Fri, Jun 08, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Spain’s pro-EU government takes office

FEMALE FOCUS:The new Cabinet features 11 women, including those leading an economic team whose aim would be to adhere to deficit reduction commitments

AFP, MADRID

Spanish King Felipe VI, front row center, stands with members of the new Cabinet at a swearing-in ceremony at the Zarzuela Palace outside Madrid yesterday.

Photo: Reuters

Socialist Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s new pro-EU government was yesterday sworn in with the most women in modern history, with 11 female and six male ministers.

The new Cabinet composed by the 46-year-old, who ousted conservative former Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy on Friday last week in a no-confidence vote, includes astronaut Pedro Duque as minister of science, innovation and universities.

EU budget manager Nadia Calvino became minister of economy and enterprise, while former European Parliament president Josep Borrell was made minister of foreign affairs, EU and cooperation.

Sanchez said his Cabinet was “a reflection of the best in society” — a society he described as comprised of women and men, old and young, rooted in the EU.

However, it is also a minority government, as the Socialists only have 84 lawmakers in the 350-seat Cortes Generales.

As such, the government will have a tough time governing Spain, relying as it will on the votes of far-left party Podemos, as well as Basque and Catalan nationalist lawmakers who supported Sanchez’ no-confidence motion.

The new government yesterday took an oath before King Felipe VI.

The new Cabinet includes two veteran Socialists — Carmen Calvo and Borrell.

Calvo, who was minister of culture from 2004 to 2007, is also to be in charge of equality, a priority for Sanchez’s government in a country where women staged an unprecedented strike to defend their rights on March 8.

Anti-terror prosecutor Dolores Delgado became minister of justice and former Spanish Supreme Court judge Margarita Robles was made minister of defense, while other women have been put in charge of education, employment or health.

Fernando Grande-Marlaska, a former judge at the top-level Spanish National Court, where he took on cases against Basque separatist group ETA, now leads the Spanish Ministry of the Interior.

Women are also to lead the economic team of Sanchez’s government, whose “main priority” would be to respect Madrid’s deficit reduction commitments to the EU, the new prime minister has said.

Spain has promised to reduce its deficit to 2.2 percent of GDP this year, thus finally going under the 3 percent limit set by Brussels.

Maria Jesus Montero became minister of the Treasury after playing a similar role at a regional level in southern Andalusia.

In the name of maintaining “stability,” Sanchez has also promised to implement the budget for this year crafted by the previous conservative government.

Among the budget’s key measures are a 1 percent to 3 percent rise in the lowest pensions and a salary increase for civil servants, ahead of municipal, regional and European elections next year.

As Brexit gathers pace, and with Italy now led by a euroskeptic, populist government, Spain’s new government is distinctly pro-EU.

Apart from Calvino’s appointment as economy minister — a move welcome by the EU Commission — Borrell was European Parliament president from 2004 to 2007.

A Catalan who is fiercely against the independence movement in his home region, he is tasked with defending his government’s commitment to Spanish unity abroad.

Borrell has said the previous conservative government was “very bad” when it came to public relations abroad on the Catalan separatist issue.

On a day-to-day basis, Meritxell Batet, another Catalan, has been put in charge of relations with Spain’s regions.

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