When Alexis Tsipras in September 2016, activated the Southern European countries Summit in Athens, the purpose was to create in practice a narrative for the alliance of the South.
For the Greek Prime Minister it was necessary at the time, when he had been “accepted” by a large majority of the EU to take initiatives that would enhance his profile in Europe. He had already been accepted by European Socialists as they saw in him the person which they wanted to be. Young, revolutionary, for as long as his revolution lasted that is, but also deeply left wing in his way of thinking. Something which was missing for a long time from the practice of the European Socialists.
But it wasn’t only Alexis Tsipras that would gain from this summit. More or less they all wanted something to publicize under the umbrella of a strong alliance. Because participating in a seven member state summit with powerful countries such as France, Spain and Italy, is not a small matter.
Cyprus President Nikos Anastasiades, following Brexit, is looking to find new alliances within the Union, not that he had the full support of Great Britain as far as the Cyprus issue is concerned, but as a member of the Commonwealth he had another ‘deal’ in several issues. Malta also had a similar problem to Cyprus following Brexit. Two small countries, inextricably linked with the UK felt in the least embarrassed, which was evident in their attitude along with Ireland, as they did not participate in any of the extraordinary meetings of various EU countries teams on Brexit. A new dynamic alliance would be the best thing at least at the specified time.
Portugal, having formally but not substantially exited its own memorandum, is trying to heal its wounds both in society and the economy and is seeking a new role within the European Union. What better than an alliance of countries with common characteristics.
France hit by terrorism multiple times and with its economy reeling almost faithfully followed German policy on Europe, by strengthening the extreme right and populists in the country while leading society to a violent reaction. A Franco-German axis with one pole, Germany, impaired the dominant role played by France in the EU in fact and the departure of the UK would further strengthen Germany.
On the other hand, two other southern countries, Italy and Spain, rammed into political uncertainty and instability, with economic disaster only a few market decisions away accepted Tsipras’ invitation; Mateo Renzi with Italian enthusiasm and Mariano Rajoy with skepticism.
Stuck in the Spanish idolisation of the Germans and as caretaker prime minister Mariano Rajoy, did not attend the first summit, sending the Deputy European Affairs Fernando Eguidazu to represent him instead. But he represented Spain in Lisbon and invited other leaders in Spain for the third meeting of the EU countries of the South.
Although the Summit was not the priority of his government, as he has two other important issues that concern him, Catalonia and the budget, he used the summit to elicit what he wanted. Because in essence the “alliance” is the pressure point to the EU.
According to IBNA information, much of the discussion of the seven leaders was spent on the question of Gibraltar, which was strongly brought forward by the Spanish Prime Minister. As was stated to IBNA Mariano Rajoy threatened to end the summit, blocking the joint communiqué, which would also mean the beginning of the end of this “alliance”.
After consultations Rajoy was finally persuaded, that it would not be the right time to raise the issue of Gibraltar since Great Britain’s departure has not been officially stated in the EU, something which will take place in an extraordinary session in late April. That is why there was no reference to the declaration on the issue nor a leak.
But what certifies the dynamics of the Summit, which is now instituted permanently, is that it has been made clear to the leaders of the South, that only through an institutionalised summit, will they have the opportunity to pursue more matters in their favour, diminishing the strength of Germany and of its satellites as well as Poland through Visegrad, who eagerly wants to take the place of the departing Britain.
The political game is slowly but steadily changing in the EU. It remains to be seen if it will be for the benefit of European citizens or for politicians./IBNA