They warn that “economic weakness”, a “turbulent political climate” and a change of ministers are not helping Spain
Madrid, 9 (European Press)
2022 will certainly not bring much progress in Spain’s bilateral relations with the United States, according to experts from the Elcano Royal Institute, who also warned of the danger of confrontation between Algeria and Morocco and affecting a whole series of “weaknesses” that do not help the government in its external work.
In their report “Spain in the World in 2022: Perspectives and Challenges”, the lead researchers of the Spanish think tank review, among other things, aspects related to Spain’s reputation, security challenges or relations with other countries.
In the context of the current uncertainty, “Spanish foreign policy can take advantage of various potential strengths and opportunities, but it will also be conditioned by weaknesses of a political, economic and administrative nature,” they emphasized.
The government has expressed its “desire to promote more ambitious foreign action in the medium and long term” but “the short-term situation has proven to be unfavorable for demonstrating leadership, anticipation and anticipation” expressed in the Foreign Action Strategy announced last April.
According to the Elcano researchers, the pandemic once again showed “important economic weaknesses in the country such as insufficient industrial and innovation capacity, a great deal of dependence on tourism and financial problems that were only temporarily put on hold thanks to European money.”
Political climate and change of minister
They added that “the turbulent internal political climate is another factor that prevents the better use of the opportunities that exist in foreign policy and in the European Union,” noting, among other things, the situation in Catalonia and “the strong polarization on almost all domestic issues.”
They also highlight the “interruptions” at the State Department through which five headlines have passed since 2016, with the consequent “phase change”. “Each of these relays was accompanied by the corresponding proposal to renew plans, organizational charts and equipment, without having much time for the new focus to come to fruition,” they said.
In the case of the new minister, José Manuel Alparís, he “begins with the advantage of a close relationship with the Prime Minister, who was his chief international advisor for years, both in the party and later in Moncloa”, in addition to being well acquainted with “the content of the portfolio, being a professional diplomat”.
“Looking to 2022, Spain’s overall position on the international and European arena will be marked by the pace at which the economy recovers and the ability to implement reforms in the green and digital spheres loaded on the next generation of EU funds,” they warn of the Think Tank.
“From a more political point of view, the goal is to create a dynamic of certainty and stability that also extends to operational management,” stressed the experts, who, among other things, stress the agenda for the coming months. NATO summit in Madrid.
Relationship with the European Union and the United States
At the European level, “2022 is a year for Spain to implement in a timely manner the reforms and investments agreed with the Commission in the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan, setting priorities and guiding principles for behaviour” during the Presidency of the EU role which will take place in the second half of 2023.
On this issue, they regret the “setback” of the departure of the Minister of State for the European Union, Juan Gonzalez Barba, at the end of December, stressing that “in just six years” there were six people who occupied “a position whose average term was in the first three decades.” Membership is about five years.
Among the issues under discussion that are of particular interest to Spain are the transition to the permanent status of the European Recovery Instrument as well as the reform of fiscal rules, although Elcano’s experts on this latter matter question the flexibility of the Stability and Growth Pact, which the government defends, before the end of 2022, Since the agreement expires next year.
With regard to the United States, the arrival of Joe Biden means a change in the transatlantic relationship, but also the “end of an era” since Washington’s level of interest in Europe has “wanted.”
On a bilateral level, the report acknowledges that the relationship “has not been frictionless” in the past year, citing among other things the “controversy over the brief meeting at the NATO summit” between Sanchez and Biden.
The new US ambassador to Madrid, Julissa Renoso, will arrive soon, and experts say that “an unexpected summit between Washington and Madrid before the NATO summit.” And they say: “Everything indicates, therefore, that the Spanish-American agenda will continue exclusively through the transatlantic channels (Brussels-Washington), reducing the potential of Spain.”
Russia, Latin America and Morocco
With regard to Russia, they emphasized that the Spanish position was “traditionally influenced by geographical distance and low-density economic relations.” And they noted in another article that “Spain does not have a specific foreign policy towards Russia, but is working to develop it within the framework of the European Union and NATO.”
They noted that Russia’s challenges to the EU are also to Spain, citing “energy dependence, the growing competition between Brussels and Moscow in the countries that are part of the EU’s Eastern Neighborhood Policy (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine. ), and the absence of a European security and defense structure.
In this context, Spain can play a “dual role”, on the one hand, by maintaining its participation within NATO “in monitoring the airspace of the Baltic states” and on the other hand by contributing “to the strengthening of European unity in its relationship with Russia.”, which includes “strengthening the strengthening of Democratic flexibility “of the member states and support for democratic transitions in the countries of the former Soviet Union” to escape Moscow’s influence.
In another article in the report, experts assert that “Spain faces renewed challenges in Latin America in 2022, both in its regional and bilateral relations, but also in diplomatic and economic relations (investment and trade)”.
At the bilateral level, “the nature of the association depends on each country and the political-ideological bias of each government,” with Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba being the most complex countries. On the other hand, they are committed to working with the High Representative and the European External Action Service to try to relaunch the relationship between the EU and Latin America.
Finally, they warned that “the risk of escalation between Algeria and Morocco is real” after Algeria cut ties with Rabat in August. Nor should “a direct armed confrontation or the participation of the Polisario Front” be excluded, which could “set fire to North Africa and destabilize its neighborhoods in the Mediterranean and the Sahel.”
Thus, they consider it urgent “to search for ways to reduce escalation to avoid greater evils,” stressing that Spain “must seek to reduce tension between its southern neighbors and open channels for dialogue.”
“If this course does not lead to results and the conflict jeopardizes national interests, then the Spanish government should take more decisive and resolute measures, which will be more effective the more political and social support it has received and more coordination is sought at the EU level,” they stress , without specifying what kind of action should be taken.
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