Sarkozy: 'France and Spain speak with the same voice'

In an address to the Spanish parliament, French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced a Franco-Spanish summit devoted to fighting terrorism, including the Basque separatist group ETA, as well as drug trafficking and illegal immigration.


AFP - France and Spain are to set up a joint security committee to fight terrorism and drug trafficking, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in an address to the Spanish parliament Tuesday.

"The French-Spanish summit that we are going to hold will be essentially devoted to this subject," he said.

"It will create a real joint general staff headquarters on security, to lead our fight against terrorism, wherever it comes from, and to also fight, with the same determination, drug trafficking which is destroying our societies and causes as many victims."

Sarkozy was speaking on the last day of his first ever state visit to Spain. He is accompanied on the two-day trip by his wife, the model-turned-singer Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, who grabbed the spotlight on the first day of the visit Monday.

The French leader is to meet later Tuesday with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, and the two countries are to set up a "Committee for the Planning and Strategic Coordination of Internal Security."

A Spanish government source said the body, led by police officials from the two countries, is an expansion of the five-year-old cooperation on security between France and Spain, which has led to the arrests of numerous members of the armed Basque separatist group ETA.

ETA is blamed for the deaths of 825 people in its 40-year campaign of bombings and shootings to carve a Basque homeland out of parts of northern Spain and southwestern France.

France is also particularly interested in extending its security cooperation to the fight against drug trafficking, as Spain has become the major European entry point for cocaine from South America and hashish from north Africa, the source said.

The new committee will also aim to combat illegal immigration through joint operations to dismantle the major networks behind it, the source said.

Sarkozy's visit has also been a chance to highlight the common views of the two governments on a range of issues, in particular the future of the European Union, the planned Mediterranean Union and on ways to combat the global economic crisis.

France has also backed a Spanish government push to have a permament seat at the Group of 20 developed and developing nations.

"On all the issues, France and Spain speak with the same voice," Sarkozy said on Monday.

But Paris and Madrid have sought to defuse any possible tension over a recent controversy sparked when Sarkozy reportedly termed the Spanish leader as "not very smart" at a lunch two weeks ago with French lawmakers.

Sarkozy was forced to deny the reports, and Zapatero told a French newspaper last week that he enjoyed a "warm" relationship with Sarkozy.

On Monday, which was largely devoted to meetings with the Spanish royal family, it was Carla Bruni-Sarkozy who took centre stage.

The Spanish press Tuesday noted a "duel of elegance" between the 41-year-old French First Lady and Princess Letizia, 36, the wife of Spanish Crown Prince Felipe.

The two women were the "protagonists of the first day" of the visit, said El Publico.

El Pais said Bruni-Sarkozy appeared to be on a "permanent catwalk" aimed at "conquering the world with her elegance which sometimes lacks any naturalness."

But La Razon described her as "a marvel of nature who cannot be compared to anyone" and "the only interest of this visit."

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