Spain’s deputy PM asks EU to show solidarity or risk dissolution
Spain’s deputy prime minister Pablo Iglesias called for the EU to guarantee a minimum income for all of its 450m citizens and warned that the bloc would not survive if it did not show solidarity in these difficult times.
Speaking to the Financial Times, Iglesias, the leader of the Podemos party, said: “The EU of cuts, of austerity plans, of a lack of solidarity of the north with respect to the south — that’s not going to survive.”
The comments come as Spain wages a campaign for an EU summit next month to agree on a post-pandemic recovery fund of €1.5tbn to be disbursed through grants and not loans. It is backed by countries such as France and Italy.
Iglesias argued that a “certain [level of] debt mutualisation is a [necessary] condition of the [continued] existence of the EU”. But he also said he was joining with ministers from Portugal and Italy to call for a pan-EU minimum income guarantee to “establish European standards of dignity and to protect consumption”.
“The key thing about the minimum income guarantee now, in the context of the Covid-19 crisis, is its urgency,” he said. “Families have suffered an atrocious collapse in their income . . . and with a lockdown and social distancing they can’t count on the informal mechanisms they relied on in past crises, such as doing an odd job for a friend for €40.”
“Everyone now understands you need an activist state; the market economy is protected much better and it guarantees certain minimum levels of demand and welfare,” he said, as he argued that Spain’s health system and care homes had been undermined by privatisation and its vital industries weakened by offshoring.
“People think catastrophes turn atheists into believers; in fact they turn neoliberals into neo-Keynesians . . . The ideas of Thatcher, of [former German chancellor Gerhard] Schröder and Tony Blair have been buried by history; no one can defend them now.”
The Podemos leader sounded a contrite note about the government’s handling of the pandemic: “If we could go back, we would be stricter,” he said when asked about government policy in the run-up to the lockdown in mid-March.