1. Euroscepticism and European Parliament elections

National interests take the fore while EU frontrunners only garner some attention

The eco­nom­ic sit­u­a­tion, includ­ing the dra­mat­ic need for cre­at­ing jobs, has been undoubt­ed­ly the most
impor­tant issue in the elec­toral cam­paign in Spain. All par­ties broad­ly share the idea that the eco­nom­ic
pol­i­cy should tend to stim­u­late the econ­o­my instead of pro­mot­ing aus­ter­i­ty. How­ev­er, there are
dif­fer­ences depend­ing on the par­ty: while the rul­ing Pop­u­lar Par­ty (PP) con­sid­ers the sac­ri­fices
already made as nec­es­sary, left wing par­ties dis­agree. Maybe the most sig­nif­i­cant exam­ple of this is
the recent­ly cre­at­ed par­ty Podemos which obtained almost 8% of the pop­u­lar vote and is very
assertive in its anti-aus­ter­i­ty creed. In Cat­alo­nia, the debate revolved around the sup­port for proin­de­pen­dence

Although nation­al issues were the focus of the cam­paign, from a Euro­pean point of view, the
man­age­ment of the Euro cri­sis has been the most impor­tant issue. To a less­er extent, the TTIP
nego­ti­a­tions have also been men­tioned, as well as the Euro­pean strat­e­gy in Ukraine and the cri­sis
with Rus­sia. In con­trast to pre­vi­ous elec­tions, there was lit­tle dis­cus­sion about cohe­sion funds or the
Com­mon Agri­cul­ture Pol­i­cy.

Some ana­lysts, due to the exis­tence of the Spitzenkan­di­dat­en, have labelled these elec­tions as
“his­tor­i­cal”. This nov­el­ty has had impact in some Euro­pean coun­tries, includ­ing Spain. The final TV
debate between the Spitzenkan­di­dat­en was only broad­cast­ed by a sin­gle news chan­nel with an
audi­ence share of less than 1%. Nev­er­the­less, all of the can­di­dates vis­it­ed Spain and were
inter­viewed by the Span­ish press. Mar­tin Schulz was quite present in sev­er­al PSOE cam­paign acts.
Jean Claude Junck­er par­tic­i­pat­ed in low­er pro­file polit­i­cal encoun­ters with jour­nal­ists. Guy Ver­hof­s­tadt
was in Barcelona endors­ing CDC (the main par­ty in the Cata­lan region­al gov­ern­ment). Final­ly, the
left­ist coali­tion Plur­al Left tried to take advan­tage of the pop­u­lar­i­ty of Alex­is Tsipras among more
crit­i­cal vot­ers.


Still largely Pro-European

Euroscep­ti­cism has played no role in Spain so far. Even though the two major par­ties, PP and PSOE,
have lost vot­ers in favour of minor­i­ty par­ties, Euroscep­tic par­ties have not occu­pied this space, as has
been the case in oth­er Euro­pean coun­tries.

The caus­es of the inex­is­tence of a Euro­peanis­m/an­ti-Euro­peanism cleav­age in Spain lay in the 40-
year iso­la­tion­ist dic­ta­tor­ship of Gen­er­al Fran­co and the majori­tar­i­an fea­tures of the Span­ish
democ­ra­cy. As the well-known philoso­pher José Orte­ga y Gas­set point­ed out, due to Spain’s trou­bled
his­to­ry, Spaniards have tra­di­tion­al­ly con­sid­er that “Spain was the prob­lem and Europe the solu­tion”.

Despite the inex­is­tence of suc­cess­ful Euroscep­tic par­ties in Spain, it is also true that the lev­el of
Euro­peanism varies depend­ing on the par­ty. Greece (with Syriza win­ning the elec­tions) and Spain (with Plur­al Left or Podemos achiev­ing great results) are par­a­dig­mat­ic exam­ples of Euro­pean coun­tries whose elec­torates are ask­ing for a rethink­ing of their rela­tion­ship with Brus­sels. In our
coun­try, small­er par­ties (par­tic­u­lar­ly anti-aus­ter­i­ty move­ments on the left, some­times called
Eur­o­crit­ics) are against the way in which the Euro­pean Union has been run in recent years and
demand a rup­ture with the past.


Leading two Parties take a hit while populists and separatists flourish

PP and PSOE, the main par­ties in Spain, could not even reach a 50% com­bined share of the votes.
This is a huge dif­fer­ence as com­pared to the more than 80% the two received in the pre­vi­ous elec­tions
to the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment. These results have been con­sid­ered as an indict­ment of the tra­di­tion­al
two-par­ty sys­tem in Spain, blam­ing both par­ties for the exist­ing cor­rup­tion, the high lev­els of
unem­ploy­ment, and the aus­ter­i­ty poli­cies imple­ment­ed in the last few years.

The loss of sup­port for both PP and PSOE has not been the only news in the elec­tions. In Cat­alo­nia,
“The Left for the Right to Decide” (com­posed main­ly of the Repub­li­can Left of Cat­alo­nia, a proin­de­pen­dence
par­ty), has achieved a great suc­cess super­sed­ing the until now mod­er­ate nation­al­ists
of CiU. At the same time, oth­er small par­ties have tak­en advan­tage of the loss of sup­port for PP and
PSOE, gain­ing much more sup­port than five years ago. In par­tic­u­lar, the Plur­al Left (com­posed by the
Unit­ed Left of the Euro­pean Uni­tar­i­an Left, and by ICV, mem­ber of the Green coali­tion), saw large
rep­re­sen­ta­tive gains with 6 MEPs. Fur­ther­more the cen­trist Union, Progress and Democ­ra­cy (or
UPyD) made gains with 4 MEPs.

But the great­est sur­prise of the elec­tions was Podemos, an anti-aus­ter­i­ty par­ty which to some extent is
the heir of the Indig­nants 15M Move­ment and has gained almost 8% of the elec­torate only 3 months
after its cre­ation. A great part of the suc­cess of this par­ty lays in its com­mu­ni­ca­tion cam­paign, notably
on tele­vi­sion. Its leader, Pablo Igle­sias, man­aged to appear sev­er­al times a week on TV info­tain­ment
shows with large audi­ences, thus gain­ing mass noto­ri­ety quick­ly.

The Euro­pean Par­lia­ment elec­tions have been tra­di­tion­al­ly char­ac­ter­ized by a high absten­tion rate.
Things have not been any dif­fer­ent this time around at nei­ther at the Euro­pean nor the Span­ish lev­el.
These low results reflect per­cep­tion that these elec­tions are con­sid­ered “sec­ond-order elec­tions”, not
as impor­tant as the gen­er­al, region­al or even local elec­tions. In Spain in par­tic­u­lar, turnout has only
reached 42,54% (43% in 2009).


2.The EU’s Neighbourhood

Public opinion of Russia and Putin very poor among most Spaniards

Although the con­flict with Rus­sia revealed the weak­ness of the EU’s for­eign pol­i­cy and Europe’s
strong ener­gy depen­dence on the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion, Spain is reluc­tant to adopt more sweep­ing
mea­sures against Rus­sia because of spe­cif­ic eco­nom­ic inter­ests which could harm its own econ­o­my.
Moscow is a top oil sup­pli­er for Spain (14% of total imports in 2013), and in addi­tion is con­sid­ered a
key part­ner in tourism and real estate, two cru­cial sec­tors for the Span­ish eco­nom­ic recov­ery. Only on
the occa­sion of the annex­a­tion of Crimea, did Spain stand firm­ly with Brus­sels against Russia’s vio­la­tion of inter­na­tion­al law. This posi­tion, like the Span­ish one on Kosovo’s inde­pen­dence, is
pri­mar­i­ly shaped by Madrid’s own inter­nal issues.

In Spain there are divid­ed opin­ions about bilat­er­al rela­tions with Rus­sia. While there is a sur­pris­ing­ly
good opin­ion (although not ubiq­ui­tous) of Rus­sia among the Span­ish elite and politi­cians, The Span­ish
peo­ple have a very neg­a­tive image of Rus­sia and its leader. Peo­ple’s views on Rus­sia have strong­ly
dete­ri­o­rat­ed since last year, accord­ing to the lat­est 24-coun­try poll of the BBC World Ser­vice. The
increas­ing dis­ap­proval of Rus­sia is a world­wide trend, but is par­tic­u­lar­ly marked in Kenya (up 16
points), Spain (up 15 points), Brazil (up 13 points) and Cana­da (up 12 points). Accord­ing to the 35th
wave of the Elcano Barom­e­ter (May 2014), Putin’s image has descend­ed from 3.1 to 2.4 in the lat­est
months, being the worst val­ued of all the inter­na­tion­al lead­ers pro­posed in the study. In the same
study, Rus­sia finds itself last among all coun­tries with a punc­tu­a­tion of 3.8 out of 10, most prob­a­bly
due to the events of the Ukrain­ian cri­sis.


Reluctant to call out Putin, but not shy about need for integrated European energy market

The East­ern Part­ner­ship, one of the two com­po­nents of the Euro­pean Neigh­bour­hood Pol­i­cy, is the
one in which Spain has had tra­di­tion­al­ly less inter­est. In con­trast, the Mediter­ranean region is a
his­tor­i­cal pri­or­i­ty for Spain. There­fore, though events in Ukraine show the lack of a Euro­pean strate­gic
vision and the exis­tence of dif­fi­cul­ties in rela­tions towards the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion, Spain has not
played a pre­dom­i­nant role in deal­ing with the cri­sis.

The events that have tak­en place affect ener­gy rela­tions between Europe and the East­ern coun­tries,
mean­ing that the Ukrain­ian cri­sis has impor­tant eco­nom­ic con­se­quences to the EU as a whole. The
large debt owed to Gazprom has result­ed in a rise in all prices. Strong­ly relat­ed to that is the need to
pro­mote inter­con­nec­tions that allow for a phys­i­cal­ly inte­grat­ed Euro­pean gas mar­ket to off­set the
mar­ket pow­er of Gazprom.

Although Spain is in need of nat­ur­al gas, it does not import it from Rus­sia, but rather from Alge­ria and
oth­er providers. Spain is try­ing to con­sol­i­date itself as an ener­gy hub, but it is first­ly nec­es­sary to
pro­mote the inter­con­nec­tions between our coun­try and France. The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion recent­ly
renewed its focus on cre­at­ing the con­di­tions to build a so-called Ener­gy Union with­in the con­ti­nent.
This may help Spain’s aspi­ra­tions to become that afore­men­tioned hub.


Spain, a friend to Turkey without the means to impose its vision

Over­all, and unlike oth­er coun­tries such as Ger­many or France, Turkey’s can­di­da­cy for the EU has
always been strong­ly sup­port­ed by Span­ish pol­i­cy-mak­ers. Spain and Turkey share cer­tain his­toric and geo­graph­ic sim­i­lar­i­ties that have helped them sym­pa­thize with each oth­er and work togeth­er. The
absence of bilat­er­al con­flicts and cer­tain par­al­lelisms in the process­es of mod­ern­iza­tion,
democ­ra­ti­za­tion and Euro­peaniza­tion have also led Turkey and Spain devel­op­ing a pos­i­tive g
rela­tion­ship. Spain advo­cates Schen­gen visa lib­er­al­iza­tion for Turkey, which has long been denied
due to fear of immi­gra­tion.

Aside for reopen­ing an acquis chap­ter dur­ing its EU pres­i­den­cy some years ago, Spain has been able
to do lit­tle to advo­cate on Turkey’s behalf. Despite this, bilat­er­al rela­tions in eco­nom­ic mat­ters have
flour­ished. Most impor­tant­ly, Turkey has become Spain’s sec­ond largest non-EU export mar­ket after
the US since 2011, while the coun­try was the fifth largest recip­i­ent of gross Span­ish invest­ment
abroad in the first half of 2013.

The open­ing of a new chap­ter needs the sup­port of all EU coun­tries, how­ev­er, and Turkey does not
have that sup­port from Ger­many and France. In addi­tion, the Turk­ish-Cyprus con­flict weighs heav­i­ly
on the EU. The Span­ish gov­ern­ment is one of the more active in favour of keep­ing Turkey on board, a
for­eign pol­i­cy issue which cuts across the polit­i­cal divide. Regard­less, Turkey’s EU mem­ber­ship does
not seem like­ly to become a real­i­ty in the imme­di­ate future.

Notwith­stand­ing this, and as a con­se­quence of the path fol­lowed by Erdo­gan recent­ly, Spain is crit­i­cal
of the very lit­tle progress made by Turkey in the reforms demand­ed by the Euro­pean Union in the last
few years.


3. Power relations in the EU

Mixed attitudes towards Germany and Merkel

The Euro­pean cri­sis has increased the pre­dom­i­nant role of Ger­many in EU deci­sion-mak­ing. Due to its
domes­tic eco­nom­ic prob­lems, France has lost its tra­di­tion­al posi­tion as a coun­ter­bal­ance to the
Ger­mans. There­fore since 2009, any impor­tant deci­sion tak­en by the EU in the last few years has
need­ed Merkel’s bless­ing.

Accord­ing to the lat­est Elcano Barom­e­ter (May, 2014), Spaniards have a good opin­ion of Ger­many, a
coun­try than can be con­sid­ered as an “exam­ple” (low unem­ploy­ment rates, the state of the econ­o­my
as a whole, and the pow­er it is thought to have are some of the caus­es for these good results). The
aver­age score of Ger­many reached 6.2 out of 10, the high­est in the rank­ing above both the Unit­ed
King­dom and the Unit­ed States. Telling­ly, this was also more than one point above the self-image of
Spaniards. Respond­ing to the ques­tion of which coun­try should be the main part­ner of Spain,
Spaniards have no doubt at all: Ger­many (41%), well above France (27%).

How­ev­er, in pre­vi­ous barom­e­ters, the eval­u­a­tion of the respon­dents was less pos­i­tive. Half of
Spaniards con­sid­ered Angela Merkel’s re-elec­tion as good for Ger­many and bad for Spain. Equal­ly,
Merkel ranked among the worst val­ued lead­ers (only Vladimir Putin was below her), and more than
60% thought that Ger­many was to blame for the slow Euro­pean eco­nom­ic recov­ery. This anti-Merkel/an­ti-Ger­many sen­ti­ment was uti­lized in the last elec­toral cam­paign by Pablo Igle­sias, the
leader of the recent­ly cre­at­ed Podemos par­ty. He explic­it­ly said that he “would fight to stop Spain
being a Ger­man colony” and that “Spain was a coun­try con­trolled by the Troi­ka”.
On the con­trary, the rul­ing Pop­u­lar Par­ty has a pro-Ger­man atti­tude and very good rela­tions with the
con­ser­v­a­tive CDU. PP pic­tures Spain as a “Ger­many of the South”, engaged with the Euro­pean Union
at all lev­els, par­tic­u­lar­ly focused on reach­ing the nec­es­sary eco­nom­ic sta­bil­i­ty.


Austerity: largely opposed

Spain is wit­ness­ing high unem­ploy­ment rates and the strongest aus­ter­i­ty mea­sures since 2009–2010.
While it is true that some indi­ca­tors of the macro­eco­nom­ic sit­u­a­tion seem to have sta­bi­lized, it will take
time to return to a tol­er­a­ble sit­u­a­tion for thou­sands of fam­i­lies who were affect­ed by the cri­sis.

Vot­ers are unsur­pris­ing­ly angry and dis­ap­point­ed with politi­cians and insti­tu­tions, both at the Span­ish
and Euro­pean lev­els, some­thing which was relect­ed by the recent Euro­pean elec­tions. The eco­nom­ic
sit­u­a­tion and the unem­ploy­ment rate rank con­sis­tent­ly as the main wor­ries of the Span­ish pop­u­la­tion
in all stud­ies and were nat­u­ral­ly the most impor­tant top­ics of the recent cam­paign.

It is a shared view amongst par­ties from the Span­ish polit­i­cal spec­trum (but par­tic­u­lar­ly intense in the
oppo­si­tion) that the country’s eco­nom­ic pol­i­cy should shift from aus­ter­i­ty poli­cies to stim­u­lus
mea­sures, and any mea­sure under­tak­en in that sense by the Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank is broad­ly
cel­e­brat­ed. Notwith­stand­ing this, the Gov­ern­ment con­sid­ers the incip­i­ent growth of the coun­try as
proof of the suc­cess of its aus­ter­i­ty mea­sures. For that rea­son, the Gov­ern­ment likes to call itself a
“cham­pi­on” of reforms at the Euro­pean lev­el, in con­trast with oth­er Mem­ber States such as Italy or
France, not to men­tion Greece, who have not been able to take the nec­es­sary mea­sures so far. The
behav­iour of the mar­kets seems to con­firm this.


Spain views possible Brexit passionlessly but watches independence vote in Scotland closely

The pos­si­bil­i­ty of a British exit from the EU is a con­tro­ver­sial issue not only in Europe as a whole, but
also in Spain, a coun­try that shares many things in com­mon with the UK. Despite the dis­pute with
Gibral­tar, and Spain being a much more pro-Euro­pean coun­try than the UK, both coun­tries share an
inter­est in deep­en­ing the Inter­nal Mar­ket. At the same, Britain and Spain favour reach­ing an ambi­tious
agree­ment with the Unit­ed States on the TTIP, and many of the British nation­als live in Spain and

In spite of the eco­nom­ic cri­sis, most Spaniards con­tin­ue to sup­port EU mem­ber­ship and believe that
only deep­er inte­gra­tion can pro­vide a solu­tion to the eurozone’s cur­rent dif­fi­cul­ties and future via­bil­i­ty.
Spaniards also seem to view that Britain has lit­tle to offer in this regard. Even if it is broad­ly agreed
upon that a UK exit would be a major lost for Spain, the Unit­ed King­dom and the EU as a whole,
Span­ish elites are no longer undu­ly con­cerned by the pos­si­bil­i­ty of it.

From a Span­ish point of view, David Cameron has shown a sur­pris­ing inter­est in deal­ing with com­plex
ques­tions via direct democ­ra­cy con­cern­ing Scot­land. If in the 2011 con­sul­ta­tion there was a clear
major­i­ty against chang­ing the UK’s elec­toral sys­tem, in the 2014 the vic­to­ry over the sup­port­ers of
pro-inde­pen­dence posi­tions was very nar­row and only attained through promis­es of devo­lu­tion of
more pow­ers to Scot­land. This last ref­er­en­dum has had impli­ca­tions for Spain, as the region­al gov­ern­ment of Cat­alo­nia has active­ly asked for the pos­si­bil­i­ty of hold­ing a ref­er­en­dum on
inde­pen­dence. Since the con­sul­ta­tion in Scot­land, pro-inde­pen­dence sup­port­ers in Cat­alo­nia have
gained momen­tum and received lots of press from the inter­na­tion­al media.


This sur­vey was con­duct­ed on the basis of a ques­tion­naire that has been elab­o­rat­ed in March 2014. Most of the reports were deliv­ered in June 2014. This issue and all pre­vi­ous issues are avail­able on the EU-28 Watch web­site:

The EU-28 Watch No. 10 receives sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing from the Otto Wolff-Foun­da­tion, Cologne, in the frame­work of the ‘Dia­log Europa der Otto Wolff-Stiftung’, and finan­cial sup­port from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion. The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion is not respon­si­ble for any use that may be made of the infor­ma­tion con­tained there­in.