French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday made his first official visit to Spain, where he met with Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to discuss cooperation on immigration, euro zone reform and other issues aimed at increasing EU integration.
The meeting between Sánchez, 46, and Macron, 40, led to an eight-point document called the Declaration of Madrid, in which Spain and France support the promotion of “disembarkation platforms” and “controlled centers” to process asylum requests or return refused applicants to their countries of origin.
Macron and Sánchez’s meeting has coincided with a spike in immigration to Spain
The document also suggests holding a regional meeting in Spain of European ministers to discuss immigration issues.
The Declaration of Madrid underscores that Spain and France “share the same vision on immigration,” and that cooperation among EU members states is a necessary condition “to build a migratory model based on solidarity and respect for human rights.”
Earlier this year Macron had met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss the need for “closed centers” within EU territory to hold migrants until authorities determine how many will be shared out among member states without triggering more domestic political crises. Sánchez accepted that proposal at the time, even though government sources said he was not too pleased with it, in order to show a willingness to work closely with countries considered to be at the core of the EU.
That early proposal was later modified, with EU authorities supporting taking those migrant selection platforms to locations outside the EU. Following a meeting of the European Council, the need to prioritize agreements with countries of origin and transit became evident.
This has been Spain’s position since 2006, when the country experienced its first massive immigration flows. Around 39,000 people arrived on the shores of the Canary Islands that year, and Spain reached deals with Senegal and Mauritania involving millions of euros in aid. Migration flows from Mauritania have since dried up completely.
Macron and Sánchez’s meeting has coincided with a spike in immigration to Spain. Government sources did not link this increase with any hypothetical diplomatic spat with Morocco, which also has an immigration deal with Spain.
Spain’s Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said that when Italy closed its doors to immigration via the central Mediterranean, the flows moved west towards Morocco and Spain.
At a joint press conference with Macron in La Moncloa, the seat of government, Sánchez was asked about early elections, a controversy surrounding former king Juan Carlos, and his own recent trip on an official aircraft that critics say was used to attend a music concert.
Regarding secret recordings made by a former policeman who is under investigation for corrupt practices, and suggesting that former king Juan Carlos may have concealed assets abroad, Sánchez said that “nobody should doubt that we are not going to accept any attempts at blackmailing the state.”
The PM also insisted that his plans are to hold elections in 2020 and not earlier. Sánchez gained power on June 1 after leading a successful no-confidence vote against Mariano Rajoy, and he says that he plans to serve out the rest of the term in order “to bring stability to the country” and bring back social benefits that were lost during the economic crisis.
As for his trip to Castellón last week, where he met with regional officials and attended a concert by The Killers at the FIB festival in Benicassim, Sánchez said the controversy was “fake and artificial” and that decisions on this type of travel are made by “the security department at La Moncloa.”
English version by Susana Urra.