Zapatero and Blair in ‘love-in’ before Euro summit
26 October 2005
LONDON — Spain was expected to offers crucial support to British prime minister Tony Blair on the eve of a European summit in which Britain will try to set in motion painful economic reforms.
José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, the prime minister, is to support Britain’s attempt to tackle high unemployment in Europe through labour market reforms.
In an article in the British daily The Guardian, Zapatero writes: “I believe firmly in the Lisbon strategy … to make the European Union the most dynamic and competitive economy in the world by the end of the decade.”
“Globalisation has made it essential to promote common policies aimed at narrowing the technological gap between the member states of the European Union and at promoting investment in knowledge and innovation.”
Spain currently has an unemployment rate of just under 10 percent – one of the highest in Europe.
Blair has had a tense relationship with Zapatero, since the Spanish leader’s surprise election victory last year.
Within days of the win, Zapatero announced the withdrawal of troops from Iraq.
British and Spanish government sources say that both leaders have been trying to mend fences in recent months after Zapatero’s attempts to forge an alliance with France and Germany foundered.
A source close to Zapatero said: “He recognises an intellectual influence from Blair. [Unlike France of Germany] he has no problem in accepting the idea that the European economy has to place productivity and competitiveness centre stage.”
The love-in comes amid signs that Blair and French president Jacques Chirac have been cooperating in the run-up to Thursday’s European Union summit in Britain.
They agree on some reforms, but Chirac still has Britain’s EU budget rebate in his sights.
Subject: Spanish news