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Javier Milei. EFE
He started it
The Euro Zone opinion

He started it

Spain's foreign minister, José Albares, claims that this slanging-match has "brought relations between Spain and Argentina to [their] worst moment in our recent history"

Mark Nayler

Malaga

Friday, 24 May 2024, 14:24

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Do you remember when Yolanda Díaz, Spain's labour minister, founded the leftist platform Sumar in the summer of 2022? She created the party to end what she labelled the "politics of confrontation" - the politics of insult, of schoolyard-style attack. Basically the politics of brawling men. Well, here we are almost two years on and nothing has changed. But that's not Díaz's fault: this week's spat between Spain and Argentina shows the magnitude of the problem she faces in trying to drag political discourse - and apparently diplomacy - up to an adult level.

Javier Milei is not blameless himself, of course. To turn up to a rally of the European right and repeat a baseless accusation against Pedro Sánchez's wife is unhelpful, to put it mildly. It's a repudiation of the responsibility he has as a president to engage in serious political debate. Even less constructive was throwing in a couple of accusations of his own - namely that Sánchez knows his wife is guilty and has leaned on the judge to dismiss the case against her. There is no evidence to support either claim. Why not discuss policies and ideas instead of creating nasty rumours?

Milei's 'defence' is literally what children say when told off for bad behaviour: "He started it!" He claims that Spain's transport minister Óscar Puente initiated the political brawl at the beginning of May, by accusing Milei of having "ingested substances" during last year's election campaign - another baseless rumour. About the only thing that can be said in Puente's defence is that he subsequently apologised for the remark. But why make it in the first place?

Milei's retaliatory speech at the Madrid event last weekend should have been the end of this diplomatic skirmish. Both sides had thrown insults at each other, released some pent-up frustration: time to grow up and move on. Instead, Sánchez stamped his foot on the floor in a tantrum. As a result, Spain now lacks an ambassador to a country in which it is the second-biggest foreign investor, currently holding almost 20 billion euros in assets in the Argentinian economy. Foreign policy is at the mercy of one man's whims and moods, it would seem.

Spain's foreign minister, José Albares, claims that this slanging-match has "brought relations between Spain and Argentina to [their] worst moment in our recent history". If that's true (and it seems an awfully strong statement to make), it's only because everyone involved is still practicing the "politics of confrontation". I feel for Yolanda Díaz, I really do - because this is the sort of thing she's up against.

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