The Spanish Presidency of the Council of the European Union: A Presidency Marked by National Elections and Difficult European Challenges

By Clare Vecino Prieto


The Spanish Presidency in the  Council of the European Union comes at a crucial juncture, as the country faces both internal and external challenges while simultaneously preparing for national elections. As the rotating presidency from June to January 2024, Spain must address significant issues, propose effective solutions, and balance its domestic political landscape during this critical period.



The Spanish presidency wants to focus its efforts on major policy regarding energy transition. Another issue that the Spanish presidency will be more aware of is economic stability in the country. Spain will need to address economic disparities within the EU, emphasizing measures to promote sustainable growth, job creation, and social cohesion. Promoting the completion of the single market, fostering investment, and supporting innovation will be vital to strengthen the EU's economic resilience.

On the other hand, another one of the challenges highlighted is climate action. With the urgency of climate change ever-increasing, Spain will play a pivotal role in advancing the EU's climate agenda during its presidency. Therefore, the Spanish presidency will prioritize the implementation of the European Green Deal, fostering international cooperation on climate issues, and facilitating the adoption of ambitious emissions reduction targets will be essential.

In addition, immigration and asylum will also have a prominent role. The management of immigration and asylum policies remains a pressing issue for the EU. Spain will have to work towards establishing a comprehensive and sustainable immigration framework, strengthening cooperation with countries of origin and transit, and seeking a fair and equitable distribution of responsibility among member states.

Therefore, in order to meet the challenges outlined above, the Spanish Presidency has made these proposals:

First, enhancing social inclusion. Spain aims to prioritize measures that tackle social inequalities and promote social cohesion. This includes strengthening the EU's social pillar, focusing on job creation, reducing poverty and inequality, and fostering inclusive education and training.

In second place, strengthening EU-Africa relations. Spain recognizes the importance of closer cooperation with Africa and will work towards fostering a comprehensive and balanced EU-Africa partnership. It will advocate for increased support for sustainable development, investment, and the creation of opportunities for African countries.

In third place, advancing gender equality. Spain intends to make significant strides in promoting gender equality during its presidency. It will support initiatives to close the gender pay gap, combat gender-based violence, and ensure equal opportunities and representation for women in all sectors.

And finally, promoting youth engagement. Spain will actively engage with the youth and prioritize their participation in shaping EU policies. It aims to provide opportunities for young people, encourage entrepreneurship and innovation, and reinforce educational programs to equip them for future challenges.


An important issue to note is the unexpected call for national elections on July 23, coinciding with the newly inaugurated Presidency of the Council. This poses an additional challenge. Balancing the demands of the EU Council Presidency with the dynamics of an election campaign may require careful navigation and coordination within the Spanish government. Spain's ability to maintain a cohesive and proactive approach during this period will be crucial to ensure effective representation in the EU.

As Spain assumes the Council Presidency of the EU, it faces a range of significant challenges while concurrently managing national elections. From spearheading the post-pandemic recovery to driving climate action, Spain must demonstrate effective leadership and foster consensus among member states. By presenting ambitious proposals and actively engaging with key EU priorities, Spain can contribute to a stronger, more inclusive, and resilient European Union.

Depending on the election results, it may take some time to form a new government in Spain. This could delay or affect the Spanish presidency's ability to make decisions and advance its agenda in the EU. In addition, we could encounter changes in political priorities: A new government may have different political priorities compared to the previous government. This could imply a change in the agenda and policies that the Spanish presidency may push for during its term in the EU Council. Despite changes in the Spanish government, there is likely to be continuity in overall European policies. Spain's membership in the EU and its commitments to European integration will remain fundamental, regardless of the election results.

However, one of the points to highlight is internal coordination and negotiation. During the post-election period, there is likely to be a period of internal coordination and negotiation in Spain to establish the country's priorities and position in the EU. This may require additional time and effort on the part of the Spanish government and may affect the Spanish presidency's ability to lead and advance European affairs.

Overall, although national elections in Spain may have an impact on the Spanish presidency in the Council of the EU, it is important to keep in mind that the EU is a supranational entity and that the European agenda and commitments will continue to be relevant and guide the action of the Spanish presidency, regardless of the election results. Stability and continuity in European policies will remain important in the context of the Spanish presidency.

Internally, a change of government will not have a significant impact on the Spanish presidency. Preparations are already underway, and the policies and plans of the presidency will work regardless of the government of the country holding the presidency.

Finally, the Presidency of the Council of the European Union is an opportunity to show Spain's potential in the diplomatic field and to demonstrate to Europeans and the world the capacity for progress that can be achieved under Spanish leadership. Therefore, in the coming months we will see if the national panorama, currently unstable, contributes to the elections with a change of government, and if this were to happen, would we see a change in the direction of the preferences of the current Spanish proposals for Europe?