Government reshuffle
Politics 13/07/2021

New ministers give clues to Sánchez's plans

Iceta's replacement for Territorial Policy dodges Catalan issue

4 min
New ministers' debut gives clues to Sánchez's plans

MadridThe major reshuffle of the Spanish executive has been made official. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez's new ministers took office this morning. There are seven new faces - "rejuvenated", in Sánchez's words- that will be part of this new stage which aims to boost "economic, social and territorial recovery" after one of the worst crises of recent decades, as Pedro Sánchez has defended during the presentation of the PERTE to develop the electric vehicle on Monday. But behind the renewal there are also some internal government crises of recent months, some wounds that have become evident in the various speeches this Monday and that have gone from a parting shot at hitherto chief adviser Ivan Redondo, to the explicit recognition of a diplomatic crisis with Morocco, the Catalan issue and even a sad Miquel Iceta leaving the Ministry of Territorial Policy not even six months after he took over.

Sworn in before the king

The twelve ministers affected by the changes of Sánchez have sworn their position before king Felipe VI in Zarzuela palace. Due to protocol, the first was the new Minister of Justice and hitherto Speaker of the Senate, Pilar Llop, who then acted as notary major. Then, the three vice presidents who maintain their functions but move up a grade. With the departure of Carmen Calvo, from this Monday there will no longer be four vice presidencies but three, which will continue in the hands of Nadia Calviño (PSOE), who becomes the first vice president; Yolanda Díaz (Podemos), second vice president, and Teresa Ribera (PSOE), third. A change that marks the prominence that Sánchez wants to give to the economic programme.

Finally, came the turn of the new faces, with the exception of the socialists María Jesús Montero and Miquel Iceta, who were already in the Spanish government and only change functions after Sánchez's reshuffle. Félix Bolaños assumes the Ministry of the Presidency, Relations with Parliament and Democratic Memory; Isabel Rodríguez, until now mayor of Puertollano, takes over the portfolio of Territorial Policy and will also be the new spokesperson of the Spanish government; Diana Morant, mayor of Gandia, takes over Science and Innovation; José Manuel Albares, Foreign Affairs and Cooperation; Pilar Alegría, Education, and Raquel Sánchez, hitherto mayor of Gavà, is the new Minister of Transport and Urban Agenda. In turn, Miquel Iceta changes ministry: from Territorial Policy to Culture and Sport, while Montero ceases to be the spokesperson and takes on new responsibilities: Finance and Civil Service.

Transfer of portfolios

Three of the new portfolio transfers have had a clear municipal component with the arrival of three female mayors. One of them, the hitherto mayor of Gavà, Raquel Sánchez, is the best example. She introduced herself as a "socialist, environmentalist and Catalan" and has defended that the municipalist vision will be installed from now on in the council of ministers. With regards to Catalonia, the new Minister of Transport has opted for the "dialogue, cooperation and co-governance of a federal model" as the one that fits the "diverse" reality of the country best. Sánchez assumes this ministry with pending matters such as the law on sustainable mobility and the state housing law and the regulation of rents, still a stumbling block. In this sense, she has defended that "talking about inclusion is talking about housing and the right to have affordable prices". Hitherto minister José Luís Ábalos was forced to take a step aside and did not mention Pedro Sánchez once in his parting speech. Ábalos also quits as PSOE's organisation secretary.

The new Minister of Justice and hitherto Senate Speaker, Pilar Llop, also spoke about Catalonia. "The territorial dialogue is the key to overcome the crisis the sooner the better. Dialogue with autonomous communities and with the city councils," she urged. Llop has also launched a message to the opposition: "I hope to unblock the renewal of the judiciary's governing body soon"

The most crowded transfer, with the presence even of former President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, has been that of the Ministry of the Presidency. A moved Carmen Calvo has emphasised that "it is the most loving transfer of portfolio in Spanish politics". Her successor, until now in the shadow of the Spanish government, Félix Bolaños, said that he assumes the position with "honour and responsibility" and with "a sense of state". Bolaños has also defended that being a minister "is neither asked for nor can be refused", a message directed at Sánchez's hitherto right-hand man, Iván Redondo, who is said to have asked to hold this portfolio, according to El País. Calvo said that Sanchez will have one more "friend" in government. Bolaños takes control of the ministry at a time when the law on democratic memory is almost finished, which Calvo had to present on Tuesday in the council of ministers. This was eventually postponed

Miquel Iceta, who entered the government in February, has made three changes of ministry. On the one hand, he leaves the Territorial Policy and Civil Service to take over Culture and Sport. "We gave it a lot of enthusiasm," Iceta defended, who admitted in a sad tone that he was sorry to have to leave. Now the management is diversified and that is why Iceta has made the transfer not only to Isabel Rodriguez (Territorial Policy), which has not mentioned the Catalan folder, but also to Maria Jesus Montero (Civil Service and Finance). Iceta, who takes over at Culture, has pointed out that "Spain can be a cultural and sporting superpower". "I have not seen anything more inclusive and diverse than the Spanish shield," he said in reference to the Spanish football team. Iceta has also made it a priority to "banish homophobia from sport". With reference to Catalonia, he has defended "cultural federalism" thanks to the coexistence of co-official languages

The most thorny portfolio transfer has been that of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. José Manuel Albares has received the portfolio from his predecessor, Arancha González Laya, and has admitted that these are "difficult" times for the ministry, especially after the diplomatic crisis with Morocco. In fact, he has made explicit reference in this country as a "great neighbour and friend to the south", with whom we must strengthen ties, he said. Among his priorities, Albares highlighted that of presenting himself to the world as "a democratic country, a state of law, a country with a decentralisation that is almost unique".

Majority of women

The new council of ministers will have a 60% female presence, making it the European government with the highest female presence. In this sense, while swearing office before the king, the only minister who subtly winked at this new reality was Yolanda Díaz, who promised her office by referring to "the female ministers".

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