This month’s Inside Spain reports on the visit to Madrid of Li Keqiang, China’s Deputy Premier. Chinese officials promised more facilities for Spanish direct investment in China, business agreements worth some US$7.5 billion were signed and promises made to buy Spanish sovereign bonds and help ease the euro zone’s public debt crisis. Also in Foreign Policy, Moscow responded to the expulsion of two Russian diplomats in Madrid by expelling two Spanish diplomats in the Russian capital accused of spying. On the Domestic Scene, the terrorist group ETA, that has killed 829 people in 43 years in its fight for an independent Basque country, declared a permanent ceasefire, verifiable, it said, by the international community. The government rejected the group’s statement as inadequate and arrogant: there was no mention that ETA would lay down its arms and disband, as the government insists it must do. Also, a much tougher anti-smoking law came into effect banning smoking in enclosed public areas and near school playgrounds and hospitals. And the opening of the high speed train service from Madrid to Valencia made Spain Europe’s leader in this field of transport with 2,056 km of high-speed rail track, more than France (1,896km) and Germany (1,285 km). On the Economy, the government stepped up its offensive to convince the international markets that Spain should not be bracketed with Portugal should the latter be forced to accept a bail-out similar to those of Greece and Ireland. Presenting a report on the economy in 2010, the Prime Minister was adamant that Spain would stick to its programme of already announced reforms and austerity. And government and trade unions are holding negotiations on pension reform, where the main disagreement is over raising the legal retirement age from 65 to 67 years. Also, the OECD welcomed last September’s labour market reforms, but said deeper reforms are needed to put public finances on a sustainable footing and reduce the unemployment rate substantially. And the financial strength of Spanish banks is the third strongest in the euro zone after Finland and France, according to Moody’s; the commercial banks, led by Santander and BBVA, as opposed to some savings banks, have generally withstood well the financial crisis. And finally, although the Ibex-35 fell 17.4%, it began to rally in the middle of this month amid signs of improved investor sentiment toward Spain.
We are glad to start the New Year with some good news for our readers. As part of our commitment to improving our website, the RSS feeds for recent publications are now available on the homepage. For the Elcano Royal Institute Barometer (BRIE) and Inside Spain, the RSS feeds have also been implemented on the Barometer of the Elcano Royal Institute (BRIE) and Inside Spain pages. The news feeds allow readers and users to see when our website has added new content and to receive the latest Analyses (ARIs) and Working Papers (WPs), documents of interest, BRIE and Inside Spain as soon as they are published.
Our first highlight this month, on Asia-Pacific, is an analysis by Jiang Shixue whichlooks at the results and prospects for triangulation between China, Spain and Latin America in the wake of the Sinopec-Repsol deal in Brazil’s energy sector, considered the result of China’s massive ‘going out’ strategy and of Spain’s increased role as a ‘bridge’. The author explains the challenges ahead for ‘this promising instance of international cooperation’. In our second highlight, Doris Marie Provine analyses Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070, at the heart of a nation-wide political debate on immigration in the US; ‘the situation facing Arizona’s unauthorised immigrants, she argues, is eerily reminiscent of the classic civil-rights struggle that Black Americans and their supporters waged’. The last, but certainly not least, of our highlights explains the results of the G-20 Summit in Seoul, where steps have been taken towards a global financial reform, the reform of the IMF and the establishment of a new development agenda. Pablo Moreno argues that the G-20 is ‘designing a new international economic order at an adagio pace’ but with substantial reforms that aim to increase the role of emerging economies and strengthen the multilateral institutions that stem from Bretton Woods; ‘many of these changes are taking place fitfully (spiccato), on the basis of certain decisions by the G-20, which in a single meeting quickly concludes debates which had deadlocked in multilateral organisations, in some cases for years’.
In our Europe area, William Chislett presents an important working paper on Turkey and the EU; only 13 of the 35 ‘chapters’ or areas of EU law and policy needed to complete the process are open, the rest remain blocked for various reasons (the Cyprus problem among others) and patience is wearing thin on the Turkish side. There is little incentive for the government to push through the reforms required for membership; but, Chislett writes, ‘the cost for Europe of “losing” Turkey would be high in the spheres of foreign policy, migration, economic benefits and defence and security, among others’. The author suggests that this year the EU should give Turkey a firm target date for accession: ‘Turkish disillusionment and EU prevarication is creating a vicious circle that needs to be broken in 2011 and, in its place, the virtuous circle of Turkey-EU convergence re-established’.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, Jonathan Di John presents ‘a review of the literature’ that addresses the concept, measurement and causes of ‘failed states’ in Sub-Saharan Africa, concluding that the concept and measurement of ‘failed states’ is not generally helpful in understanding economic and political realities in Sub-Saharan Africa: an aggregate index of state performance is unhelpful for policymakers because it misses the wide range of capacity across different state functions within polities and the main theories attempting to explain ‘state failure’ have important theoretical shortcomings and are not supported by the evidence. Finally, Di John’s paper examines the political economy behind why some states in the region are more resilient than others.
On Security and Defence Fabio Liberti and Camille Blain, both of IRIS, Paris, are the authors of a working paper on France National Security Strategy. Although France is one of the EU’s member states with a most highly-developed national strategic culture, the 2008 White Paper on Defence and National Security represents a significant leap in French strategic thinking and policies; it establishes ‘the concept of national security, that transcends the traditional realms of defence and internal security and moves towards the overarching concept of national security’.
Lastly, Peadar Kirby analyses Ireland’s Financial Crisis under the suggestive title of ‘When Banks Cannibalise a State’. Ireland’s banking crisis was already described by the IMF in early 2009 as matching ‘episodes of the most severe economic distress in post-World War II history’, but measures taken since 2008 to overcome it have only served to worsen the crisis.
And, finally, this month’s newsletter includes the results of our latest quarterly BRIE –the 25th wave–, a periodic survey of a sample of 1,200 people considered a fair cross section of the Spanish population that focuses on opinions, values and attitudes regarding international relations and Spanish foreign policy in all its aspects.
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