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Zapatero defends Spain's EU presidency

Mon 28th Jun 2010

The Spanish Prime Minister defended Spain's performance during its six-month European Union presidency, which the opposition slammed as lacklustre and low-profile.

Spain's performance had been "satisfactory," and Spain had felt "useful" Zapatero told parliament as Madrid prepared to hand the rotating EU presidency over to Belgium on July 1.

Spain's financial difficulties have been seen as having dented trust in its capacity to steer the EU out of its economic crisis, but Zapatero said the EU had given "firm" support to economic policies advocated by Spain.

Last week's EU summit had taken an "irreversible" decision to act together against the crisis, the premier said, stressing the summit's approval of a Spanish proposal to make bank stress tests public.

That measure, which will be applied in the second half of July, was "fundamental to restore calm in the markets and to stem unjustified speculation" he said.

The Spanish EU presidency had met its two main goals, Zapatero said.

They were the full application of the EU's Lisbon Treaty - which introduced new decision-making mechanisms including a permanent EU president and a de-facto foreign minister - and increasing coordination to revive the economy, he explained.

Zapatero deplored the cancellation of EU summits with the Union for the Mediterranean and with the United States, but denied that the latter had affected relations between Brussels and Washington.

The EU-US summit was called off after US President Barack Obama cancelled his attendance, while the Mediterranean summit was postponed after Arab countries opposed the participation of Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

Conservative opposition leader Mariano Rajoy slammed the Spanish EU presidency as "mediocre" and said it had turned Spain into an EU "protectorate."

Rajoy was referring to EU calls on Spain to adopt reforms to stabilise its economy amid fears that Spain could face a Greek-style debt crisis.

"We have ended up with an economy subjected to outside intervention, a protectorate that was established because the European partners did not trust your governance" Rajoy told Zapatero in parliament.

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