Where is Spain Going?

It is a particular pleasure to be here again. This is my fourth time at the festival, which makes me feel very much part of the festival family. Also, as some familiar faces here know, I was married in Gibraltar many years ago –more than I care to remember.

Political scene
The famous and very successful Spanish tourism slogan of the 1960s – “Spain is different” – which it was then as the country was the only dictatorship in Western Europe apart from Portugal – has come back to haunt Spaniards, but this time for very different reasons. The country has been without a functioning government since last December 20: two inconclusive elections, the last one in June, have so far failed to break the dispiriting spectacle of political deadlock in the fragmented parliament.

We are now headed toward a third election during the Christmas period if there is no agreement by October 31. King Felipe will consult with party leaders on October 24 and 25 and this will be followed by a vote on a new government in parliament.

It is of little comfort, but a couple of years ago Belgium spent 541 days forming a government. Spain as of today has had a caretaker government for the last 305 days.

Although Spaniard joke that the country has got along fine without a proper government, this year has been a lost one. There are some pressing issues that cannot be tackled until a new government is in place including the urgent need to finally meet EU rules on the size of the budget deficit and make the ailing pension system sustainable.

The political gridlock, the result of the weakening of the two-party system that dominated Spain for more than 30 years due to the emergence of two insurgent parties, the centrist Ciudadanos and the far-left Podemos, reflects the teething problems in adapting to a new political culture.

The two traditional parties (the conservative Popular Party and Socialists) are finding it very difficult to adapt to the new circumstances and cast off the ‘old’ political culture. In the much quoted words of the Italian neo-Marxist theorist Antonio Gramsci, ‘The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born.’

Felipe González, a former Socialist Prime Minister, quipped that Spain has an Italian-style fragmented parliament “but without the Italians to manage it”. The Popular Party has 137 seats of the 350 seats, far from the absolute majority of 186 it won in the 2011 election, and the Socialists 85, its lowest number since democracy was restored after the end of the Franco dictatorship in 1975 and far from its heyday in the early 1980s when it had 202 seats and was the engine of Spain’s modernisation. The two new parties, which have upended the political system – the far left Unidos Podemos and the centrist liberal Ciudadanos – have 71 and 32 seats, respectively.

Ciudadanos signed an “anti corruption pact” with the Popular Party after the June election and in return for various reforms will vote in favour of the PP forming a minority government, but the PP still needs a handful of ‘yes’ votes from other parties or abstentions to win the day. These would come from the Socialists or perhaps the Basque Nationalist Party (5 seats) and a couple of Socialists MPs.

The Popular Party gained 14 more seats in the June election than in December and would increase its tally again if there is a third election, A poll this week put the PP’s share of the vote in a new election at 38%, up from 35% in June.

Breaking the deadlock has been hampered by the lack of democratic culture within parties and between parties. Perhaps the almost 40 years since the end of the Franco dictatorship have not been enough to inculcate a fuller democracy. Parties are very reluctant to make concessions in order to reach agreements.

Without wishing to be flippant, it is worth bearing in mind that the Spanish language does not have a word that fully reflects the English word ‘compromise’. The nearest equivalent is pacto (pact), but that word does not convey the sense that concessions have been made on all sides, which is what Spain needs in order to form a new government. Those of you who know Spanish know that compromiso is a false friend and means commitment and not compromise.

As still the two most voted parties, the main responsibility for forming a new government lies with the Popular Party and the Socialists. The Socialists have been engaged like Britain’s Labour Party in trench warfare over whether to facilitate a new Popular Party government, by abstaining in a parliamentary vote, or go for a third election and risk gaining even fewer seats.

The warfare came to a head earlier this month when Pedro Sánchez was ousted as the party’s leader after a fierce power struggle and a marathon meeting of the party’s federal committee that lasted for 12 hours. The party’s militants want neither a new PP government nor third elections. Not only would the PP gain more seats but Podemos would probably overtake the Socialists and become the main party of the left, which would be a devastating blow for the Socialists. Podemos is also riven by divisions over its strategy.

The Socialists’ crisis was a lamentable spectacle that spilled over into the street outside the party’s headquarters with rival factions insulting one another, and the unknown chairman of the federal committee shouting, “At this moment the only authority that exists is the chairman of the federal committee and that is me, like it or not.” Across the street, a shopkeeper prepared a giant paella for the crowd of restless journalists.

Sánchez did not want to be the person responsible for letting the Popular Party (very tainted by corruption) continue in power and confining his party to the opposition, side by side with Podemos, which is treading on the Socialists’ heels. For this reason he is something of a hero among his supporters. Sánchez, however, boxed himself into a corner by repeatedly denying the support that would enable the Popular Party to form a minority government. His mantra “no means no” was resonant of Theresa May’s “Brexit means Brexit”, except that there can be a hard or a soft Brexit but only one “no”. Yet Sánchez never came up with a realistic alternative and had neither the electoral strength nor the political allies to form a government. His only alternative was a government with the far left Podemos, with whom there is no love lost, and MPs who are Catalan separatists, a cause most Socialists do not back. One wit described Podemos’ economic policy as “magical realism without the realism.” Sánchez was caught between a rock and a hard place. The Socialists’ problems are those of all European social-democratic parties.

The mantra of the Socialists’ acting leader is “abstention does not mean support”. The party will find a way to abstain, a decision that will be taken at this Sunday’s federal committee, and so facilitate the creation of a new government. The one doubt seems to be whether they will be able to extract a price for doing this and so suffer a less humiliating climb down.

While the protracted stalemate is the result of there now being four parties, opinion polls show that Spaniards do not want to return to the two-party system and nor are they enamoured of a government with an absolute majority, whatever its political colour.

The combined share of the vote of the Popular Party and the Socialists, the two parties that have alternated in power since 1982, dropped from a peak of 70% in 1986 to 45% in June of this year. These two parties are wounded but not dead.

The political scene has changed considerably since 2011, at the height of Spain’s economic crisis, when the so-called movement of the indignant ones camped out in the Puerta del Sol in the heart of Madrid. Los indignados protested against high unemployment, welfare cuts, corruption, evictions of families unable to pay their mortgages and other grievances.

This movement helped to spawn a political party, Podemos, which then became Unidos Podemos after linking up with the much smaller United Left, essentially the revamped communist party, to contest last June’s election on the same ticket. Podemos eschews the terms “left” and “right” and is engaged in what is known as transversal politics – seeking ways to cross and possibly redraw borders that mark politicised differences. It thus tries to appeal to the unemployed and to pensioners, among other groups, but so far not successfully. At one stage it pitched itself as a Nordic style social democrat party, to the consternation of the Socialist Party that has long claimed that mantle.

The generational split between parties is profound: the largest share of Popular Party voters is pensioners while that of Unidos Podemos is the unemployed. The average age of Popular Party voters is 57 and that of Podemos 43.

The age profile of the electoral census has changed considerably in the last 35 years, reflecting the ageing of the population. In 1981, 35% of voters were under the age of 34 compared to 21% today.

Acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has been a master of what some call ‘strategic patience’, meaning that that he left it to the other political leaders to move and possibly burn themselves while he appeared to stand still and do nothing. The enigmatic Rajoy is a Galician, the sort of person, Spaniards like to quip, you meet on the stairs and you do not know whether he is going up or coming down.

Recently, I was struck by something I saw in an exhibition commemorating the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Nobel laureate Camilo José Cela: a framed newspaper interview with him that proclaimed “En España, el que resiste gana” (He who resists wins).

Personally speaking, the best solution for Spain and for the health of the country’s body politic would be a German-style grand coalition of the PP, the Socialists and Ciudadanos, but the cleavage between left and right in Spain, partly a hangover from the 1936-39 Civil War, is such that this is not going to happen, although the War ended almost 80 years ago.

Catalonia
Judging by the lower turnout at this year’s national day in Catalonia on September 11, known as the Diada, the region’s push for independence from Spain is losing steam.

According to the police, 875,000 people attended rallies this year in five cities, down from 1.4 million in Barcelona, the only city to hold a rally last year. The Diada commemorates the fall of Barcelona during the Spanish War of Succession in 1714.

A sense of fatigue may have set in, as the central government in Madrid, has been blocking every pro-independence move of the Catalan government, but according to one poll some 48% are in favor of Catalonia becoming an independent state, while 42% are against it.

Carles Puigdemont, the president of the region that generates one-quarter of Spain’s exports, attended one of this year’s rallies, the first time a sitting president has done so.

Barcelona’s moves to implement its pro-independence roadmap of laws needed for an independent state, approved by the regional parliament after pro-separatist parties won the majority of seats in last year’s regional election, is being countered at every stage by the Constitutional Court in Madrid. Carlos Lesmes, the Supreme Court’s President, said state prosecutors would not tolerate “the challenge to the rule of law” and the “total contempt for the constitutional order”.

Former Catalan President Artur Mas and two other officials are to stand trial for holding a mock independence referendum in 2014, which the Constitutional Court had deemed illegal.

Puigdemont has called for a referendum on independence next September whether the central government agrees or not, and which he would regard as binding as it will take place under laws approved by the Catalan parliament in defiance of Spain’s laws.

As acting Prime Minister Rajoy is expected to continue in the job when the new government is formed, one can expect him to carry on stonewalling the independence movement. On this particular issue, the Socialists and Ciudadanos broadly support him.

The Catalan crisis requires a political solution, which would first require changes to the 1978 constitution which all of Spain’s governments have been reluctant to make, as if the document was set in concrete instead of being one that can evolve.

The problem is that giving Catalonia more autonomy or improving its financial relation with the central government, one of the main grievances, runs the risk of opening up a Pandora’s Box of competing demands from Spain’s 16 other regions.

Corruption
Spanish society as a whole is not more corrupt than other Western societies, although regular readers of the Spanish press could be forgiven for thinking corruption had reached African proportions. Graft is very rare among the police or judiciary, for example. Corruption among the political elites, however, is perceived as being fairly widespread, particularly in the interface between local politicians and construction companies.

Spain’s biggest corruption trial in years opened this month. Among the 37 people in the dock are three former treasurers of the ruling Popular Party (PP) including Luis Barcenas accused of salting away €8 million in various Swiss bank accounts. This trial is putting the Popular Party under intense scrutiny.

The so-called Gürtel kickbacks-for-contracts case is the first in a series of macro trials that will examine corruption during Spain’s boom years that tainted not just the PP. Francisco Correa, the alleged ringleader, who handed out bribes in exchange for contracts, faces up to 125 years if found guilty. He went by the nickname ‘Don Vito’, after the main character in the film The Godfather.

Meanwhile, in the next court room in the same building, Rodrigo Rato, a former managing director of the IMF and before that the Popular Party’s Economy Minister, and 64 other bankers are on trial for allegedly running up around €12 million on ‘unofficial’ company credit cards at Bankia that were used for purchases such as travel and fine clothes that had nothing to do with their duties.

Bankia, created out of the merger of seven struggling regional savings banks in December 2010, was rescued in 2012 at public expense after it was floated on the Spanish stock market. Rato, Bankia’s chairman, was forced to resign shortly before it was bailed out and partly nationalised.

In another recent and emblematic trial, María Victoria Pinilla, the mayor for 24 years of La Muela, a municipality with 5,000 inhabitants, was jailed last month for 17 years for misappropriation of public funds, trafficking of influences, fraudulent use of state subsidies and money laundering. Her ex husband, three sons and sister were also on trial. Despite being a small town, she managed to build a covered bullring, three museums, an aviary, an auditorium and a vast sports centre, and, among other personal luxuries, she acquired a mansion in the Dominican Republic where she rubbed shoulders with the legendary crooner Julio Iglesias.

The Socialists are also embroiled in corruption scandals, though to a lesser extent than the Popular Party. Manuel Chaves and José Antonio Griñán, both former Socialist presidents of Andalusia, the party’s fiefdom, have been formally accused in the ERE corruption case involving the alleged misappropriation of millions of euros of public money to help companies make severance payments to laid-off workers.

Spain’s latest score in the Corruption Perceptions Index of the Berlin-based Transparency International dropped from 65 in 2012 to 58 this year (the nearer to 100 the cleaner the country) when the country was ranked 36th out of 174 nations. Spain, however, still has a long way to fall before it reaches the position of Italy, which is ranked 61st with a score of 44.

A novel study by two US academics published last year found that Spain’s billionaires owe 30% of their wealth to political connections, the highest level in Europe after Italy.

Corruption has been a major factor behind the erosion of the hegemony of the PP and the Socialists who colonised institutions such as the governing body of the judiciary and the Court of Auditors responsible for the comptrolling of public accounts, as well as the more than 40 savings banks (whittled down to fewer than 10 since 2012 as a result of a banking crisis). Not only did politicians invade new areas, but also they abandoned their natural environment – parliament, one of whose functions is to demand accountability–.

Enchufismo (favouritism), clientelismo (patronage) and nepotism (the negative side of the otherwise admirable importance given to the family, and which has the country’s saviour) were, in varying degrees, rife. For example the head of the Court of Auditors watchdog, had to explain himself to a parliamentary committee after it was discovered that around 100 of the 700 employees were related to the Court’s current and former senior management and to its trade-union representatives, while the Popular Party’s leader in the province of Ourense, was disqualified from public office for nine years (at a time when he had already retired) after he personally appointed 104 people to the Provincial Council which he headed for 25 years and managed to hand over to his son.

Ciudadanos signed an anti-corruption pact with the Popular Party in August as part of a deal to try to end the protracted political. The pact includes a commitment to remove party officials accused of corruption, an end to the practice of handing down pardons to corrupt officials and the Popular Party’s agreement to back a parliamentary committee of inquiry into the Gürtel scandal.

Judiciary
The politicization of the judiciary and the judicialisation of politics has deprived Spain of an effective system of checks and balances and made impunity easier.

The 20 members of the General Council of the Judiciary (the CJGP), the governing authority, are appointed by parliament and the Senate by a simple majority vote. As a result, they are largely beholden to the parties that appointed them.

A report this month by the Council of Europe warned that it is “crucial” that the CGJP is “not only free, but also seen to be free from political influence” and stresses that “political authorities should not be involved, at any stage, in the selection process of judicial staff”.

A survey carried out by the CGJP among the legal profession found that 75% of respondents felt that the CGJP does not sufficiently protect the principles of judicial independence. The latest EU Justice Scoreboard showed that the public’s perception of judicial independence in Spain is at the bottom of the EU ranking –in 25th position out of 28 countries. Nor does Spain do well in the global ranking by the World Economic Forum, which places the country 97th out of 147 nations.

One item on the crowded agenda of the next government is an agreement to have more members of the CGJP appointed by members of the judiciary and not by parliament and the Senate.

The justice also system moves at a snail’s pace, partly because it is severely underfunded. In one of the most notorious cases, it took 10 years for Carlos Fabra, a prominent Popular Party politician best known for promoting the building of the ghost airport at Castellón, to come to trial on charges that included tax fraud.

Unemployment
I have lived in Spain since 1986, after leaving the Financial Times and returning to Madrid, and I still can’t get my head around Spain’s whopping level of unemployment. Spain is out of recession and the economy is growing at 3%, one of the highest rates in the European Union, partly thanks to another record year for tourism and exports. You should bear in mind, however, that the pre-crisis level (2008) of economic output will not be recovered until next year. And yet the jobless rate is still 20%, albeit down from a peak of 27% in 2013. Spain’s youth unemployment is 44%.

Spain’s crisis decimated jobs, especially in the construction sector, one of the engines of a decade-long boom. The bursting of the real estate bubble had a huge knock-on effect. Construction jobs were shed almost as quickly as they had been created: more than one million between 2007 and 2014. Job creation during the boom was at the expense of precarious employment contracts and increased duality between insiders (those on permanent contracts) and outsiders (those on temporary contracts).

Apart from the real estate bubble period (2002-08), Spain’s jobless rate since 1980 has been at least five percentage points above that in Germany, France, Italy, the UK and the US, 10 points higher in the early 1990s and 15 points in 2013 and 2014. Even in 2007, at the height of the economic boom, Spain’s jobless rate was 8%, a disastrous level by the standards of most developed countries. Some companies complained during the boom they could not find suitable workers to fill posts, and so the 8% figure was regarded as full employment.

According to a former executive director for Spain at the International Monetary Fund, Spain is the most over-diagnosed country in the world in terms of the labour market. Here is what he told his colleagues six years ago, and very little has changed since then. ‘One could talk for hours and one could fill this room with labour law experts and economists, and they will have 150 solutions or 150,000 solutions for the troubles of the Spanish labour market. The Spanish labour market is a disaster in terms of efficiency. I have no trouble admitting this and neither do my authorities. It has produced a phenomenon that can be described in many ways, but basically, for the past 20 years, something between 40-50 per cent of the Spanish population has been either unemployed permanently or in precarious job conditions in fixed-term contracts’. This was quite an indictment of the dysfunctional labour market.

The most worrying factor behind unemployment is the large number of workers with low levels of education and hence a lack of basic skills, many of who left school early at 16 to work on building sites. Only 25% of those aged between 25 and 34 have completed their upper secondary education.

The share of construction-sector jobs in total male employment increased from 14% to more than 20% between 1997 and 2006, and in the same period wages for unskilled work rose faster than those for skilled work. Many young people, particularly males, concluded that education did not pay. These low-skilled jobs in an economy excessively based on a labour-intensive but unsustainable sector were destroyed as soon as the economy ground to a halt and they may have vanished forever. Many of those who lost these construction jobs were on temporary contracts as they were cheaper to sack than those on permanent contracts.

As I see it, Spain’s economic model is part of the problem. By this I mean that an economy based to a disproportionate extent on bricks and mortar and cannot provide jobs on a sustained basis. I know that it is easy to say this and much harder to do anything about it. At the height of the boom in 2006, the number of housing starts in Spain (865,561) was more than that of Germany, France and the UK combined.

The same goes for tourism. Spain this year will receive a record of more than 70 million tourists, the third highest number in the world, partly thanks to the loss of tourists to Egypt, Tunisia and Turkey because of political violence and security concerns. The Canary Islands, for example, will receive around 13 million tourists (six times the population) and yet the jobless rate is still astronomically high at 27%.

The construction sector is still far from recovering from its collapse, and it would be naïve to believe that new economic sectors will be created to replace it and create the same number of jobs. There are still an estimated 490,000 unsold new homes.

The budget problem
Spain became something of a poster boy for getting to grips with its economic crisis, particularly in the German government’s eyes, and imposing orthodox austerity measures, with the cutting of pensions, reducing welfare spending, freezing public sector wages and increasing income taxes and VAT. But this is no longer so. The credibility the government won has been lost as a result of the persistent failure to lower the budget deficit (the difference between revenues received and spending made) to 3% of GDP and comply with European Union fiscal guidelines.

Spain was supposed to reach 3% this year, but that proved impossible after the government missed targets in 2014 and 2015. Under the new deal with the European Commission, Spain has to bring the deficit below 3% in 2018, or face a fine which it narrowly missed this year.

Education
Spain has made considerable progress in educational attainment in the last 40 years, particularly when it is borne in mind that it was not obligatory to attend school (between the ages of six and 14) until 1970, much later than most other developed countries. The country has also done better than many other European countries as regards educational mobility: about 40% of adults have a higher of education than their parents.

The system, however, is in crisis, particularly at the secondary school level. During the economic boom, many teenagers came to the conclusion that education did not pay, and, sadly, they were right. They dropped out of school early at 16 (the age at which compulsory education ends) and flocked in drives to work in the construction and tourism sectors, buying their first cars when they were 18 or so.

Nowhere was this rifer than in Villacañas, which became the door-making capital of Spain. At the height of the boom, this town of 10,000 inhabitants had 10 door-manufacturing plants employing 6,000
people and producing 11 million doors a year, 60% of the national total. Hardly anyone stayed on at school. One bright lad saw the writing on the wall and stopped working in one of the factories so he could complete his education. He did so well that he won a place at the London School of Economics and went on to work for the Bank of Spain.

The early school-leaving rate peaked at 31% in 2009, double the EU average, and it has since dropped to 20%, which is still far too high. This is not the result of any government measure, but simply the fact that there are far fewer jobs to go to.

The Spanish education system and hence the labour market because the two are closely linked is a peculiar one: at one end of the spectrum there are poorly qualified people who left school early and whose jobs prospects are bleak and at the other end university graduates who often find themselves in jobs for which they are over qualified. We are back again with the nature of Spain’s economic model. This is not a problem exclusive to Spain, but it is fair to say that it is more accentuated than in other countries.

Even more worrying is the rise in Spain’s NEETs – those aged between 20 and 34 who are neither employed, in education or in training. The NEETs rate stands at 24% compared to 15% in the UK. These people form a ‘lost generation’.

Immigration
Spain’s population rose from 39.6 million in 1996 to a peak of 46.8 million in 2012, an unprecedented increase of more than 7 million in just 16 years. Since then the population has declined as immigrants have been returning to their country of origin and more Spaniards have been emigrating (100,000 last year three times higher than in 2008, according to official figures).

Whereas between the harsh years of 1960 and 1973 more than one million Spaniards emigrated, Spain during its 10-year boom period that ended in 2008 became the favoured country in Europe for migrants in search of a better way of life. To Spain’s great credit immigrants have been largely integrated into society. The country does not have any relevant xenophobic, far-right, populist parties, and violent attacks on immigrants have been rare. In my view, a vote in favour of Brexit would not succeed in Spain.

The foreign-born population reached 5.7 million in 2010, 12% of the total population, compared to around 800,000 in 1990 (2% of the total population).

Today, Spain has 700,000 Rumanians, the largest foreign community. In 2012 there were close to 900,000, according to official figures. Some of these people became Spanish citizens and so no longer figure in statistics as immigrants. In 1996, there were just 2,258 Rumanians.

Immigration is a relatively new phenomenon in the history of Spain,
traditionally an intolerant and dogma-obsessed country that for centuries drove its citizens into exile for religious, political or economic reasons, as a result of, for example, the 1492 expulsion of Jews, the 1609 expulsion of Moriscos (the descendants of Muslims that converted to Christianity) and General Franco’s victory in the Civil War.

Immigration is not the only factor that has changed Spain’s demographics.
Rising average life expectancy –from 77.4 years to 83.2 since 1990, a testimony to the creation of an inclusive welfare state and Spaniards’ healthier life style– and one of the lowest fertility rates in the world (fertility rate of 1.3 children) are producing significant changes in the population pyramid. The share of the population over the age of 65 now stands at 18.5%, up from 16.6% in 2005. By 2050 it is estimated that 6% of the population will be over the age of 80, the third largest proportion after Italy and Greece.

The ageing population, high unemployment and 1.8 million fewer social security contributors than in 2008 are straining the welfare system. The special reserve to help pay pensions, created during the economic boom will have been depleted by the end of 2017.

Gibraltar
It would not be fitting for me to say nothing about Gibraltar in the new context, particularly as a result of the Brexit decision. As you know mainland Britain voted in favour of leaving the EU, while Gibraltar voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU. There is no way that life here will be exactly the same.

Madrid, in the shape of acting Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo, who has a bee in his bonnet about the Rock, wasted no time in saying that the only way for Gibraltar to continue to have the same access to the EU – and thus no hassle crossing the border – would be to agree to share sovereignty with Spain. The Chief Minister’s response of “no way, José” was equally adamant.

With the UK out of the EU as of 2019, the border between Spain and Gibraltar would become an external and not an internal EU frontier (which as, at present, has to be kept open under EU rules). As such, Spain could close it and a legal challenge by the UK/Gibraltar would be more difficult.

EU membership has provided Gibraltar with a framework of treaties and laws that give the territory a degree of security, stability and safety, while the Rock’s tiny economy, based on financial services, online gaming and tourism (much of it from Spain’s Costa del Sol), has boomed. Some 23,000 visitors and 7,000 workers (mainly Spaniards from Andalusia, one of the country’s most depressed regions) cross the border daily. There is full employment, in contrast with Spain’s jobless rate of 20%, and housing has become so expensive on the densely populated territory that living in Spain has become an increasingly attractive option. For international investors, Gibraltar sells itself as a ‘gateway to Europe’.

The key issue for Gibraltar is free flowing movement across the border – more so than single market access as much business is conducted directly with the UK and that can continue. But unless offices in Gibraltar can get their workers across the border, and shops, restaurants and construction firms can get their goods reliably into Gibraltar, a lot of what goes on now will have to be reassessed. Morocco could hold the answer to many of these issues.

Conclusion
The first question you might be asking yourselves after listening to some of the gloomy statistics is why isn’t there a revolution in Spain. The quick answer to that is the extended and cohesive family-based network that looks after its own in times of crisis, much more so than in Northern European countries. I am convinced that Spain’s level of unemployment and other problems combined with a UK-style family culture would produce a revolt. If all of Spain’s grandparents, who play a major supportive role, went on strike the country would be in dire straits!

Spain is at a crossroads. The country has been politically paralyzed for 10 months. It can either move forward in a spirit of consensus and regenerate institutional and political life and agree some economic reforms or it can continue to stagnate and become somewhat different again.

Date
October 20, 2016