Spain’s coalition government is facing a new and very important challenge. At the Nato summit which has just finished in Madrid, prime minister Pedro Sánchez agreed to the USA increasing their military presence at the naval base in Rota (Cadiz) and he has to get this approved by parliament, together with a proposal that would commit Spain to increase its defence spending to 2% of GDP – double the present rate – in 2029. The problem is that the PSOE’s coalition partner Unidas Podemos is opposed to both, and in response Sánchez has said they need to reflect on what being in Nato means.
He expanded on that in a TV interview on Thursday, saying: “We have to be aware that beyond Europe and Nato the world is very complicated, it is very cold and it is important that we defend our way of life based on an international order which is based on certain rules, which are the ones that Putin has violated,” and he argued that greater investment in defence generates employment, business and opportunities in different territories.
In the past, Unidas Podemos has threatened to vote against certain measures but has done a U-turn at the last moment, and Sánchez is banking on them doing so again. However, this time could be different. The party’s general secretary, Ione Belarra, has insisted that Podemos does not see the agreement made with Biden as relevant, and said that what Europe needs is more strategic autonomy and not to be dependent on external parties.
She also said she will try to convince Sánchez that Spain needs “guaranteed incomes, more doctors and more teachers, not more weapons and tanks”.
Nor is Unidas Podemos alone. Other habitual allies of the socialists in parliament such as ERC, EH-Bildú and Más Pais have also spoken out against the plan. However, the PP, Vox and Ciudadanos have said they will support both proposals.
Pedro Sánchez sounds pretty confident that he will be able to get both measures passed soon, but at present nothing is looking certain.