Spain to push for EU markets in energy, eCommerce

Spain will push for a common European market in energy and eCommerce during its six-month EU presidency, Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero told the European Parliament yesterday (20 January), adding that the EU’s ‘2020 Strategy’ for economic and social renewal would form the cornerstone of his tenure.

Presenting his country’s EU presidency priorities in Strasbourg, Zapatero made a passionate appeal for reducing the Union’s energy dependence, which he said had increased by 9% in the last decade.

These imports, which amounted to 67 billion euros per year, represented wasted monies that the EU was “transferring to other countries,” the Spanish premier warned.
“We have to put in place a common market for energy,” said Zapatero, adding that this was the best recipe for reducing Europe’s energy dependence. He said energy interconnectors and common regulatory rules were the pillars of a common energy market.

Zapatero also said his country would push for investment in digital technologies, as 40% of Europe’s growth resulted from them. However, he lamented that Europe did not possess a digital market and eCommerce was confined to national boundaries.

“If we boost digital trade, we would also boost growth in a sector with a great job creation potential,” he said.

The Spanish prime minister also called for the development of the electric car industry at EU level. Electric cars would meet several goals, including boosting innovation in technology, he said. Zapatero also made a case for improving the quality of training in European universities.

‘EU 2020’ strategy

Repeatedly using the word “change”, Zapatero said the cornerstone of his country’s EU presidency would be the adoption of the ‘EU 2020’ strategy, which is due to replace the Lisbon Strategy for growth and jobs, adopted in the Portuguese capital ten years ago.

Within this strategy, he said his country would push for a “new social pact” between enterprises and workers as “social sustainability” needed to be enshrined in the new agenda.

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso backed Zapatero, calling for “strong coordination mechanisms” to accompany the EU 2020 strategy. He warned that if “some leaders” continued to oppose strong mechanisms of economic governance, as had been the case with the Lisbon Strategy, Europe would remain at best a zone of sluggish growth.

“EU 2020 is to connect the European project to the needs of our citizens,” Barroso argued, indicating that he envisaged a three-step approach to win member-state approval for the new strategy – the informal EU Council on 11 February, the 25-26 March Spring EU summit, and the 17-18 June summit, at which the final strategy is expected to be adopted.

In the meantime, consultations with the European Parliament will be ongoing, he said.

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