Spain, a staunch supporter of Turkey’s membership bid, which also co-sponsors the UN Alliance of Civilizations together with Ankara, took over the rotating presidency from Sweden. It will hold the position for the next six months.
Turkey’s accession negotiations, however, are unlikely to make drastic progress during the Spanish presidency, although Turkish leaders say the process needs to speed up to avoid a further decline in public support for membership at home. The entry talks risk coming to a standstill now that a number of negotiating chapters have been frozen. The EU suspended talks on eight chapters in 2006 due to Turkey’s refusal to open its ports and airports to traffic from member Greek Cyprus, while France and Greek Cyprus have unilaterally blocked the opening of talks on a total of 10 other chapters.
Turkey and the EU opened talks on only two chapters in 2009 and progress is expected to slow down further in the coming years given the small number of chapters left open for negotiations and the level of complexity of the available chapters.
In a short video posted on the official Web site of the Spanish presidency of the EU, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero outlined the priorities for his country’s term at the helm of the EU as a smooth implementation of the Lisbon Treaty, which went into force on Dec.1, and tackling Europe’s economic woes. Zapatero said that under the Lisbon Treaty, the EU must work to assert itself more on the global stage as it deals with powerhouses like the United States and China.
“We have to make Europe an ever stronger factor in the international context; a Europe that defends and extends the values of peace, cooperation, and dialogue among all peoples and nations,” Zapatero said.
One of the key goals of the Lisbon Treaty is to streamline the EU’s decision-making procedures so the bloc can act more quickly. It also created the post of full-time president, Belgium’s Herman Van Rompuy, and named a new foreign policy chief, Britain’s Catherine Ashton, but retained the system of rotating presidencies for handling the bloc’s day-to-day affairs.
Spain will continue to chair important EU ministerial meetings on the economy, the environment and energy during its presidency and will host several summits, including one between the bloc and the United States in May which President Barack Obama is expected to attend.