After Jeroen Dijsselbloem defeated Luis de Guindos to lead the Eurogroup on Monday (12 July), Spain is confronted by its lowest level of representation in the institutions since it first joined the European Union in 1986. EURACTIV Spain reports.
The defeat of De Guindos is a heavy blow for right-wing prime minister, Mariano Rajoy (Partido Popular), who waged a fierce battle with The Hague to position his finance minister at the top of the Eurogroup, with the hope of regaining political influence in the EU. According to Tele Cinco, the current situation leaves Spain in its weakest negotiating position in nearly three decades.
“He is the best candidate, without any doubt,” Rajoy reiterated countless times in recent weeks, praising De Guindos, a former advisor to Lehman Brothers in Europe, for his “good management” of the financial crisis in Spain.
A hard blow for the Spanish presence in the EU
Compared to 2012, when Spain was on the verge of a complete bailout ( later limited to a partial rescue of its banking system), the situation has totally changed.
”Spain is no longer the sick man of Europe”, Rajoy says, as he reminds Brussels that the Iberian economy could rise above a 3% growth rate this year – one of his main assets to try to win the general elections, to be held this fall, together with the fear of a “Greek scenario” for Spain if the conservatives lose to the Socialists (PSOE) and the anti-austerity leftists of Podemos, who Rajoy calls a “clone of Syriza”.
The defeat of De Guindos represents not only a severe blow to the Iberian presence in the EU institutions, but to Rajoy’s efforts to try to reinforce the Spanish representation in high level institutions worldwide, with the exception of the non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council, which is currently held by Madrid.
Rajoy’s strategy fails
However, since the country joined the EEC in 1986, this is the first time that Spain has no senior representation in the European institutions. It’s a sad development for the fourth largest economy in the eurozone and the fifth most populated country in the EU, particularly as Manuel González-Páramo left his position as an ECB board member in 2012.
Currently, the only Spanish heavyweight in Brussels is Miguel Arias Cañete, the Energy Commissioner, an important portfolio, but not among the most powerful in the executive. Spain accepted it, because Rajoys’ ambition was to position De Guindos at the head of the Eurogroup, a strategy that ended without positive results for Madrid.
Government sources blame the Socialists and Greece
According to the right-wing El Mundo on Tuesday (14 July), sources close to the government criticized the Socialists for not having backed De Guindos, in an “anti-patriotic” sort of strategy. “They have shown no sense of state to cooperate on this issue,” the sources said.
De Guindos himself suggested that Rajoy did not fight hard enough for him: “I am convinced that in life, one must always fight harder,” he stressed. “Spain deserves to have more representation” in the EU, he lamented.
According to television station RTVE, the Spanish executive had said that Greece was to blame for De Guindo´s defeat. Euclidis Tsakalotos, Greece’s new finance minister, had voted for Dijsselbloem, the man who conducted the difficult negotiations with Athens for the Troika.