Spanish EU presidency to focus on economic recovery | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 01.01.2010
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Europe

Spanish EU presidency to focus on economic recovery

Spanish Premier Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has outlined his country's main goals for its six-month presidency of the European Union, with a bloc-wide economic recovery at the top of the agenda.

Spain's Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero during a news conference

Zapatero says economies shouldn't recover at the expense of the people

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, whose country assumed the rotating EU presidency on Friday, says helping the economies of the 27-nation bloc recover from the financial crisis will be his country's most important task over the next six months.

Zapatero, who has led his country since 2004, said achieving an EU-wide economic recovery would come from making European economies "more productive, innovative and sustainable."

"Europe needs far-reaching changes"

He said however that this should not be accomplished at the expense of ordinary Europeans.

"To achieve this we must rely on both workers and businesses, to make our companies more productive and our workforce better qualified without losing sight of that great European symbol: the welfare state and social policies," Zapatero said Friday in a video posted on the Spanish government's official EU presidency Web site.

"In addition to this priority, the key objective for this new period in the European Union after the Lisbon Treaty is to make Europe an increasingly important player on the international stage," he added.

"Europe has been in need of more far-reaching changes for some time. It needs its citizens to feel closer to its institutions and understand that the basic reference point of the European organization, the European government and the 27 European Union member states, is the policies and initiatives which directly affect its people."

Spain has work cut out

Zapatero's comments at a time when Spain faces severe challenges to its own economy at home.

With unemployment at about 20 percent and the downgrading this month of its debt outlook by ratings agency Standard & Poor's, Spain is among the worst affected by the economic crisis and may struggle to pursue an ambitious economic agenda.

Spain assumed the EU presidency from Sweden, which led the bloc for the previous six months. Madrid's tenure as chief coordinator of EU events for the next half year comes following the ratification and enactment of the reforming Lisbon Treaty.

Unlike any previous EU president nation, Spain must now work alongside a new full-time EU president - Belgian Herman Van Rompuy - and foreign policy chief - Briton Catherine Ashton.

dfm/dpa/AP

Editor: Sonia Phalnikar

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