Martinez Sierra, Jose Manuel (2002) The Spanish Presidency. Buying more than it can choose? ZEI Discussion Paper: 2002, C 112. [Discussion Paper]
[Introduction.] The Spanish 2002 Presidency of the European Union set off on January, the 1st. During the six months of this Presidency, the Spanish Government attempted to harmonize its interest with the EU agenda. The EU Presidency is the highlight of any Member State in the Union life, though not being the owner of the Rolls Royce you drive. Thus temptations to get your way are high, even if your most desirable path goes against the wishes of other Member States or (even worst) against the common interest of the Union. One may think that the common interest of the Union can easily be preserved by the Presidency, through multilateral state contacts at Coreper II or/and bilateral contacts with the institutions. But this may in fact not be so. Yet, in reality, we find discrepancies, resulting from problems that are rooted in the procedural and in the political realms. One should notice that the guidelines of a Presidency are put forward unilaterally long before the Presidency starts, normally without fully seeking other actors’ opinions (states, institutions, national actors, etc.) in order to elaborate the agenda. For instance, the Belgium Presidency “priority program” came out on May, the 2nd. By then, one-third of the Swedish Presidency was still forthcoming and consequently, the theoretical “troika link” among presidencies could not be defined. Simply José Manuel Martínez Sierra because those last links of the chain were not in place. The same can be said about the Program of the Spanish Presidency of the EU: “More Europe”. The agendas of Member States and the EU do not fully coincide, furthermore they can be partially contradictory. As far as Member States are concerned, this reality does not change for the simple fact of holding the Presidency of the Union, as the intrinsic nature of the State interest does not mutate. In short, one can say: the closer the agendas (EU-Presidency), the better the outcome of the Presidency. During the Spanish Presidency one could detect a great variety of agenda scenarios, i.e. common high interest of both parties (Euro), high Presidency interest with moderate interest of the EU (terrorism, migration), a high interest of the EU with little of the Presidency (enlargement), High Presidency interest with little coming from EU (EU-Latin American relationship). These diverse agenda scenarios determined not only the agenda of the Presidency but also the workload and effort put in each item of the final agenda. This paper, in its second and most significant part, will examine the main issues faced by the Spanish Presidency from a sectoral and global perspective. From there we will draft some observations about the concrete outcome of the Presidency as well as the feasibility of the current Presidency method in an enlarged Europe. This second dimension of the conclusions will also refer to the theoretical approach to the Presidency set up in the first part of this paper, The EU Presidency in its context.
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