Zapatero 'returns Spain to heart of Old Europe'

14th September 2004, Comments 0 comments

14 September 2004, MADRID – Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero claimed he had returned his country to the heart of Old Europe as he hosted a summit with leaders of France and Germany, it was reported Tuesday.

14 September 2004

MADRID – Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero claimed he had returned his country to the heart of Old Europe as he hosted a summit with leaders of France and Germany, it was reported Tuesday.

Again and again Zapatero, German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French president Jacques Chirac grasped hands for the cameras after a meeting in Madrid.

Their pose had a definite purpose, showing Europe's two traditional leaders - France and Germany - united around Spain.

It was an intentional contrast to the picture presented to the world 18 months ago, when former prime minister Jose Maria Aznar smiled for the cameras alongside US President George W Bush and British prime minister Tony Blair.

Zapatero said later: "I would say that 'the old Europe' is as good as new." 

In the lead-up to the informal summit, Zapatero said it was a way to bring Spain back to the heart of Europe and repair bridges burned by his predecessor's focus on the transatlantic alliance.

He said he had chosen to invite France and Germany since they were, in his opinion, the European Union's most powerful members.

Zapatero said the three leaders discussed plans for common social, economic and foreign policies and the ratification of the European Constitution.

The war in Iraq was hugely unpopular in Spain

Despite rumours in the Spanish press, officials here have denied they are trying to force a Berlin-Paris-Madrid axis to challenge already existing alliances within the European Union.

"We don't like the term axis. I think it is a term that we Europeans should do away with," Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said last week.

But opposition conservatives, the Popular Party, attacked this stance.

"It makes no sense speaking of a 'return to Europe'," said Popular Party Foreign Affairs spokesman Gustavo de Aristegui.

Zapatero, Schroeder and Chirac were amongst the most outspoken opponents of the war in Iraq.

Zapatero caused controversy after winning the March general election, when he withdrew Spanish troops from Iraq.

Opinion polls show Zapatero's government is still enjoying a honeymoon period. Especially popular are the withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq, the fight against domestic violence and the re-alignment of Spain with its traditional European allies.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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