View from Madrid: No mood for blocking

Spain doesn’t like the deal but, owing to domestic turmoil, may have to go along with it

There are two issues dominating the debate around Spain’s response to the Tusk letter, one a matter of form and one of substance.

Following the inconclusive general election results of December, Spain is currently governed by an interim administration while the parties try to stitch together plausible coalitions. In this context it is not entirely clear whether the current prime minister Mariano Rajoy has the mandate to approve the decisions which the EU council plans to look at next week. Indeed, there is a legal struggle between the current government and the opposition as to whether the head of the government should go to parliament before the Council meeting to explain the Spanish position. While the government holds the view that the prime minister will go, as usual, to the Council meeting, the opposition asserts that the current incumbent government should not be able to compromise any future government's position, especially at a time when the Socialists are trying to form government

On substance, looking at editorials and statements from politicians, Tusk’s offer has not gone down especially well in Spain. It is seen as deeply anti-European and regressive, extending even further the privileges which the UK already has. That being said, Spain could probably live with the majority of the proposals if other EU powers went along with them. In the midst of all the domestic drama, Spain is in no mood to block things. However, the immigration issue could be tricky. In an interview given late last week, Pedro Sánchez, the leader of the Socialist party trying to form a government, has said that a government of his could not accept an agreement that discriminates against the 150,000 Spaniards currently resident in the UK. 

Still, it is a little early to see what Spain's final position will be. In the coming days, the government and the main opposition parties will have to talk in order to arrive at a common position or at least gather each other’s views.

The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. ECFR publications only represent the views of their individual authors.

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Author

Head, ECFR Madrid
Senior Policy Fellow

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