Foreign Minister Steinmeier travelled to Spain on Sunday for his first official visit since returning to office. While in the Spanish capital, he had talks with his Spanish counterpart, José Manuel García‑Margallo, and with Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, the Secretary‑General of the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE). After the two meetings, Steinmeier expressed his respect to the Spanish people for the way in which the reforms had been implemented. Moreover, he stressed Germany and Spain’s common interest in not only leading Europe out of the economic crisis but also giving the continent a political future.
On Monday morning, Steinmeier first met Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, the Secretary‑General of the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE). Afterwards, he was greeted at the Palacio de Viana, the Spanish Foreign Minister’s guest house, by his opposite number, José Manuel García‑Margallo. The main topics discussed by the two Foreign Ministers were bilateral relations and the implementation of Spain’s reform agenda as well as international issues such as the Middle East peace process and the situation in Ukraine.
Europe is part of the solution
During a joint press conference with García‑Margallo, Steinmeier praised the close bilateral relations based on mutual trust between Germany and Spain. He said that this was due to the two countries’ shared interest in not only leading Europe out of the economic crisis but also giving the continent a political future. He went on to say that European governments had a special responsibility in the light of the forthcoming European elections:
All European governments have a responsibility to seek a dialogue with their citizens and to say time and again: Europe is not the problem. Rather, Europe will be part of the solution to our problems. I firmly believe that this will become evident in some months’ time.
The German Foreign Minister expressed his respect and recognition to the Spanish people for the way in which the reforms had been implemented:
I fully recognise that people in Spain have endured difficult times. I am therefore all the more pleased that although we have not yet overcome the crisis in Europe, there is some light at the end of the tunnel and we can dare to hope that conditions in the labour market will improve and that the unemployment rate in Spain will fall.
Acknowledging success and sacrifices in equal measure
Steinmeier told the Spanish daily “El País” that the years of crisis had provided a worrying boost for eurosceptics in some EU countries. He said that Spain was a “key partner” in defending the European idea:
Advancing European integration sensibly is essential if we are to leave the crisis behind us, above all the crisis in the economic and monetary union. We have to drum up support for this with sound arguments and enthusiasm. Spain is a key partner in this endeavour. Despite the crisis, the Spanish people have proven to be admirably immune to anti‑European populists.
He went on to say that Spain had left the recession behind and exited the ESM programme – that was a great success. Steinmeier stated that he was also aware of the sacrifices which many Spanish people had been forced to make. He pointed out that it was important to ensure that the economic crisis did not give rise to a political crisis in the EU. Steinmeier stressed that Germany was taking its responsibility very seriously against this background.