Macron in Barcelona to seal Franco-Spanish friendship

MADRID: Fresh from overcoming one of their rare differences, France and Spain will celebrate the rapprochement of their relationship in Barcelona on Thursday. A rapprochement with a meddling southern neighbor amid fluent French-German dialogue.

Although the mass mobilization of labor unions against the pension reform is expected in France, French President Emmanuel Macron will sign a friendship agreement with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez aimed at strengthening cooperation in various fields between the two countries.

This treaty is the third treaty signed by France in Europe, following the Elysée Treaty initialed with Germany in 1963 and supplemented by the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 2019 and the Quirinal Treaty signed with Italy in November. 2021.

The signing comes three months after the agreement between the two countries and Portugal to bury the Midcat gas pipeline project opposed by Paris and replace it with a “green” hydrogen pipeline connecting Barcelona and Marseille.

“Barcelona has been chosen to celebrate the ‘friendship and cooperation’ between the two countries because it will be at the center of this strategic project,” Spanish government spokeswoman Isabel Rodríguez said recently.

Spain, backed by Germany, actually wanted to restart Midcat to transport gas arriving via France to multiple LNG terminals in northern Europe, faced with Russian gas cuts.

But the energy crisis did not allow Spain’s left-wing government to change its mind in Paris.

Backed by Brussels, the two countries have finally agreed on the H2Med project, a pipeline to transport hydrogen from renewable electricity from the Iberian Peninsula to the north of the EU, aiming to become the champion of this energy in the future. France.

The project, which was launched with great fanfare in early December, will cost around 2.5 billion euros, if the schedule is followed, and it will be operational around 2030.

“Assume” differences with Berlin

Like the Treaty of Quirinal, this Treaty of Barcelona was ultimately intended to stonewall the strengthening of Paris’ relations with neighbors other than Germany.

However, the Quirinal Treaty did not prevent intense tensions between Paris and Rome last November, almost a year after its signing, when the new Italian government refused to accept several hundred migrants stranded on Italian shores.

“We waited too long before we reconciled our differences with Germany,” a lawmaker from the French president’s Renaissance Party said recently on condition of anonymity.

This led to the “missing of many meetings with other European countries on certain topics over the course of 30 years under the guise of relations with Berlin.”

After that, he said, referring to the Quirinal Treaty or France’s close relations with Spain and Greece, “we are more accepting of these differences and building partnerships with other countries” in southern Europe.

Relations between Paris and Berlin have recently been plagued by a series of disputes from energy to defense, leading to the postponement of a Franco-German Council of Ministers scheduled for late October.

Tensions have since eased, and the council will be held in Paris on January 22, a symbolic date that will coincide with the sixtieth anniversary of the Elysée Treaty.

A demonstration of independence

Apart from the future green hydrogen pipeline, Pedro Sánchez chose Barcelona for the summit to signal a calmer situation in northeastern Spain, Catalonia, the scene of a 2017 secession attempt.

Socialist Mr. Sánchez, who came to power in 2018, has made this appeasement one of his top priorities. He resumed dialogue in parliament with some separatists who supported his chief executive and pardoned separatist leaders in 2021 who were sentenced to prison for their role in the events of 2017.

But if the region’s separatist president, Pere Aragones, attends the summit, his party and other separatist organizations will simultaneously demonstrate outside against his celebration.

“No colonial state will be the tomb of our nation,” the ANC Independence Association tweeted.

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