Josep Borrell: Spain’s influence on EU is ‘negligible’

Former Parliament president Josep Borrell (L) meets current incumbent Martin Schulz. [European Parliament]

Former President of the European Parliament Josep Borrell has criticised Spain’s role in European politics over the last decade and Mariano Rajoy’s role in forwarding Spanish interests.

“We’ve done so little in Europe and in the last few years, our presence has been totally negligible,” Josep Borrell told EFE. Borrell held the presidency of the Parliament from 2004 to 2007 and chaired the institution’s Committee on Development from 2007 to 2010.

The current acting head of the Spanish government, Mariano Rajoy (PP), “has been a willing student of Mrs Merkel” on economic policy, alluding to Germany’s chancellor, who has “caused much pain for society”. Borrell then added that “the problem is no longer economic, it is social and political, and the results have been very questionable in terms of efficacy”.

Spain held a “leadership role” in Europe when the socialist governments of Felipe González (PSOE) held power in Madrid, said Borrell, who held a cabinet post under Spain’s longest serving prime minister. He added that he believed that role began to diminish during José María Aznar’s (PP) premiership towards the end of the millennium.

“From then on we began to slide towards irrelevance. Even under Zapatero (José Luis Rodríguez) things weren’t much better. We have to call it what it was: a lack of political investment in Europe,” he argued, adding that Rajoy has continued to squander what remained of their leadership role.

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Regarding his time as President of the European Parliament, Borrell recalled that it was a very “vibrant and intense” period. “Those were the years of France and the Netherlands saying ‘no’ to the constitution and the accession of the eastern countries to the bloc. We were trying to rebuild the ‘still-born’ constitutional treaty as the Lisbon Treaty,” he continued.

“The day the French said no, it was like we were left at the altar; we were asking ourselves what we were going to do next.” Although the Constitutional Treaty ultimately failed, Borrell and all those involved feel they had a hand in building the EU, through their membership of the Convention on the Future of Europe.

The body, led by Valéry Giscard d’Estaing and established by the European Council when it met in Laeken in 2001, was tasked with producing a draft constitution.

Borrell maintains that the current Treaty of Lisbon “isn’t that different” and that it is only lacking elements such as the anthem and flag that were proposed by the Convention.


It has been 30 years since both Spain and Portugal formally joined the European Union, then known as the European Economic Community, which brought the total number of member states to 12.

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