20/03/2021

Spain: Too big to fail

2 min
Pedro Sánchez and Angela Merkel in a picture before the pandemic of covid -19.
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Trying to understand Spain's current political absurdity in its context, the only thing that comes to mind is the often-used saying that a new world is beginning to emerge and the old one is still here. The new world: after the pandemic we will see if what dominates is global interdependence, science, the digital economy, the European Union and international organisations... and new pandemics from which we will continue to learn. The old world: national politics. Spain's, certainly pathetic. In the midst of a huge health and economic crisis, Spanish politicians are engaged in playing cards with no-confidence votes, defectors, early elections, crude persecution of charges, indefinite suspension again of the renewal of the judiciary, demagogy, personalism, ineptitude and general disregard for the interests of society.

It may sound a bit exaggerated because the change will not be consummated in the short term and the transition can be very long and agonizing. Meanwhile, these days I have seen several quotes from Bismarck's famous humour: Spain is the strongest country in the world because it has been trying to destroy itself for centuries and has not succeeded. If it doesn't succeed now, it is thanks to the European Union. Spain has 10% of the EU's population and the EU wants to give or lend it 20% of the total recovery aid it will issue. Spain is, as was said of some banks in the crisis ten years ago, too big to fail. Europe cannot afford to let Spain go under because it is too big and too interdependent and the restrictive effects on international trade, the withdrawal of foreign investment and the growth of emigration to other countries would be too disruptive.

However, it is not yet clear. Of the bailout Spain received from the troika during the Great Recession, less than half was spent, largely for lack of serious projects and competent management. Now the European Commission is setting tougher conditions: spending and investment projects in favour of the environmental and digital economy must be presented, with measurable results, and pending reforms to improve job stability, the viability of pensions and the efficiency of companies must be made. The vice-president Nadia Calviño, who must be one of the few competent and reliable ones out there, has already made a draft, but it has not yet been approved by Brussels. If the political crisis widens, Spain's rulers could fail to meet the conditions, receive less, or go back to spending only part of it to get by. Because they know that in the last resort the EU would come to their aid to avoid a greater evil.

Something similar could be said of Italy, but there they have opted for a government of national unity with the most competent, as they did a few years ago thanks to the unforgettable president Giorgio Napolitano. In Spain there could also be a Mario Monti or a Mario Draghi, but the politicians who run the country would not allow him to occupy their chairs.

Josep M. Colomer is a political scientist.

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