SPANISH Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar Hosts the Second and Final European Union (EU) Summit of the Country's Six-Month Presidency Next Weekend Confident That the Political Tide across Europe Is Moving to the Right but Less Certain of His Ability to Influence Events within the EU
SPANISH prime minister Jose Maria Aznar hosts the second and final European Union (EU) summit of the countrys six-month presidency next weekend confident that the political tide across Europe is moving to the right but less certain of his ability to influence events within the EU.
Since the last EU summit in Barcelona in March, he has seen centre-right parties triumph in elections in Portugal, the Netherlands and France. Where once Aznar was isolated at such summits, a right-winger surrounded by socialists (Britains Tony Blair was, of course, an exception) now the centre-right core is growing ever larger.
But Aznar has had little success during his six months at the head of the EU in advancing his proclaimed agenda of economic reform. The Barcelona summit made only minimal progress in advancing a programme set out by Aznar and Blair at the Lisbon summit two years earlier.
France has continued to block liberalisation of electricity while Germany, conscious of elections in September, has guarded its generous welfare state and protective employment and company laws. Nor has Aznar found a solution to the perennial headache of Gibraltar: a power-sharing deal with Britain has so far failed to materialise.
The original intentions of the Seville summit have now been sidelined. Europes leaders of both centre-left and centre-right are frightened by the rise of the extreme right and have decided to use Seville to promote combatting illegal immigration.
Aznar said he wanted not only to tackle illegal immigration but also to regulate access to our countries of needed immigrants as well as addressing jointly the challenges of their integration in our societies.
The development of common procedures to handle migrants and asylum-seekers was never meant to have such prominence. It was originally just a part of one of Spains six priorities for presidency.
One, the successful introduction of the euro has been achieved, but economic policy co-ordination is proving more intractable and Seville will include only a nominal discussion of economic policy.
Concern is growing as to whether President Jacques Chirac will flout the EUs stated objective of balancing the French Budget in the medium term. Portuguese and German public finances have already caused the European Commission some alarm.
Spain has notably failed to achieve progress towards enlarging the EU to take in central and eastern European countries. …