Sanchez and Sunak are feuding at the height of European unity

Sanchez and Sunak are feuding at the height of European unity

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (left) in conversation with outgoing Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez at the European Union summit in Granada, Spain.AP photo

This will be a message of unity at the two-day EU consultations in Granada: a political fist against Putin and an outstretched hand to countries wishing to join the EU. But it ended with annoyance for Black Bates: host Pedro Sanchez canceled the last press conference.

However, things started promisingly Thursday morning. In the sunny Palais des Congrès, the leaders of the European Political Community – the 27 EU member states, plus the surrounding countries – made beautiful statements. Sanchez praised Granada and described it as “the capital of Europe and the capital of peace.” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky described maintaining unity under the pressure of Russian missile bombardment and disinformation as Europe’s greatest challenge.

Four leaders’ working groups were created, including on digitalisation, artificial intelligence and society’s transition to sustainable energy. But British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also wanted to talk about immigration. Boats carrying migrants who dare to cross the canal are causing him more and more political headaches at home.

However, immigration was not on the agenda on Thursday, but was on Friday when EU leaders meet. However, since the United Kingdom left the European Union on January 31, 2020, London is no longer among them.

Unusual lock

Sunak was so upset by Sanchez’s unwillingness to address immigration that he announced he would not attend the planned closing press conference. Annoying because Sunak is hosting the next meeting of the European Political Community in London. The agreement is that the former, current and incoming president will hold press conferences together.

What followed was a blame game, with Sanchez and Sunak accusing each other of obstructionism. Ultimately, the Spanish Prime Minister decided without further explanation to cancel the press conference at the last minute – five minutes before the scheduled start. A very unusual end to a meeting that was decorated with much flag display.

Sunak then spoke about immigration, alongside outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, French President Emmanuel Macron, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. The five promised to tackle illegal immigration more difficult.

About the author
Mark Pepperkorn has been EU correspondent since 2008 De Volkskrant. He lives and works in Brussels.

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