By Luke Baker

BRUSSELS
SPAIN took over the presidency of the European Union for six months yesterday, with ambitious aims of securing the bloc's economic recovery even as it tackles severe challenges to its economy at home.

Following Sweden's busy six months at the helm, Spain has its work cut out to overcome a growing budget deficit while trying to work out a coordinated strategy among 27 EU member states to guide them out of the financial crisis.

Sweden's presidency set a high standard for planning and organisation, successfully ushering in the Lisbon reform treaty, designed to smooth decision-making in the EU.

Spain has sought to play down expectations for its tenure, with Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos saying this month it would apply itself modestly and discreetly. “Spain will not abandon its responsibilities ... but we will do it with modesty, with discretion, through our work and our support,” he told a briefing in Brussels.

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