull Spanish troops out of Iraq.

This decision led to the realignment of Spanish foreign policy with that of France and Germany, the two countries that had led the opposition to the Iraq invasion.

In September, Zapatero invited President Jacques Chirac of France and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of Germany to a three-way summit meeting in Madrid.

The Spanish spokesman said that despite the political differences, Zapatero and Berlusconi enjoyed a "very warm" personal relationship, and that their common enthusiasm for the European constitution would permit them to turn the page on Iraq.

The constitution, which aims to streamline decision-making in the EU and make citizens feel more closely a part of the Union, was signed by the leaders of all 25 member states in Rome on 29 October, but must be ratified by all states before it can go into effect.

Zapatero is one of Europe's most ardent supporters of the constitution and hopes that Spain will be the first country to ratify it in a referendum in February.

He was expected to invite Berlusconi, along with Chirac and Schroeder to a meeting in Barelona early next year aimed at whipping up support for a yes vote.

Despite the rift between Madrid and Washington over Iraq, Zapatero was reported to be anxious to warm up relations with the United States, and would propose reviving the 1995 Transatlantic Agenda aimed at promoting global peace, democracy and development, expanding trade and building bridges across the Atlantic.

Berlusconi, meanwhile, was expected to enlist Zapatero's help in blocking Germany's bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

Italy insists that such a seat should be given to the EU as a whole.

Other topics expected to come up at the meeting included immigration, the fight against terrorism, Turkish membership of the EU, and revival of proposals to turn the EU into the world's most advanced knowledge-based society.
  
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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