FRANCE/ SPAIN: French President Emmanuel Macron and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez met in Barcelona on Thursday and signed a friendship treaty to strengthen the ties between the European neighbours.
The one-day conference in Barcelona coincides with a day of major strikes and demonstrations on the other side of the Pyrenees against Macron’s proposal to increase the retirement age from 62 to 64.
Both nations view this as a relationship of the highest diplomatic calibre. France has similar agreements with Germany and Italy, whereas Spain only has them with Portugal. The leaders are vying for more powerful positions within the EU.
Macron is positioning himself as the continent’s top politician to fill the position left vacant by former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, while Sanchez wants Spain to play a more significant role in Brussels in the wake of Britain’s exit from the bloc.
In recent years, France and Spain have gotten closer after years of cordial but occasionally distant relations.
France, Spain, and Portugal have agreed to build a substantial undersea pipeline to transport hydrogen from the Iberian Peninsula to France and eventually the rest of Europe.The H2Med pipeline will connect Barcelona with Marseille.
The European energy market needs to be reformed in order to address the energy crisis brought on by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to both Macron and Sanchez.
The gathering is taking place at the National Art Museum of Catalonia, which is positioned atop the Montjuic hill and provides views of Barcelona.
Thousands of Catalan separatists are demonstrating outside in an effort to revive their sagging cause and create a breakaway state in this region of northeastern Spain that borders France. The sound of distant jeers can be heard from far away as Macron and Sanchez review Spanish troopers before the national anthems begin to play upon their arrival.
Sanchez has invested a significant amount of political capital in quelling the separatist movement, with pardons to the jailed leaders of a thwarted 2017 secession attempt and passing subsequent legal amendments.
Even while that was successful in easing tensions in Catalonia, a hardline faction still exists that won’t go away.