Macron and Sanchez seal Franco-Spanish friendship with great fanfare

French President Emmanuel Macron and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez signed a “friendship and cooperation treaty” in Barcelona on Thursday, taking the relationship between Paris and Madrid to the highest level, as the Franco-German duo go through a difficult stage.

This treaty, which provides for a strengthening of the bilateral relationship on migration, defence, energy and youth issues, was initialed by the two leaders under the dome of the National Art Museum of Catalonia.

“Highly symbolic” for the French presidency, it is only the third of its kind signed in Europe by France after that of the Elysée, initialed in 1963 with Germany and since completed by that of Aix-la-Chapelle in 2019, and that of the Quirinal, signed with Italy in 2021.

Spain has only signed a comparable treaty with Portugal.

– Pension reform –

Chance of the calendar, the French head of state will spend the whole day in the Catalan metropolis at the very moment when, in France, the demonstrations and massive strikes began against his pension reform.

Discreet in recent days on the major reform of his second term, he may have to comment on this social mobilization during his joint press conference with the head of the Spanish government, or during a speech planned before the French community.

By initialing a new friendship treaty with a neighbor in southern Europe, Paris wants to set in stone the strengthening of its relations with neighbors other than Germany at a time when the Franco-German engine of the EU often appeared short of breath.

The Franco-Spanish treaty is “very important. Because basically the linguistic, cultural and economic life (between the two countries) was far ahead of the political structure. We have a real relationship of friendship with Pedro Sanchez. And so there, we are really going to give a framework”, underlined Mr. Macron in an interview published Thursday by the daily El Pais.

Relations between Paris and Berlin have recently suffered from several disputes, from energy to defence, which led to a postponement of the Franco-German Council of Ministers scheduled for the end of October. Tensions have since subsided and this council will take place on January 22 in Paris, a symbolic date which will coincide with the sixtieth anniversary of the Elysée Treaty.

– “Common line” on the Biden plan –

According to the Elysée, Emmanuel Macron also had in mind to concretize in Barcelona a “common line with Madrid” on the European response to the Inflation Reduction Act, the massive investment plan of American President Joe Biden in the energy transition. .

The French president, who had denounced at the end of November in Washington “super aggressive” American subsidies, wants an equally massive action from the EU and rapid decisions to prevent the flight of European companies attracted by American aid.

A firm tone towards the United States that the Spanish Prime Minister did not adopt.

From Davos, Pedro Sanchez contented himself on Monday, on the American channel CNBC, with noting that the EU had to “do its homework” and reform its own policy on state aid in order to send companies “the message that Europe, and of course Spain, is a good place” to invest.

The signing of the Franco-Spanish treaty comes three months after the lifting of one of the main disagreements between the two countries which decided, with Portugal, to bury the “Midcat” gas pipeline project, which Paris opposed, for the replace it with a “green” hydrogen pipeline linking Barcelona to Marseille and called “H2Med”.

Barcelona was precisely chosen by Mr. Sanchez as the host city of the summit to underline the importance of this strategic project but also to show that the situation has calmed down in Catalonia, the scene of an attempt at secession in 2017.

Not seeing it that way, several thousand Catalan separatists demonstrated Thursday morning near the summit to protest against its holding, to cries of “neither France nor Spain!”.

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