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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Sport
wimbledonScot will face Ivo Karlovic next
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
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

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test