Aznar claims credit for whipping Spain into shape for EMU

Spain's conservative government yesterday celebrated the anniversary of what it calls "the triumph", although the Popular Party's election victory a year ago fell short of the absolute majority it craved.

Forced into an alliance with Catalan nationalists, Jose Maria Aznar's government has none the less been a modest success, particularly over its key objective: preparing the Spanish economy for European monetary union.

The Catalans, sometimestagged the "Germans of Spain" for their supposed dourness and efficiency, could hardly have been better partners for the task.

The drive towards monetary union had been passionately pursued by the Socialists under Felipe Gonzalez, and if Spain's criteria for membership are shaping up, much is due to Mr Aznar's predecessors. But as the 1999 deadline draws closer, it is understandable that Mr Aznar's government should claim all the credit.

Should Spain make it into the Maastricht corral, he may expect a conclusive electoral "triumph" next time round. Public opinion polls for the first time are putting Mr Aznar's government a whisker ahead of the Socialist opposition.

Spain's big companies think the economy is on course, according to an investigation by Coopers and Lybrand for Sunday's El Pais, a newspaper not given to praising the ruling party's achievements.

More than 240 companies in Madrid, Catalonia and the Basque country are unanimous in their support for monetary union, and urgently require the government to reform the labour market, reduce public spending and simplify tax.

But unemployment remains at more than 21 per cent, twice the European average, and new jobs are mainly on short-term ("junk") contracts. Protracted negotiations between employers and unions over labour reform, in which the unions detect a "sackers' charter", are likely to hit a crunch point this week.

The Catalan leader, Jordi Pujol, offered at the weekend to mediate. The Labour minister, Javier Arenas, declined the offer, saying he preferred the social partners to settle without government involvement.

The dispute is over the employers' desire to hire and fire without restraint, and the unions' wish to protect workers' rights and transmute casual employment of youngsters into some form of apprenticeship.

No one has a solution to Spain's unemployment rate, but since it is not a criterion for monetary union, the government is under no pressure to take a more hands-on approach.

On the Maastricht criteria however - the deficit, the debt, interest rates, inflation and the peseta - the government is clucking like a hen, tweaking here, hacking or snipping there, and exhorting further sacrifice. The figures, meanwhile, are creeping into line.

For 14 years, Spaniards had in Mr Gonzalez a prime minister who spoke like a human being, even though they didn't always believe him.

For the last year they have sat bemused before Mr Aznar and his ministers, who speak like robots and harry them with incomprehensible jargon. But if Spaniards sense things are going well, they will give him the benefit of the doubt. And Mr Aznar knows it.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Extras
indybest
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
News
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, Brokerage)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

UNIX Application Support Analyst- Support, UNIX, London

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: UNIX Application Support Analyst-...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention