Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy during the interview on Spanish national TV on Monday. (Efe)
Ángel Collado 09/11/2012 (06:00 AM CET)
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy tried to convince Spaniards that the sacrifices asked from them because of the budget cuts and reforms that the government is pushing forward are necessary to exit the crisis.
Rajoy, who appeared on Monday evening in his first individual interview on Spanish national TV since he came to power in December last year, did not deliver any big news. Instead, he provided a pedagogic approach, recognizing the government’s failed attempts to explain its decisions. His political message focused on the autonomous regions that resist against complying with the deficit target.
Regarding the Catalan independence movement, he said they are engaging in “trouble” while these should be times of “unity of cooperation.” On Tuesday, the Catalans celebrate their national day, la Diada Nacional de Cataluña, and demonstrations in favor of more Catalan independence are expected.
First prime time interview
After eight months as leader of the government, Rajoy did what many in the leadership of his centre-right Popular party had asked for - since the high deficit of the public accounts, which he inherited from former Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, forced him to abandon the electoral economic program and work with “blood, sweat and tears,” - that is, to appear in front of the citizens on prime time TV.
The format that Spanish national TV had chosen – a moderator and five journalists for a 45-minute interview – and the well-known capacity of the prime minister to only say what he wants and the way he wants it, gave Rajoy a possibility to show his didactic skills, and also to express his strong defense of the reforms, including the labor reform, as well as to express regret when talking about the increased taxes.
The prime minister managed to get around general or specific questions about the possible request for a financial rescue from the European Union giving the same answer he repeated in July: “We must first study the conditions and see if it is necessary; then, after having listened to everyone, I will do what I will consider is in the best interest of the 47 million Spaniards.”
Rajoy pointed out the positive fact that the euro already is “irreversible” and that there is an open window in the EU if the markets insists on putting pressure on Spain.
“For now, the risk premium has dropped”
"For now, the risk premium has dropped and we can finance ourselves,” he said to demonstrate that he is in no hurry to take a decision. He promised that pensions will not be decreased – “It was the first direction I gave the Ministry for the Treasury,” he said – and he said he will not touch income taxes or value-added taxes in the budget for next year, although he will look into “capital gain taxes and ‘green taxes.’”
Rajoy stressed that his main goal is for Spain to comply with the deficit target. He said he was convinced that this will be achieved and he recalled that, in any case, the state will have to request another €45bn from outside next year.
In line with this, he insisted that the autonomous regions, as part of the state, are financially helped by the central government and are obliged to comply with these deficit targets “as part of the nation.”
“We should not engage in trouble and problems, but get together,” he added, before announcing that he will summon the leaders of the autonomous regions in October to close the agreement on austerity and the rule of “not spending more than is earned,” which the regions have had difficulties to follow.
Catalan independence demonstrations
Regarding the independence demonstrations on Tuesday in Barcelona, called by the Catalan nationalists, including Convergence and Union (CiU), the governing centre-right Catalan nationalist federation, Rajoy stressed that this is “the least convenient now,” because this should be times of “unity and cooperation.” What is most important for Spaniards, including Catalans, is the economic recovery and job creation, he said.
On questions regarding the ‘Bolinaga case’ – the controversial possible release of ETA prisoner Iosu Uribetxebarria Bolinaga, suffering from cancer, which will be decided by the Audiencia Nacional, and has caused an open conflict within PP – Rajoy recalled that he used to be interior minister, that he finds the terrorist “repugnant” but that he now only weighs 47 kilos and that “the law does not want prisoners to die in prison.” When asked if he understands the public opinion’s reaction – many, even within PP, reacted against the ‘conditional liberty’ Bolinaga was granted by a prison supervision court, a decision that has been appealed to the Audiencia Nacional – Rajoy said it is possible the government does not always explain its positions well.
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