The think tank experts gave an overview of the situation in Spain from an economic, political and social standpoint
The first time the Leaders came into contact with Spanish think tanks was at Elcano Royal Institute, where they met with analysts Federico Steinberg and Ignacio Molina. Together, the two experts gave an overview of the current situation in Spain from an economic, political and social standpoint which the Leaders found “very interesting and instructive”.
In order to help the Australian participants get a comprehensive picture of Spain, the analysts at Elcano Royal Institute gave a brief presentation on the country's recent history, from the end of the crisis and the current economic challenges, especially in the labour market, to changes in the political arena with the rise of new political parties. They also mentioned the various factors influencing politics in Catalonia and Spain's position regarding Brexit as a member of the EU.
Federico Steinberg and Ignacio Molina highlighted that Spain is currently “one of the EU's most pro-European countries” and will therefore defend EU unity, although it might suggest some flexibility due to its special relationship with the United Kingdom, which sends 18 million tourists a year to Spain. A large number of British citizens are also resident in the country.
The changes in the political arena over the past few years caught the interest of Alastair Davis and Susan Windybank, who asked the experts about the rise of new political parties and their impact on traditional politics. According to Ignacio Molina, their presence “has put many issues on the table which were not discussed before”. Unlike the right-wing populist parties that have emerged in other European countries, in Spain they have not been stigmatised as undemocratic; they have been integrated into the system and do not constitute a destabilising factor.
The system, he added, “has changed”. Since there no longer are two strong parties with the capacity to take turns to rule, regional parties have ceased to be the key to obtaining a majority. The key now lies in the parties' ability to create coalitions, in what is “the only country in Europe where there has never been a coalition government”.
The coming months, the analysts emphasised, are set to be “interesting” for Spain, both domestically and abroad. They do not expect any issues within Spain to generate political instability and both this domestic stability and external factors will favour economic growth in the country, which will gradually increase its weight in the international arena.