Spain took over the Council Presidency of the European Union in July 2023, encompassing the trio Presidency with Belgium and Hungary. Europe is facing immense pressure from the global economy resulting from side-effects of regional security issues in its Eastern Neighborhood. How does Spain envisage to create resilience in times of turmoil?
One of the main priorities of the Presidency program is the reindustrialization of the EU which can enable a more strategically autonomous posture in the face of global challenges. Migration, pandemics and war have created a perpetual cycle of challenges together with technological advancement which the European Union needs to respond to. The current crossroads and the path the EU member states take will determine the future of the continent and its role in the global, international order. While globalization created immense openness and interdependencies, the challenges we face have shown how fragile the global economy and supply chains are and how Europe can quickly fall behind in global competitiveness. The areas of health, digitalization, defense and agriculture have become increasingly important. This provides the Spain with new impetus and opportunities to attract businesses, talent and jobs to counter external vulnerabilities.
The ambition of the Presidency is to make Europe a global leader in strategic sectors by the next decade which is inspired by the March 2022 Versailles Declaration signed by all EU member states. In bolstering defense capabilities, the EU is increasing its defense funding for capabilities development and cutting back parallel structures. Joint defense investments and procurement as well as civil-military cooperation involving small and medium enterprises can help counter threats from abroad may that be in the physical or digital space. Strategic hybrid warfare and disinformation campaigns from the Eastern flank is ever increasing, while migratory pressures from the South require different methods.
There is no European security without the Western Balkans, meaning that expanding the Schengen borders can help increase the security of the whole EU. This is why the European Political Community will remain a high-level political forum to discuss energy, security and resilience with neighbors. While the war in Ukraine instigated by Russia will continue to pose a direct challenge to the continent’s security and stability, this means that there is more room and flexibility to create a real European Defense Community. Becoming autonomous not only means to provide security, energy and food for yourself, but to create strategic partnerships which are necessary, to become more autonomous from negative dependencies. Positive signs are on the horizon, since Spain is ambitious in reviving the stalled EU-Mercosur agreement. This would provide a positive strategic choice, where the EU can become a third pole alongside the United States and China.
The upcoming 1,5 years for Spain, Belgium and Hungary will be challenging, however all countries are working towards one goal, to create a stronger, more prosperous and livable continent. It is important to stick together in difficult moments such as the continent now faces, which is why political coordination on the highest levels will be crucial to make Europe a better place for the generations to come. European decision-makers and institutions will need to shift their focus from short-term politicking to long-term strategic thinking for Europe to have its own say in global affairs.
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