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Looking carefully at the Spanish priorities, it is clear that the Presidency has set, like most every Presidency, very ambitious goals in too many areas. As a consequence, Spain seems very unfocused, and from the proposed priorities it is very difficult to draw a clear direction, a political ambition.

As you know, the upcoming Spanish Presidency has given little indication as to what their specific priorities will be for their term in office during the first 6 months of 2010. However, with the start of the Presidency now just weeks away, some first indications as to the likely directions are beginning to emerge.

On the basis on our contacts within the Permanent Representation, and on the information published by the presidency so far, please find below an insight into the main political priorities on the policy agenda from 1 January – 30 June 2009.

The Spanish EU Presidency

With its participation for more than two decades in the development of the European Union, Spain is confident that it has the experience, resources and proven political and diplomatic capacity to successfully face this challenge.

In keeping with usual EU practice, the Spanish Presidency is working together with Belgium and Hungary (the 2 successive Presidencies) so as to get a better policy outlook for the coming year and a half. The trio of Presidencies will focus on:

– The social agenda
– The Energy Plan for 2010-2012
– Implementation of the climate change package and the agreements reached in Copenhagen
– The economic strategy post-Lisbon
– Europe’s area of freedom, security and justice
– The implementation of the Lisbon Treaty

The main challenges Spain will face will be the implementation of the legal and institutional framework under Lisbon and the work of the Presidency with the current and recently nominated President of the Council, Mr Herman Van Rompuy.

Furthermore, the economic crisis, which has had dramatic effects in Spain, will certainly impact the level of expenditure of the rotating Presidency. In the past, the costs of holding the EU presidency have dramatically escalated, something which Spain will be looking to keep a lid on.

As has been highlighted recently by several commentators, the difficult internal economic situation in the EU, combined with the busy international agenda, will require some ambi¬tious and proactive leadership from Spain as it takes over the EU Presidency. In addition, with a new Parliament and a new Commission in place, Spain will have to win the trust and the support of the new EU decision-makers in order to promote its own social model for the EU.

The priorities of the Spanish Presidency are as follow:

Social and Employment Policy

The Spanish EU Presidency is likely to be very much centred on the social agenda as the Spanish Government seeks to promote a “Europe of human dignity, liberty, equality and solidarity, and a Europe of democracy”. In concrete terms, this will entail a strong focus on the full implementation of the Stockholm Program on the European space of liberty, security and justice, which will be approved at the European Council of December.

As regards immigration, Spain will work towards a final consolidation of the “global focus” which has three objectives: the fight against illegal immigration, channelling and reinforcing legal immigration and obtaining commitments of readmission for immigrants.

Another of Spain’s priorities will be to seek international cooperation in the fight against terrorism, organized crime and drug trafficking. In this sense, Ms de la Vega, the Spanish Vice-President, has emphasised that the Presidency aims to step up efforts to protect the most vulnerable groups in society, such as children, violence victims and victims of terrorism. Spain is also planning to give a special priority to the promotion of equality and fighting discrimination.

In the context of economic crisis, the Presidency of 2010 will have a central strategic objective: to help the EU to exit from the crisis so that it can take a lead internationally and boost the creation of employment. New initiatives in the field of employment are also likely to be pushed during the Spanish Presidency’s 6 months term, in particular as they seek to get a compromise on the Working Time Directive.

Agriculture

With respect to agriculture, Spain will seek to consolidate EU agricultural policy under the CAP for the next phase (as of 2013) including looking at the appropriate financial tools to correct the current imbalances of the market. Likewise, Spain will promote the adaptation of the agriculture sector to the demands of climate change through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, whilst presenting the contribution of this sector to CO2 mitigation.

The Spanish Government considers also views the protection of the forests as fundamental in terms of preventing natural catastrophes and forest fires.

Environment

Water sustainability will be a central theme of the Presidency, and many conferences are expected to be organised on this topic during the 6-month mandate. The Spanish government will work on the strategy for water scarcity and droughts envisaged for 2012 and on the revision of the drinking water Directive. Steps will also be taken to promote the assessment and management of critical water-related problems such as extreme events (flood, excess water, water scarcity and accidental water pollution), climate change and endangered ecosystems.

In the area of environment, the Spanish EU Presidency will also focus on:

• Ensuring the implementation of the Copenhagen commitments – the commitment towards a 30% greenhouse emissions reduction will be examined in light of the outcome of the Copenhagen talks.

• Defining strategies on climate change adaptation and mitigation and addressing the measures already needed ahead of the implementation of the 2013 EU Adaptation Strategy.

• Evaluating the results and new challenges of biodiversity – the Presidency intends to develop a post 2010 Action Plan with a view to improve the status of biodiversity in the EU, notably as regards new threats such as invasive alien species, and the impacts of climate change on biodiversity and natural resources.

Other issues of relevance will be finding political coordination on environmental quality, promoting legislation on environmental assessments and taking work forward on CO2 emissions reduction from light commercial vehicles and the forthcoming communication on CO2 emissions from shipping. Furthermore, the Spanish Presidency intends to restart discussions on soil protection in 2010
At multilateral level, the preparation of the COP-UNFCCC 16 will also be considered as a priority.

Energy

In the field of energy, energy efficiency and solar power will be the focus of the Spanish Presidency.
As regards renewable energies, the Presidency has announced that it will promote the use of renewable sources, with a special interest in solar energy, through awareness raising and possibly the exchange of best practices amongst the 27 Member States.

Furthermore, the Spanish Presidency will promote the “Mediterranean Solar Plan”, which – as part of the Union for the Mediterranean plans launched by the previosu French EU Presidency– aims to define objectives and renewable energies projects in the southern Mediterranean countries.

The Spanish Presidency will also promote as of January further cooperation with south America on energy issues and, namely as regards energy efficiency and renewable energies. Furthermore, it will revise the common plan of action 2007-2012 on energy efficiency, in which we find regulations concerning construction products and buildings.

The Spanish Presidency has also indicated that renovation of old houses and their transformation into more sustainable buildings will be part of their “integral urban renovation”: The Spanish Presidency will therefore seek to

• Improve the sustainability of EU cities;

• Encourage innovative and integrated urban policies that respond to the social, economic and environmental challenges.

Other initiatives on the agenda will include actions on mobility, as the Presidency seeks to promote public transportation and the take up of the electric car, as well as progressing with the Directive on the energy end-use efficiency.

Consumer protection

As regards consumer protection, priority will be given to the proposed Directive on consumer rights. In view of the complexity of this proposal, work may stretch over the period covered by the next three Presidencies (Spanish, Belgian, Hungarian).

The mid-term evaluation of the EU action in the field of consumer policy (2007-2013) will be carried out in 2010. The Commission may also come forward with a proposal on consumer’s
collective redress.

Health

Tackling health inequalities based on socio-economic criteria will be one of the priorities in terms of health. The Council is backing this initiative and hence the Spanish Presidency is planning an informal Council meeting on the 22nd and 23rd of April and will aim for a formal adoption on the 7thand 8th of June.

Transplants and chronic diseases – in particular cardiovascular and mental health of the elderly – are on top of the agenda. Other issues that will be dealt with in the area of health are:

• E-health: the Spanish Presidency plans on adopting conclusions on e-health as well as a joint action to be financed by the EU during a ministerial meeting in March.

• Patient security: The Presidency will focus on risks linked to hospitalisation. The Presidency also wants to address the issue of how to tackle new diseases and techniques and the negative effects these can have on patient security.

Regarding obesity and overweight populations, the upcoming Presidency believes this is an important issue (in particular in view of the success of the Spanish Strategy “NAOS”). The Presidency will prefer “soft instruments” such as events and conferences to raise awareness about the issue, rather than legislative initiatives. In this context a conference will be organised in Madrid in the month of June on the issue of salt consumption.

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