Plenty of EU leaders breathed a sigh of relief when JosÃ© MarÃa Aznar was ousted as Prime Minister of Spain in April 2004. The Blair-Berlusconi-Aznar triumvirate was broken and as Spanish troops left Iraq by June 2004 it looked like a new era of Spain-EU relations would be ushered in. Now almost 4 years on, and with PM Zapatero facing a general election on 9th March, where do Spain-EU relations stand? Strangely the picture is one of confusion, at least viewed from Brussels.
Spain is the 5th largest Member State, and its GDP has been growing steadily over the last decade, meaning Spain has surpassed Italy in terms of GDP per capita. Yet what are Spain’s positions on the main EU questions? It’s hard to know. Further, as the centre-left leader of a large country, why has Zapatero not been more willing to make his mark at EU level? Leadership in the PES could never be provided by Blair and even less by Brown – why has Zapatero been unable to give leadership and vision to Europe’s centre-left? For a more sceptical take on this issue, have a look at this piece in Brussels Journal.
Somehow something just seems to be missing in Spain’s relations with the EU. Let’s hope that a second Zapatero term might help to put things right.