Jose Luis Zapatero: Europe's Next President

Article excerpt

Byline: Mike Elkin

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero was once hailed as the new face of Europe's left. Then a crushing recession sparked by the collapse of the housing bubble sent his approval rating into a spiral. Yet Zapatero remains upbeat. Last week he spoke to NEWSWEEK's Mike Elkin about the upcoming G20 meeting, dealing with Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, and what to expect when Spain assumes the EU presidency in January.

What will be the easiest topic at the G20, and what will be the most difficult? There will be an agreement on banking regulations, and we'll just have to draw up a calendar. The most difficult thing will be climate change.

What will your priorities be when Spain assumes the EU presidency? First, economic reactivation, which involves a greater push for innovation and competition. Second, the application of the Lisbon Treaty, if passed, which will provide a whole new governing system for the EU. And third, the European Union should close commercial pacts with Latin America, Russia, and the Mediterranean region.

Your government wants a diplomatic solution to Cuba. What are the next steps? We need a dialogue with terms: we have to be strict on issues like human rights and Cuba's position in Latin America.

Venezuela is also causing concern, especially its ties with Iran. Iran is an issue for the international community, for the United Nations. Iran must comply with the international framework for nuclear development and provide guarantees about its nuclear objectives. On this the entire European Union agrees.

Chavez seems to be playing both sides. Is there a diplomatic effort to rein him in? I think that must be dealt with among the Latin American countries. …