June 29, 2005


Spain turns its helm in direction of Blair (John Vinocur, JUNE 28, 2005, International Herald Tribune)

To find out which way the European political wind is really blowing, look for the flag of the national leader who is not facing elections in the next 10 minutes. In Spain, a firm gust is pushing the standard of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, last year's anti-Blair and anti-Bush apasionado, toward a course-correction.

With no national voting on the horizon until March 2008 and good economic figures to steady his nerves, Zapatero can look into the future and change headings without excessive embarrassment. Since Tony Blair began his charge at European Union leadership and reform, the Spanish Socialist prime minister has started detaching himself - in what looks like a series of inconspicuous little surgeries - from the Gerhard Schröders and Jacques Chiracs that Spain judges no longer hold Europe in their grip.

For a political epiphany bracketing the changes aflicker in Europe, this is a fascinating one.

Roll back a little more than a year. Zapatero was elected in March 2004 through the combination of a murderous Qaeda train bombing in Madrid and its link in the mind of the Spansh voting public to the support of José Maria Aznar's government for the Iraq war.

Fleeing Blair and Bush, Zapatero quite literally threw himself into the arms of the French-German Righteous Brothers. For the next months, he talked of an us-and-them, Europeans vs. Anglo-Saxons world, a rigid construct of political corridors that stop, windows that look out on walls.

Now Zapatero has joined the Finns, Swedes and Dutch in voting no on the budget with the British at the failed EU summit meeting two weeks ago. His Spain has, with Italy, dodged embracing a German candidacy for a United Nations security council seat; or backing a proposal for another EU summit talkathon, favored by the French and Germans, and meant to slow the momentum of the British presidency that begins Friday

Now Zapatero has scheduled, a bit conspicuously, a meeting with Blair in London late in July.

Of course he can't get the meeting he wants most. Couldn't even get a phone call for quite awhile.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 29, 2005 8:54 AM

I've said it before, but the Spanish, in general, are more conservative, more pro-business, and more in favor of economic freedoms than the French and the Germans. Zapatero, elected by a slim majority in a moment of national trauma, is moving himself towards the center of Spanish popular sentiment, which means moving away from the French and the Germans and towards the British and us.

Posted by: H.D. Miller at June 29, 2005 11:01 AM

Offer troops again and we'll see.

Posted by: Sandy P at June 29, 2005 11:09 AM

I hope your right, H.D. Miller. It's great the change, but the article makes it sound very undemocratic, the opposite of what you say it is.
When he was elected, I do remember Spain being anti-war and anti-American; hard to distinguish from any other country in Old Europe. Perhaps that was overstated, or perhaps they've changed.

Posted by: Emily B. at June 29, 2005 12:08 PM

comparing a country to the french or germans doesn't really tell us how compatible it is with the u.s.

is spain closer absolutely to the u.s. or to the dead-enders ?

Posted by: cjm at June 29, 2005 12:32 PM

I don't think it's a change, and I'm not saying that the Spanish are Conservative Republicans, just that when compared to other western Europeans, the Spanish aren't as bad as their neighbors.

There's still a strong nutsy-lefty-socialist-communist-anarchist-anti-American contingent, just that as a society their natural inclinations are conservative and mostly pro-economic freedom.

Look at this story. A week ago, maybe as many as a million Spaniards turned out in Madrid to protest against gay unions. Spain only has 40 million people.

Tell me this isn't a fundamentally conservative society.

Posted by: H.D. Miller at June 29, 2005 12:33 PM

By the way, the same story also mentions that 25% of Spaniards go to church regularly. Not exactly American numbers, but high by European standards.

Posted by: H.D. Miller at June 29, 2005 12:36 PM

That makes my heart sing, point taken.

Posted by: Emily B. at June 29, 2005 12:48 PM


Sure it does.

Posted by: oj at June 29, 2005 1:52 PM

"Of course he can't get the meeting he wants most. Couldn't even get a phone call for quite awhile."

Why would we be calling the slime? I say we stone wall him until he sends his soldiers back to Iraq.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at June 29, 2005 2:26 PM

Spain is perhaps the second most anti-semitic nation in Europe behind Greece.

The Socialists stay in power in a coalition with the Catalan Nationalists(Convergence and Union) who are Christian Democratic in orientation, and have little interest in jumping ugly with major export destinations and major suppliers of tourist money. Whenever Spain is backing off criticism of the US and Britain, you can blame it on the Catalans.

Some of the Spanish Socialists, like some British Labourites and some French Socialists, are upset that the Berlin Wall fell. Zapatero has always been one of them and had been expected to be little more than a sacrificial lamb when he got lucky. Now, they're stuck with him.

The good news is that he is doing such a crappy job at home that the Socialists may take a real stomping, and that, given the upset among Catalans with the government's ineptitude, this will be sooner rather than later.

Posted by: bart at June 29, 2005 5:10 PM

Yet Spain saved Jews from Hitler and America and Britain didn't.

Posted by: oj at June 29, 2005 5:15 PM

Franco did. Not Spain. Franco always dealt with rumors at home and abroad that his family was Jewish in origin. Franco is a quite common Sephardic last name.

The rhetoric out of the Spanish media is far worse than anything out of the British or French, and those are worse than anything out of American papers.

Posted by: bart at June 29, 2005 5:47 PM

Spain is Franco.

Posted by: oj at June 29, 2005 9:20 PM