Spain shows it 'gets it'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

All eyes were once again on Madrid and Athens as protesters crowded the streets and politicians tried to convince markets and the populace that they had a route out of the crisis: "We know what we have to do, and since we know it, we're doing it," said the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy as the details of his government's emergency budget started to emerge.

In Athens, meanwhile, politicians seemed to be laying down the law to Europe over what needs to be done. Investors and eurozone members are going to be worried that Athens now wants to play hard ball – saying it will introduce spending cuts requested by the troika provided it gets something in return.

A further haircut for creditors seems now to be on the table, as is more money for the nation's banks. What's more, the suggestion from Athens of a buy-back of Greek debt is bound to infuriate the Germans, who are already unhappy at having the ECB stand as a "backstop" to eurozone member debt.

This is only a negotiating position ahead of further talks with the Troika on Monday but its tone will add to the fissures in the eurozone and potentially damage any positives to come from Madrid's emergency budget.

Mr Rajoy clearly doesn't want Spain to be the new Greece or Portugal and that's why we have seen an extra €40bn in cuts and tax rises in 2013. In reality, the budget isn't a way to head off a bailout as it's probably too late for that.

Instead, it's about creating the conditions where Spain is seen to "get it", ready to make choices rather than be dragged kicking and screaming – as has been the case with Greece – into cutbacks.