Spanish PM downplays Obama’s decision to skip summit

February 5th, 2010 - 9:45 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Washington, Feb 5 (IANS/EFE) Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said “it’s not a problem” that President Barack Obama decided not to attend the European Union (EU)-US summit set for May in Madrid.
At a meeting with the editorial board of The Washington Post Thursday, Zapatero said he understands Obama’s need “to leave more space between his visits to Europe”, where he toured six times during his first year in office.

“Obama has an open door in Europe,” the Spanish premier told The Post. “There is a very positive attitude. We shouldn’t be thinking about what Obama can do for us, but what we can do for Obama.”

“In this first year of Obama, we had a very intensive relationship,” Zapatero said.

Zapatero, whose nation currently holds the EU rotating presidency, also talked about the need to renew the trans-Atlantic agenda, signed in 1995 by former US president Bill Clinton and then-Spanish prime minister Felipe Gonzalez.

The Spanish leader said the renewal is needed to prevent Europe and the US from being displaced from their world leadership roles by emerging powers like China and India.

US media have been pointing out that the lack of a concrete agenda at earlier US-EU summits was one of the factors contributing to Obama’s decision not to travel to Madrid in May.

Earlier Thursday, Zapatero attended the US National Prayer Breakfast as Obama’s guest.

After that event, and along with Spanish businessmen, Zapatero took part in a lunch and symposium at the US Chamber of Commerce.

The event was closed to the press, but Spanish officials told EFE the prime minister outlined his government’s plan to reduce Spain’s budget deficit to three percent of gross domestic product by 2013.

After noting that the US is the No. 1 investor in Spain, Zapatero expressed his government’s wish for “a new wave of (US) investment” in Spain.

In remarks late Thursday to the Atlantic Council, Zapatero paid tribute to the soldiers who have died in Afghanistan and guaranteed that Spain has the determination to remain in that country to “get it afloat” and build a democracy.

Spain has around 1,000 troops serving in the South Asian country with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.

In a conversation after the prayer breakfast, Obama expressed to Zapatero his interest in “continuing to develop good relations” between the two countries, the White House said.

–IANS/EFE

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