Former Commission officials top new Spanish government

Arancha Gonzalez Laya, attends the closing plenary session of the World Economic Forum on Africa (WEF) at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, South Africa, 06 September 2019. [EPA-EFE/NIC BOTHMA]

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez appointed former European Commission spokesperson Arancha González as his new foreign affairs minister, while Nadia Calviño, who used to be a director-general in the EU executive, will become vice-president for economy, and former EU official Luis Planas will stay on as agriculture minister.

González, who is currently assistant secretary-general of the UN, and responsible for the International Trade Centre, was a spokesperson at the Commission between 2002 and 2005. At that time, she worked closely with Pascal Lamy, and she became his chief of staff when the Frenchman went on to become the World Trade Organisation chief.

Her name was not part of the candidates floated to succeed Josep Borrell, who exited the Socialist government to become the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security. Sanchez’s nomination, however, follows Sánchez’s plan to strengthen the economic diplomacy in his government.

This strategy will be further reinforced by the promotion of Economy Minister Nadia Calviño as vice-president. The former head of the Commission’s DG Budget has become an asset for Sánchez in Brussels and other international fora.

Allied with far-left, Spain's Sanchez stays on as PM

Spain’s parliament on Tuesday (7 January) narrowly confirmed Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez as premier for another term, paving the way for the country’s first-ever coalition government since its return to democracy in the 1970s.

Together with Calviño’s, Spain’s first coalition government since the 1930s will have four vice-presidencies in the 22-member cabinet, the largest number in the country’s history.

Teresa Ribera’s portfolio of Green Transition will be expanded to a vice-presidency and will include the demographic challenge.

The unexpected creation of this post irritated Podemos, Sanchez’s left-wing partner in the coalition, as it will dilute its leader Pablo Iglesias’s vice-presidency. Iglesias is in charge of social affairs and the 2030 Agenda.

Carmen Calvo will hold the most powerful vice-presidency, for political affairs.

Another former Commission official in the coalition government is Luis Planas, who will continue as agriculture minister. Planas was head of cabinet for Commissioners Manuel Marín and Pedro Solbes, and the secretary-general of the European Economic and Social Committee.

One of the new faces is José Luis Escrivá, who will be responsible for social security and migration. He is currently the head of the Spanish Fiscal Authority (Airef) and was previously the head of the Monetary Policy division at the ECB when the euro was launched.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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