With the Treaty of Lisbon, the role of the rotating Council Presidency will shrink in the field of foreign policy. It will no longer be part of the famous troika, which, from now on, will be made up of the European Council President, the EU High Representative and the Commission President. Yet Spain sees its time at the helm as "a transition presidency" and therefore aims to influence the EU agenda.

Some ten summits are planned during the six-month presidency, several of them in Spain - EU-Latin America (May in Madrid), EU-United States ( May or June in Madrid), EU-Morocco (March in Granada), EU-Pakistan (April in Madrid), EU-Mexico (May in Santander) and EU-Egypt (June in Barcelona) - despite the fact that all such summits should now take place in Brussels. The Spaniards point out that these meetings had to be planned well in advance, before there could be any certainty over the Lisbon Treaty's entry into force.

Jose Luis Zapatero was perfectly clear, however: it is Herman Von Rompuy who will chair these summits and the head of the Spanish government will merely host them. Zapatero will not participate in the summits held in third countries, namely Japan, Canada and Russia. While Zapatero does not seem to regret having to hand over the star billing, doing so seems harder for Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos.

Indeed, Catherine Ashton will chair meetings of foreign ministers, not Moratinos. He has pledged to remain "entirely at the disposal" of the new High Representative. On an issue like the Middle East, he will contribute his "modest experience" as the EU's former special representative to the region, but "she has not delegated the matter", he added. Moratinos will, however, head an informal (Gymnich) meeting in Cordoba in early March.


Moratinos wants to push for a bilateral cooperation agreement between the EU and Cuba. Relations between Havana and the EU are subject to a 1996 "common position," which links political dialogue to the respect of rights and freedoms on the Communist island. Spain was at the front of the queue in seeking to lift European sanctions and renew cooperation between Brussels and Havana in 2008. The situation had been frozen since 2003 because of the...

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