1st Wave of the BRIE

1st Wave of the BRIE


The topical part of the November 2002 Barometer, includes questions covering:

*   Spanish foreign actions which have received recent media attention, such as:

  • EU: Work on the Convention i.e., the future of Europe, and the enlargement process;
  • Bilateral questions: Gibraltar and Morocco;
  • Latin America: The crisis in Argentina.

*  The international situation. On this occasion, the BRIE has concentrated on  global terrorism, Iraq, and in connection with preceding matters the role of the United States after September 11.

* Topics raised in recent international polls to allow a comparison of Spain?s public opinion with other countries. Most questions are taken from the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations and the German Marshall Fund of the United States, ?Worldviews 2002. Comparing American and European Public Opinion on Foreign Policy? (carried out in May and June 2002 in USA and six European countries: Germany, France, the Netherlands, Italy, the United Kingdom and Poland).

The following summary reveals some of the most outstanding findings from the   BRIE?s November edition. We begin with bilateral questions affecting Spain?s foreign policy, followed by issues considering global matters.

1. Low priority for Defence and Foreign Affairs expenses.

Concerning budgetary appropriation for defence, Spanish citizens? demands are far from the reality of an average power such as Spain, a country increasingly present on the international arena. Of all public expenditure, Defence and Foreign Affairs are last in the list of recommended increases. Only 20% of respondents request an increase, while 90% would like higher budgets for Education or Law and Order. Indeed,  30% of the respondents would like to cut down Defence expenses, and 15% think that the Foreign Affairs budget is too high.

As for expenditures towards Aid and International Co-operation, opinions are clearly divided: 45% of the respondents feel that such expenses should be higher (45%) and 44% think that they should be left unchanged.

2. Contradictory Europeanism

What geopolitical areas should Spain keep most strongly in mind as far as international relations are concerned?

 73% of respondents believe that Spain?s foreign policy should give maximum priority to Europe. Latin America is placed second (39%) and relations with USA are third (20%) ? almost half the number of those in favour of Latin America.

However, the above mentioned pro-European opinions, are contrasted by a lack of awareness or interest in European policy. For instance:

–  90% of respondents are not aware of the targets of the Convention that deals with the future of the European Union. Only 1% mention the European Constitution as a target.

              – Close to 80% of the respondents have no knowledge whatsoever of the enlargement process.

               – Which are the candidates? Only 13% mention Poland as a potential new member.

3. Global threats are hardly perceived.

Spaniards show low concern  harmless facing the most serious international problems and global threats.

International terrorism is the topic that currently is of greatest concern to the Spaniards. When asked about potential threats to world order, a huge majority – 85% – feel that terrorism is a threat to be kept in mind. The second serious threat is immigration. 80% of the population perceive immigration as a significant challenge for Spain.

Although the threats of terrorism and inmigration are said to be very significant, they are not shared by more than 50% of the population. In fact the number of items exceeding 50% is 7 in USA and 2 in Europe.

In brief, the only global questions that worry Spaniards are international terrorism and immigration. Worth noticing the number and the intensity of the problems perceived are lower in Spain than in Europe or the United States.

4. Opposition to the attack against Iraq.

Respondents to the Barometer are also asked about their opinion on an hypothetic American attack on Iraq. 60% feel that USA should not invade Iraq while 24% say that, if they do invade, they should rely at least on the support of their allies and of the United Nations. Only 2% agree to a unilateral attack. In Spain the percentage of citizens opposing all kinds of attacks (absolute opposition) is twice the European average and six times the USA rate.

Although the above mentioned 60% are categorically against a military action under the leadership of the United States, when reasons that may justify a military action against Sadam Hussein?s regime are mentioned, the attitude varies: 60% -the same rate quoted for the preceding question- feel that the attack is justified should Iraq posses massive destruction weapons.

In any case, public opinion is clearly ambigous: military action is justified, at least in certain circumstances, but not by the USA alone. The key to this apparent contradiction may be opposition to the American leadership: the mention of USA as leaders of the attack may be at the root of the opposition to military action.

5. Opposition against American leadership

Comparisons with other countries strengthen the above conclusions. Of all European countries, Spain is the most critical to the United States. Only 2% of respondents feel that a strong American leadership is very desirable, which is very low compared to the European average of 20%, and the 40%  recorded in the States. The ?rather desirable? option, favoured by 40% of respondents, both in USA and in Europe, is lower in Spain: some 20%.

6. The conflict with Morocco

One of every three respondents believes that the main cause of tension and conflict between our country and Morocco is illegal immigration. Moroccan territorial claims over Perejil or Ceuta and Melilla are placed second and equal to economic reasons (agricultural or fishing competition), an opinion held by one of every four respondents. Finally, the Sahara question is hardly identified with the conflict : only 9% of respondents mention it.

7. Solutions for Gibraltar

Respondents do not share an unanimous opinion on the best solution for the Gibraltar issue. 40% of respondents back the option of an exclusive Spanish sovereignty, with or without a special statute. 30% favour the option of joint sovereignty. Finally, the absence of an answer to this question (29% doesn?t know/doesn?t answer) is equally significant.

On the other hand, the rate of agreement is higher with regards to procedure. One of every two respondents (48%) believes that the best solution would be bilateral negotiations between the Governments of Spain and the United Kingdom. Only 25% seems to favour a referendum in Gibraltar.