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Joan Prat: “The divergent interests of the member states are the main cause of the lack of a common foreign policy”

On April 25 2012, Horitzó Europa held a dinner in Brussels jointly with Catalunya Empresa Oberta, in the framework of the Sant Jordi week, organised by the Catalan Cultural Centre in Brussels. About 30 participants from diverse professional backgrounds attended the dinner-debate. Ramon Tremosa i Balcells MEP (ALDE) was also present.

Mr Prat has a long career as diplomat since 1969. Notably he was appointed head of cabinet of former European Commissioner Abel Matutes in 1986, when Spain joined the then European Economic Community. In 1990 he was appointed Director General for North-South Mediterranean Policy and Relations with Latin America and Asia, at the European Commission. From 1995 to 1996 he was Director General for External Relations of the European Commission. It was also Spain’s ambassador to Italy, Albania, Malta and San Marino, to the Netherlands and permanent representative to the Atlantic Council (NATO). On 1 March 2011 he was appointed as representative of the government of the Generalitat of Catalonia to the European Union.

Mr Prat discussed the current situation in the European Union and the Euro-Mediterranean construction process, of which he’s acquainted, having experienced the creation of the Barcelona Process. Mr Prat described the diplomatic delicacy inherent in the creation of a common Euro-Mediterranean region, given the socio-political conflicts experienced in the region. Spain’s entry into the EEC/EU, and the fact that Abel Matutes (followed by Manuel Marín) was European Commissioner for External Relations gave impetus to the Euro-Mediterranean dimension within the emergence of a common European foreign policy. Regarding the European institutions’ approach to the Mediterranean, he said it was hard to evolve from a strictly security rationale to cooperation and cultural exchange. However, there are widely divergent interests among EU Member States in terms of foreign policy preferences, which were made evident in the genesis of the European Neighbourhood Policy. Initially conceived to neighbouring countries in the east, the pressure from southern EU Member States triggered the inclusion of the southern shore of the Mediterranean in this policy. The representative explained the origin of the Union for the Mediterranean, the headquarters of which are located in Barcelona. Mr Prat also expressed his views on various topical issues in Europe, with a special focus on the financial and economic crisis and the role of Catalonia in Europe. The dinner ended with an animated Q&A session with the audience.