Zapatero pressures Sarkozy for summit involvement

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Spanish PM told the French leader that being the world’s eight-largest economy, Spain should be included in the meeting of economic powers in November.

22 October 2008

MADRID - After hours of frantic negotiations, Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero reported Tuesday that Spain may attend a summit in November to reform the world's financial system.

Zapatero's comment came after French President Nicolas Sarkozy had suggested Spain would be left out of the meeting of representatives of rich states and emerging economic powers.

"The world's eighth-largest economy has to have a voice," Zapatero told a press conference in Madrid, saying he had made that clear to Sarkozy in a telephone conversation Tuesday afternoon. The French president was "absolutely sympathetic and understanding" of Spain's position, he added.

During a speech before the European Parliament in Strasbourg earlier in the day, Sarkozy had effectively excluded Spanish representatives from the meeting because Spain is not a member of the G8 group of industrialised nations nor is it a major emerging economic power, like as India or Brazil.

The meeting, one of several planned over the coming months, is intended to strengthen international cooperation to avoid a worsening of the current economic and financial crisis and to adopt measures to prevent a similar situation occurring again.

Sarkozy called for a "rebuilding of world capitalism," claiming that what has happened is an "act of treason against the values of capitalism... not a result of the market economy."

"The simplest solution for the summit would be to bring the G8 nations together with the five biggest emerging economies," Sarkozy said. Asked about the presence of other economic and European powers such as Spain and Poland, the French president had said it is not his decision that they are not part of the G8.

The apparent snub followed Sarkozy's failure to invite Zapatero to an impromptu meeting of European leaders earlier this month that left Spanish government officials fuming.

The Spanish prime minister, whose involvement in forthcoming meetings has been backed by leaders such as British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, made it clear that he was not happy with being given the cold-shoulder by Sarkozy again.

"I want to remark on one thing: Spain has never been in organisations [such as the G8] but I think that is going to change and in my opinion there are objective reasons for it to change," Zapatero declared, pointing to the strength of Spain's economy and the robustness of its financial system, which includes Europe's largest bank. "We have a contribution to make," he added. Zapatero suggested that an Arab country should also be invited to the summit.

Speaking in Strasbourg, Sarkozy called on Europe to establish sovereign wealth funds to protect national businesses and for an injection of capital into its carmakers after the United States approved a USD 25-billion (EUR 19.36-billion) loan package for its auto industry.

[El Pais / Ángeles Espinosa / Expatica]

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