Today, Spain’s Prime Minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, presented the objectives of the EU’s first semester within the scope of the recently ratified Lisbon Treaty. His extemporaneous speech before the European Parliament was centred on the economic crisis but his explanations went on to indicate his inclination towards social policymaking.
Just a few weeks back, Rodríguez Zapatero went under fire in U.K. newspapers (The Financial Times & The Economist), seconded by Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal. Whilst the WSJ editorials are tinted by the ultra-conservative influence of no less than Murdoch’s Spanish Sancho Panza, in the person of Spain’s former Prime Minister José Mª Aznar, those written by British economic experts went beyond the limits of journalistic competence in questioning Zapatero’s capabilities in a sarcastic comparison to popular British TV character, Mr. Bean.
In its fourth rotating mandate, Spain has so far lived up to expectations, with important European milestones set in each one of its presidential semesters. With a clear all-out support of the EEC, later the EU, Spain has earned its entry into the European club and has there onward led some initiatives which other members, like the United Kingdom for one, have yet to set into their agendas.
This semester is too important for the 27-Member Union to waste words in sarcasm and destructive criticism, more so when the United Kingdom has undermined EU unifying efforts in too many occasions.
As an expert in EU relations, the underlying motive of such mocking comments is certain resentment towards Spain far beyond the political scene and more focused on Spanish corporations taking over numerous British enterprises in the last few years, to name a few – Banco Santander and Iberdrola.
In spite of Spain’s high unemployment rate at the present time, never has the U.K. generated as much jobs as Spain has in the years before the outbreak of the worldwide financial crisis nor has it contained its public deficit to have Spain’s five-year surplus. In fact, Tony Blair’s apparent economic miracle was partly a well-designed accounting reengineering by no less than Gordon Brown, as narrated in detail in the book – Fantasy Island.
Furthermore, Brown’s government has again manipulated figures in order to hide from EU scrutiny state subsidies to British banks in violation of European Commission regulations. Whereas Spain has not nationalised a single bank, the U.K. has both subsidized illegally and nationalised bankrupt entities. Whilst Spain has an exemplary supervision of financial entities the U.K.’s banking system is a free-for-all that allows quite a few irregularities.
The British economy has a full decade ahead before it can say it is out of the rut even if stats show that recession may have come to an end in 2009’s last quarter. What these financial newspapers seem to forget is that whilst Spain now lingers in unemployment, its growth potential in new technologies (solar & wind energy) and innovative activities (electric cars) with renewed immigrant labour forces will launch Spain into a new cycle of competitive businesses. What has been known as the financial crisis is greatly accountable to the uncontrolled business in Wall Street and The City. All risky financial gimmicks launched by the American & British banks have brought us to where we are.
Likewise, the British press seems to resent Obama’s chummy attitude towards Spain’s Prime Minister in detriment of Gordon’s declining role. Should the Tories take over next May, 10 Downing Street may still drift further away from The White House.
Spain has a challenge to reemploy its workers but the United Kingdom has a greater challenge – to start admitting they are no longer an empire.
It’s best these newspapers think twice their words before going to press. I’ll be watching in 2020 where the United Kingdom is to be compared to an environmental conscious businesslike Spain in this coming decade.
Fernando Fuster-Fabra, Madrid