Sanchez defends role of Spain-Italy axis in promotion of European funds

The Spanish President and the Italian President, Mario Draghi, intend to intensify relations between the two countries and increase their "protagonism" in the EU

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The Spanish President, Pedro Sánchez, and the Italian, Mario Draghi, this Friday at the conference of the Círculo de Economía, at the W hotel in Barcelona.

Barcelona"Together we are stronger". Pedro Sánchez and Mario Draghi have relaunched relations between Spain and Italy this Friday with the same motto. The two presidents, who met in Barcelona for the conference of the Cercle d'Economia and the Forum of Dialogue between the two countries, have proposed to intensify the "collaboration" both bilaterally and within the framework of the European Union (EU). Sánchez, in fact, has equated the Franco-German axis to the one formed by Spain and Italy. If the alliance between Paris and Berlin is "the lung that breathes air into European progress", he said, the other "can be considered the heart of the European project". And he added that, without going any further, the agreement on the Next Generation European funds "would not be a reality" if it had not been for "the contribution to the debate and the dynamisation" of the Spanish and Italian governments in the most difficult moments as a result of the pandemic. "We are part of the strategy of European funds [...] and we will deepen our relations," agreed Draghi, who received the medal of honour from employers' organization Foment del Treball.

The head of the state executive wanted to make it very clear that the EU's future is at stake with the implementation of post-pandemic funds, and was convinced that Spain and Italy - the two largest recipients in absolute terms, as the most affected by the covid-19 - will be "key pieces" in its success. According to him, implementing the recovery plans of the two governments will not only transform their respective economies, but will open a "new stage" that will allow the two countries to have "more protagonism" in Europe. "It is time to imbue European debates with a Mediterranean identity," he said, after highlighting that Italy and Spain jointly account for 25% of the Eurozone's GDP. "This is the real weight of the two countries when they go together. And we put this strength at the service of Europe," he insisted.

All in all, the leader of the PSOE has defined the bases of the greatest relationship that he proposes between Spain and Italy. "Our goal is to expand the number of projects of special interest for the two countries," he said, but also added his intention to promote "even more" bilateral trade and establish new alliances in areas such as the development of renewable hydrogen, digital transformation and industrial development. Draghi, who in the morning received the European Construction Award from the Cercle d'Economia, took up the gauntlet by reiterating that the relationship should not be one of "competition" but of "benefits for both countries", and gave an example: last year Italy exported goods to Spain worth €20bn, and the same figure was exported in the opposite direction. In addition, Italian direct investments in Spain are over €40bn, whilst Italy has received €11bn of Spanish direct investments. "Such solid relations are decisive just now when we have to talk about the recovery from the pandemic and define policies and investments for the future," he concluded.