Emmanuel Macron would he try to escape the strike and the massive demonstrations against his pension reform?

In any case, the President of the Republic is not in France but in Spain, Thursday January 19, to celebrate the “friendship” between these two countries during a summit in Barcelona.

Concretely - far from banners and hostile slogans - the two leaders signed a "treaty of friendship and cooperation" to strengthen the bilateral relationship on migration, defence, energy and youth issues.

No less than eleven ministers – that is a quarter of the French government – ​​made the trip to Barcelona to attend the event celebrated with great fanfare at the National Art Museum of Catalonia.

It must be said that the moment is historic.

This treaty is only the third of its kind signed by France in Europe: the first dates back to 1963 with Germany – since completed by that of Aix-la-Chapelle in 2019 – and the last, known as "the Quirinal", was was initialed with Italy in 2021.

Macron arrived in Barcelona under a beautiful winter sun for a long-planned summit, while in France begins the social mobilization against his pension reform #AFP pic.twitter.com/UMwhXI8xkJ

— Francesco Fontemaggi (@ffontemaggi) January 19, 2023

This treaty is above all strategic.

This Franco-Spanish partnership comes at a time when Paris' relations with its main European neighbors are not looking good.

The good understanding with Italy has gone down the drain since the arrival of far-right leader Giorgia Meloni at the head of the Italian Council.

And the Franco-German couple lives a relationship punctuated by estrangements.

If the European tandem should try next Sunday to play on good terms on the occasion of the visit to Paris of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the reconciliation treaty between France and Germany, the disputes between the two countries on energy or defense remain serious.

"The horizon clears"

It is therefore not surprising that Paris should look elsewhere and turn to this precious ally.

Until then, relations between Paris and Madrid were mainly undermined by the Basque terrorism of ETA.

The bickering over agriculture has also long bogged down good neighborly relations between France and Spain.

Three months ago, an energy crisis, exacerbated by the MidCat project – abbreviation of Midi (southern France) and Catalonia (north-eastern Spain) – poisoned relations between Madrid and Paris.

This gas pipeline, which was to allow Spain and Portugal to transport gas (coming in the form of LNG from the United States or Qatar) to Central Europe via France, came up against an end of no -receive from the French President due to environmental considerations.

But on this point again, the two capitals have found common ground.

The project called "H2Med", which connects Barcelona to Marseille by a "green" hydrogen pipeline, has everyone in agreement.

The choice to sign this treaty in Barcelona therefore owes nothing to chance, it symbolizes the end of the recent tensions between the two countries.


By 2030, the BarMar gas pipeline must connect Barcelona to Marseille and transport essentially decarbonated hydrogen.

© France 24

Today, "the horizon is clearing up, says Christophe Barret, historian and specialist in Spain, author of 'The Catalonian War' (ed. du Cerf). Spain has fallen far behind in its diplomatic relations , in particular because of the crisis of the Catalan separatists, but it is relaunching its relations at all levels. Even if the separatist feeling is more present than ever in the region, the country is moving towards a normalization of the situation, in particular with the judicial reform business."

The Spanish Senate indeed definitively adopted on December 22 a controversial reform of the Penal Code removing the offense for which nine Catalan separatist leaders were convicted for their role in the 2017 secession attempt.

"Interconnection" between Paris and Madrid

On the financial level, "Madrid has also been able to give pledges to the European Union. Today, the country is opening up entirely to the outside world with various projects, in particular memorial projects by opening its archives and working actively on the memory issue.

In short, as summarized by the Barcelona daily La Vanguardia, "40 years ago, the keyword between Paris and Madrid was ETA".

Forty years later, "the keyword is interconnection."


The "interconnection" was not however obvious from an ideological point of view between Emmanuel Macron, located in the center of the political spectrum, and Pedro Sanchez, a socialist allied to the far left party Podemos.

"But the two men, ardent Europhiles, were able to find favorable ground within Europe, notes Christophe Barret. It is also possible that cooperation in environmental matters will arise from this meeting because Spain, a leader in the field wind turbines or water management, has a lot to offer France."

Countering Joe Biden's Inflation Reduction Act

Emmanuel Macron especially wishes to find in Spain a European ally of weight to respond to Joe Biden's Inflation Reduction Act, the massive investment plan put together by the American president and aimed at curbing inflation by reducing the deficit.

This new law enacted last August, favoring American companies, is arousing strong opposition from Europeans, who are worried about its impact on their own industry.

Anxious to denounce American protectionism, the French president wants the EU to provide equally massive responses and take quick decisions to prevent the flight of European companies attracted by American aid.

A call that did not escape Pedro Sanchez: on the American channel CNBC, the Spanish Prime Minister

A few clouds all the same in the Franco-Spanish sky.

This summit should be an opportunity for the two capitals to sweep away the last points of contention, such as the closure by Paris of the symbolic Col de Banyuls which has hindered border crossings for two years, to the chagrin of Madrid.

France refused to do so until then in the name of the fight against terrorism and illegal immigration.

The issue of the lack of rail links between Barcelona and France, which crystallizes resentment on both sides of the border, should also be addressed.

Demonstrations all the same 

This summit is above all a great operation for Pedro Sanchez, anxious to show the face of Europe that his country is definitely back in line.

"All the Spanish press has welcomed the Prime Minister's nice political coup in recent days", abounds Christophe Barret.

The choice of Barcelona is also an opportunity to show that the situation was under control in Catalonia, after the attempt at secession in 2017. A choice perceived as a provocation by the Catalan separatists, who also demonstrated Thursday near the place where the summit is being held, determined to show that they have not given up on their demands.

In France or Spain, Emmanuel Macron will therefore not escape the demonstrations.

Nor will he be able to exonerate himself from the question of pensions during the press briefing scheduled after the signing.

On this point, he will once again be able to count on the support of "Pedro Sanchez, who passed the reform of Spanish pensions without any difficulty at the age of 67 with a Minister of Labor from the Podemos party", assures Christophe Barret .

On the side of the Élysée, any attempt to manipulate the calendar is refuted: the 27th Franco-Spanish summit "had been fixed well in advance", before the unions announced the date of their first day of strike.

Spain being "the inviting power", the French presidency stresses that it therefore had "no room for maneuver"

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