#EU2019 – Spain aims for EU comeback after the elections

According to a survey, Spain’s younger generations, though faced with high unemployment, are actually the most concerned and committed to the EU among the 28 EU member states. [EPA/Zipi]

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has made it clear: the EU’s fifth largest economy wants to play a “key role” in the next European Commission and increase its influence in the EU decision-making process.

Particularly after Brexit, the Iberian country sees an opportunity to claim a position in the EU’s core. Spain’s acting foreign minister and former European Parliament president Josep Borrell could aspire to a high EU Commissioner position, some analysts suggest.

According to a survey, Spain’s younger generations, though faced with high unemployment, are actually the most committed to the EU among the 28 EU member states.

In Spain, the EU elections will take place together with the local and regional elections. Analysts predict that this may lead to a certain degree of “confusion” in the electorate.

In an interview with EFE last week, the head of communications and chief spokesperson of the European Parliament, Jaume Duch, said: “Compared to 5 years ago, Spanish citizens are better informed on the EU elections; they know much better what’s at stake this time”.

Confused voters

But the problem is that it’s not always easy to distinguish clearly among local, regional and EU elections.

The chief of the EU Commission Representation in Spain, Francisco Fonseca, told EFE last week: “It is clear that this (the fact of having many elections at the same time), is confusing for the citizens. We need to make an extra effort to explain what is at stake for the EU this time”.

The official campaign for the EU elections in Spain started on 9 May and the main candidates are: former health minister Dolors Monserrat (Popular Party/EPP), Foreign Minister Josep Borrell (PSOE/S&D), Luis Garicano (centrist Ciudadanos/Citizens/ALDE) and María Eugenia Rodríguez Palop, from leftist Unidas-Podemos (GUE).

Montserrat recently told a TV elections debate that she considers herself a “truly European”. “I belong to one of the first Erasmus generations”, she said.

Rodriguez Palop defended the end of the austerity policies in Europe: “Limits to the expenditure and cuts come from Brussels. Unidas-Podemos want to make your voice heard in the EU Parliament”, she stressed.

In the same debate, Borrell reminded that the EU “is vital for our peace and security”. “The ‘no Europe’ is not an option”, Borrell said. He also warned about the “danger of EU disintegration”.

The Catalan issue

Garicano (Ciudadanos ) said his party “takes the EU seriously” and insisted Ciudanos’s candidates will go to the European House to “defend Spain from the attacks by nationalists and populists”.

“Europe needs reforms and I am committed to asking for a reform of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW)”, he said, referring to the Catalonia political crisis.

Speaking at an EFE EU Elections debate last week, centre-right candidate Pilar del Castillo (EPP) said her party is determined to push for a reform of the EAW in order to include the crime of “rebellion and sedition”.

She was referring directly to former Catalan leader Carles Puigmont, who fled to Belgium to avoid arrest following the region’s unilateral independence declaration of October 2017.

Spain’s Supreme Court ruled on 5 May that Puigdemont could run in the next EU election, despite a previous ban, EFE reported.

The candidates are currently on the campaign trail, deploying all their efforts in big cities but also in the countryside. They want to convince voters of the key importance of the EU also in the so-called “Empty Spain” (“España vacía)”, in small villages with very few inhabitants and distant from key decision centres.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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