The President of the Government of Spain receives the College of Commissioners at the Royal Collections Gallery

President's News - 2023.7.3

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Royal Collections Gallery, Madrid

President Pedro Sánchez has received a visit from the College of Commissioners, as is customary at the start of each rotating presidency of the Council of the EU, to prepare the coming months' work. The meeting took place in the Royal Collections Gallery, and was attended by 17 Commissioners and Spanish government ministers, who held various meetings to make progress on sectoral issues.

In this context, Pedro Sánchez held a bilateral meeting with the president of the Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen, to whom he was able to convey the enthusiasm and responsibility with which Spain is taking on this challenge. Over the next six months, our country must follow the Commission's legislative programme, taking forward as many legislative dossiers as possible, many of which are highly complex. The President of the Government stressed that institutional collaboration will be key to achieving this objective, highlighting the key role of the Commission in the EU's institutional framework.

The president recalled some of the challenges the Commission has faced in recent years, such as the pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, making specific reference to the Afghan refugee crisis, which came in the wake of the fall of Kabul in August 2021, when Spain took over a 'hub' at the Torrejón de Ardoz base to centralise the evacuation of collaborators from various member states, and from the EU's own foreign service. On that day, the president of the Commission described Spain's commitment as "an example of the European soul", as President Sánchez recalled when he addressed Ursula Von der Leyen afterwards. "It is in this spirit that we want to approach our presidency".

The President of the Government of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, chairs the plenary meeting of the Government of Spain and the College of Commissioners of the European Union | Pool Moncloa/Borja Puig de la Bellacasa

During the meeting with the president of the Commission, Sánchez had the opportunity to address the priorities for the Spanish presidency. The situation in Ukraine is an issue that will be central during this presidency. "The Russian aggression has shaken the foundations of the West, and has brought back worries and ghosts that we thought we had been banished," Pedro Sánchez stressed. In this regard, he said that during his visit to Kyiv last Saturday he was able to convey to President Zelenski the firm support of Spain and the entire EU for the Ukrainian people. This support, President Sánchez reiterated, will remain unshaken, and the Spanish presidency will aim to strengthen unity and continue to support Ukraine in all areas, including on its path to accession. "Europe and Ukraine: together until victory and freedom", he stressed.

President Sánchez was also able to talk to Ursula Von der Leyen about another major challenge facing the EU: reducing its external vulnerabilities and strengthening its open strategic autonomy. "We have to increase our productive capacities, guarantee our economic security and diversify our trade relations, paying special attention to the countries that are friendly and close to us," he underlined.

The president stressed the importance of Europe having more allies, and pointed to Latin America and the Caribbean as strategic partners. In this regard, Spain has organised a new EU-CELAC Summit to be held on 17 and 18 July in Brussels, which from the outset has had the support of President Von der Leyen. "We hope that this summit will be a watershed in the history of relations between Latin America and the EU," reiterated Pedro Sánchez.

The President of the Government of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, and the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, during their visit to the Royal Collections Gallery | Pool Moncloa/Borja Puig de la Bellacasa

He also discussed with the president of the Commission progress in the green transition and environmental adaptation, another major priority of the Spanish presidency, stressing that this is an issue on which the Commission and the Government of Spain are fully aligned. "We both know that the best way to act vis-à-vis the climate crisis is not to deny the evidence or look the other way", he said, recalling the need to "face the challenge and turn it into an opportunity to create jobs and industries for the future". Among the dossiers that Spain will try to speed up are those linked to Fit for 55, the reform of the electricity market and the circular economy.

The president emphasised that Spain and the Commission also agree on the need to have a more competitive, fairer and more united economy. An economy which, in short, places people at the centre of our efforts, and which supports the welfare state, tax justice and the fight against tax evasion, universal public health care, labour legislation and the protection of the most vulnerable groups. Pedro Sánchez recalled that during the next six months, other priorities are a proper review of the Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027, and the reform of the economic governance framework, to enable states to overcome austerity and combine the sustainability of public finances with the proper financing of the green and digital transitions.

With regard to the Pact on Migration and Asylum, Pedro Sánchez thanked the Swedish presidency for its hard work, and assured that Spain is taking on this issue with great hopes, and with the certainty that our country will continue to be able to count on the Commission's support to face this shared challenge.

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