Spain after the elections: the ‘Germany of the South’?

Spain’s election, caught between the euro crisis and Arab revolutions


Spain votes on 20th November, in the jaws of the two great issues facing Europe: the financial crisis and the Arab Spring. The outcome of the election will affect whether Spain plays a crucial role in helping Europe deal with both crises, heal divisions between northern and southern Europe, and bring stability and reform to the EU’s southern neighbourhood.

A new ECFR essay by José Ignacio Torreblanca and Mark Leonard – ‘Spain after the election: the “Germany of the south”?’ – sets out how a new Spanish government under Mariano Rajoy can come up with a credible plan to deal with Spain’s problems that also helps the rest of Europe.

  • Polls suggest a heavy defeat for the socialist government of José-Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, with victory forMariano Rajoy and his Partido Popular.
  • Spain faces three main challenges: 1. Economic – Spain is firmly in the line of contagion, with very high unemployment and an overinflated real estate bubble; 2. Political – Spain needs to restore credibility to remain on the right side of any 2-speed Europe; 3. Foreign policy – Spain’s interests as a strategic Mediterranean power mesh with Europe’s interests in the region.
  • Rajoy has a credible plan to ‘shock and awe’ financial marketswith austerity measures, budget cuts and structural reforms that sell Spain as a “Germany of the south” and point Spain back on a course of economic growth.
  • Although the Spanish election coincides with the 36th anniversary of Franco’s death, very few issues in these elections date back to the Franco era. They date back to the Europeanisation that Spain has witnessed since joining the EU in 1986.

“By helping Spain, a new Spanish government could help Europe deal with the financial crisis and bring stability and reform to North Africa. Spain is willing to become the “Germany of the South”, but it needs help from the rest of Europe.”           José Ignacio Torreblanca

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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