surinenglish

In by the back door

No one asked for him, but Pedro Sánchez is the new Spanish prime minister. And since he outsted Mariano Rajoy in last Friday's political coup, the 46-year-old has wasted no time in assembling his new cabinet, naming EU high-flyer Nadia Calvino as Spain's new economy minister on Tuesday. It's a choice that shows where Sánchez's fiscal priorities lie - but one wonders just how much any of the new Spanish administration will be able to achieve during what is likely to be a brief term.

Like her predecessor Romano Escolano, who barely got a taste of power before the Popular Party was removed from government last Friday, Calvino has strong EU credentials. Since 2014, she has been at the EU Commission as director-general of the bloc's budget - a role that, in Sánchez's mind, qualifies her perfectly for running the Spanish economy. Before moving to the EU in 2006, Calvino was also a key player on home turf, holding senior economic posts in the Spanish government under both the Conservatives and the Socialists.

As different as he often claims to be from Rajoy, Sánchez clearly shares at least one goal with his arch rival: to increase Spain's influence within top EU institutions. Indeed, this has been a priority of the Spanish government for years. Escolano, Calvino's short-lived predecessor, was vice-president of the European Investment Bank before joining Rajoy's ailing administration; on his way from Frankfurt to Madrid, Escolano passed his predecessor Luis de Guindos, who is now vice president of the European Central Bank. In appointing Brussels' former budget manager as Spanish economy minister, Sánchez has signalled that he, too, seeks greater clout for Spain within EU.

What will Calvino be able to achieve in her new role? Very little, as it happens. It took Rajoy's minority government, which has 134 seats in parliament, almost six months to secure approval for 2018's budget. The PP was constantly stalled by smaller groups, such as the Basque Nationalist Party, who refused to back the spending plan because of their opposition to Rajoy. But if passing new economic leglislation was difficult for Rajoy and De Guindos, it's going to be even more of a headache for Sánchez and Calvino: the PSOE has just 84 seats in congress and has potentially also lost the support of its closest leftist partner, Unidos Podemos.

Note, incidentally, that now Sánchez is installed in Spain's highest political office, he clearly has no intention of holding early elections, which he said he might if he became prime minister. Instead of moving to give Spaniards a say in their new administration, this skilled career politician is busy sneaking members of his new cabinet in by the back door. Predictably drunk on his longed-for taste of power, Sánchez has forgotten that he is a prime minister no one asked for.