French President Emmanuel Macron is set to meet with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez in Barcelona on Thursday to strengthen ties between the European neighbours by signing a friendship treaty.
The one-day summit in Barcelona comes amid a day of widespread strikes and protests on the other side of the Pyrenees against Macron’s bid to raise the minimum retirement age from 62 to 64.
Sánchez and Macron are to sign a treaty of friendship and cooperation between their countries. Both governments consider it a diplomatic bond of the highest order. Spain has a similar treaty only with Portugal; They have France, Germany and Italy.
Leaders are calling for a stronger position within the European Union. Macron is positioning himself as the continent’s leading statesman to fill the void left by former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, while Sanchez wants Spain to have a more influential role in Brussels after Britain leaves the bloc.
After years of cordial but sometimes distant relations between France and Spain, the two have recently come closer.
Spain, France and Portugal have agreed on a major undersea pipeline to transport the hydrogen from the Iberian Peninsula to France and eventually the rest of Europe. The pipeline, called H2Med, will run from Barcelona to Marseille.
The meeting is being held at the National Art Museum of Catalonia, housed in a former palace atop Montjuïc hill overlooking Barcelona. Catalan separatists are rallying outside to try to activate their flagging movement to carve out a new state from this corner of northeastern Spain bordering France.