News from Spain

Summary of the latest news and headlines from Spain

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Priest celibacy in Spain

This week the news that 41% Brazilian Catholic priests admit to having had a sexual relationship has led to various articles being published to discuss once again the theme of celibacy in the Catholic Church. This El Mundo article discusses the case of Eastern European priests in Spain, sent by their national Catholic Churches (in Ukrania and Rumania in the case of the two priests interviewed in the article) to serve the growing community of Eastern European catholic immigrants. Both priests interviewed in the article are married and have children. According to the author of the article, the Spanish Catholic Church is trying to hush-up the presence of married Catholic priests in Spain in order to avoid opening up once again a debate which Spanish Catholic Church leaders consider to be closed. Spanish priests are expected to lead a celibate life and are certainly not allowed to contemplate marriage.

Euroresidentes has opened a debate on this issue here, and visitors are encouraged to express their opinion. When we receive enough opinions, we will publish a new page with the results. Many of othe users of our Spanish sections visit us from Catholic-prone Latin American countries, so it will be interesting to see what they think.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Domestic violence in Spain

One of the biggest problems in Spain over the past few years has been the increase in the number of cases of domestic violence. During his election campaign, Zapatero promised to give a greater voice to women in his Government (8 of the 16 socialist ministers are women which makes it Spain's first government with an equal number of men and women) and to address the problem of rising violence against women. In today's first Cabinet Meeting, the first theme discussed will be the first draft of a new Law against Violence of Genes. It is expected to become law within a month.

Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero gives a very long interview to the Editor of El Mundo which the newspaper publishes today. Zapatero answers more than 100 questions in the interview. It is in Spanish of course, but non-Spanish speakers can always use a free online translation to get the gist of the questions and answers. Here is a quick translation of some of his answers:

"This Government will be a true example of democracy, in behaviour as well as in rules.."

"The day I leave La Moncloa (official dwelling of the President of Spain) I'd like to hear people say that I haven't changed"

"To avoid the mistakes made in the last Socialist government, I insisted anyone occupying a government post show impeccable behaviour"

"It would have been pointless to remain in Iraq in a sort of "false wait", creating uncertainty among our troops and our allies"

"War was declared on Iraq to look for Sadam's weapons of mass destruction.... Now the La Guerra de Irak era para buscar las armas de destrucción masiva de Sadam… Now the pretext they are using is terrorism..... We were told last year that military intervention in Iraq was a step towards solving the situation in Israel and Palestine, this has not been the case"

"Fidel Castro's regime must embrace democracy. All my messages to Cuba and Fidel Castro will be to this end"

"Our country's biggest shame is the number of cases of abuse against women. For this reason, the first law passed by this government will be one containing strict measures to address this problem"

Thursday, April 22, 2004

King refers to the possibility of constitutional reform in Spain

In the official opening ceremony of the legislature, King Juan Carlos of Spain has referred to one of the debates which has deeply divided Spanish political parties over the past couple of years - constitutional reform.

One of the features of the Popular Party government, especially during their second mandate when they had an absolute majority in parliament and didn't need the support of regional parties to pass their policies, was the impact their very centralised approach to government had on the electoral results of regional political parties. Paradoxically, the more the Popular Party refused to seek consensus on regional issues, and insisted on the necessity for the existence of a strong central Government to combat regional aspirations, the more successful the results of regional parties at local elections, notably in the Basque Region and Catalunya. In the last regional elections, the PNV (Nationalist Basque Party) won its greatest ever majority as its separatist demands grew more ambitious and relations with the PP Government in Madrid reached an all time low. Furthermore, just last year, the Socialists took control of the Catalonian Regional Government thanks to the excellent results of the left wing regionalist party ERC who more than doubled their seats from 11 to 23 and, together with another minority party, formed a coalition government with the Socialists. It is not the first time regional parties have shared power with national parties in Spain. Different PSOE and PP governments have depended on the support of the Catalan CIU party and/or the Basque PNV party to govern in the past.

However this time, the PP party (who obtained one of their worst ever results in Catalonia) criticised the pact between PSOE and ERC, because it was made on the understanding that the new Catalonian Government would push for constitutional reform to gain greater autonomic powers. Zapatero attended an electoral meeting during the campaign in Catalonia, and promised that if he won the general elections this year, he would address the question of constitutional reform. This provided the Popular Party with one of their main lines of attack during this year's election campaign. They said that the constitution should not be modified to allow some regions to have greater federal powers, and claimed that the Spanish nation would be under threat if the Socialists won the elections.

So, it is very significative that King Juan Carlos mentioned possible constitutional reform during his speech this morning and the headlines of the digital versions of Spanish newspapers and news radio all echo his comments. In quite a courageous speech, the King of Spain touched on all the issues dominating Spanish politics at the moment. He said that any constitutional reform should be made with the same kind of consensus achieved when the present Spanish Constitution was drawn up during Spain's transition to democracy. He also said that Spain's national security depends increasingly on Spanish foreign policy ande stressed the importance of Spain's relationship with Latin America and Europe. He also mentioned the importance of maintaining "transatlantic links".

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

USA may ask Spain to send its troops from Iraq to Afghanistan.

According to the latest update of El Mundo, the USA is going to ask Spain to send its troops due to return home, as a result of the Socialist Government's decision to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq, to another destination, such as Afghanistan.

Miguel Angel Moratinos arrives in Washington today, and will hold talks with Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice. The Spanish Government is anxious to present its reasons for the withdrawal of troops to the US Government and people, especially since the withdrawal is being presented by its retractors as a sign that Spain is giving in to terrorism. (The Wall Street Journal went as far to compare Zapatero to Franco in its editorial yesterday, an article that was received by much indignation by a large sector of the Spanish media. Zapatero's grandfather was infact one of many democrats shot by Franco's troops for opposing the dictator and his family has a long tradition of actively supporting democracy in Spain). Yesterday in Dublin, the Spanish Foreign Minister said that he hoped to be able to dialogue with the US government, and that Spain continued to consider the USA as an ally.

Meanwhile, the Spanish Defence Minister, Jose Bono, said in an interview with Cadena Ser this morning, that during the past month and a half he held conversations with various ministers of defence of countries who have forces in Iraq to measure their possible support for handing military and political control of operations in Iraq over to the United Nations. According to Bono, two defence ministers told him their respective governments would not allow anybody except their own generals to order their troops. Comments like these led the new Spanish government to conclude that it was highly unlikely that the UN would be allowed to take control of the situation in Iraq, and so there was no point in prolonging the withdrawal of Spanish troops until June.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Profiles of new Spanish Ministers

This week the new ministers and secretaries of the Socialist Government in Spain have been officially accepting their new post and pledging loyalty to their country. We have received several messages from Euroresidentes users with specific enquiries about individual members of the new Spanish Government and are preparing brief profiles on key ministers. The first ones published today are Miguel Angel Moratinos, Foreign Minister, Jose Bono, Defence Minister, and Pedro Solbes, Finance Minister.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Spanish withdrawal of troops from Irak

Miguel Moratinos, the new Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, was interviewed on Cadena Ser radio this morning about Zapatero's surprise announcement yesterday that Spanish troops would be pulled out of Iraq as quickly as possible, rather than waiting until June.

Moratinos said this morning that Spain's new Government had made this decision based on the results of an intensive round of meetings and conversations he and the new Defence Minister, Jose Bono, have had since their party won the Spanish elections last month. Between them they consulted the heads of government of 12 countries about whether a UN handover at the end of June was possible. Moratinos said he also consulted top UN representatives. All of these conversations led to the same conclusion - ithat is was highly improbable that the UN would be allowed to take military and political control of the transition in Iraq, while the post-war situation there is getting more and more complicated.

Moratinos said that the announcement yesterday was also intended to deliver a political statement to the Spanish people - that the new Government will fulfill its electoral promises. Ever since Aznar decided to actively support the US invasion and occupation of Iraq without consulting Congress and despite the opposition of 90% of the Spanish people, Zapatero promised that if he won the elections this year, he would withdraw the troops. Moratinos said that given the general consensus in the international community that the UN would not be given a leading role in the conflict, there was no point in prolonging the uncertainty about when Spanish troops would return.

Sr. Moratinos confirmed that he spoke yesterday with Colin Powell hours before the announcement was made and that although Powell was disappointed, he said he understood the political nature of the decision. The Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister says he hopes that the decision will not damage Spain's diplomatic relations with the United States, and he confirmed that he will go ahead with his trip to the USA this week, where he will meet with Powell and Condoleezza Rice, as well as representatives of the US Senate and Congress.

Moratinos rejected accusations that the decision to withdraw troops was a way of giving in to terrorism. He reminded Cadena Ser listeners that the original justification for military action presented to the Spanish public by Aznar was that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction which represented a threat to world peace and had to be found and destroyed. The invasion was never put forward as an answer to terrorism. Since the invasion took place, no weapons of mass destruction have been found, and the international terrorism situation has worsened.

Moratinos said that the new Socialist Government would take a firm stance against national and international terrorism, and that the Spanish Government would continue to collaborate with other countries in looking for ways to solve the crisis in Iraq, and that any solution which respected international law and involved UN leadership would have Spain's full support.

The Government has announced that the new Defence Minister, Jose Bono, will hold a press conference this afternoon after the Cabinet of Ministers has held its first meeting, to further explain the Spanish withdrawal from Iraq, and Zapatero has called for an extraordinary parliamentary session tomorrow so that he can explain his decision before congress. A debate will be held afterwards, so that all parties can express their opinion. Yesterday all political parties represented in the Spanish parliament, with the exception of the Popular Party, confirmed their support for the immediate withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq. Mariano Rajoy, the leader of the PP, strongly criticised the move.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Zapatero says he will recall Spanish troops from Iraq as soon as possible

Spain's new President has said that Spain's 1,400 troops in Iraq will be withdrawn "in the shortest possible time". Zapatero said today "With the information we have, and which we have gathered over the past few weeks, it is not foreseeable that the United Nations will adopt a resolution that satisfies Spain's terms".

"I have given the order to do everything necessary to bring the Spanish troops stationed in Iraq home in the shortest time possible and with the greatest security guarantees," Zapatero said today in a statement broadcast on national television. Zapatero said Spain's government would continue to support Iraq's stability, democratization, territorial integrity and reconstruction.

Spain will also support any U.N. or European Union effort to help Iraqis' recover sovereignty and hold free, democratic elections in accordance with International Law, Zapatero said.

Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Spain's new President

Yesterday Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero became Spain's new President having received 183 votes in his favour after the debates held on Thursday and Friday. It is the first time in Spain's new democracy, that any Spanish President has been voted in with only one party (the Popular Party) voting against. With the exception of the Popular Party, all the other political parties voted in favour of Zapatero, except the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) and the Catalan Nationalist Party (CIU) who both abstained.