POLITICO reports that “Pedro Sánchez sees an opening in Brussels — and he intends for Spain to fill it.
As a champion of stronger cooperation on migration, reform of the eurozone with greater integration on monetary policy, and other center-left policies that have fallen out of favor in many countries across Europe, Sánchez — virtually overnight — has become the most prominent social democratic politician in Europe, ahead of Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa and Sweden’s Stefan Löfven (who’s now running the country in caretaker mode).
Asked if he feels the responsibility of such leadership, Sánchez replied: “No doubt about it.”
As for the decline of the center left across Europe, Sánchez said: “We must never stop believing. Social democracy is more alive than ever in Europe despite the fact that the number of social democratic governments has fallen.”
Less than six months after taking power, the Socialist prime minister is leading in national polls and looking to raise his international profile, in part by claiming a stronger role for his country on the European stage, alongside Germany and France.”
Sánchez has also benefitted from adopting what might be viewed as the political equivalent of the tiki-taka strategy that turned Spain’s football teams into the world’s best. Unlike Macron, who rushed onto the European stage with a bold agenda, only to be quickly swatted down by fellow leaders, Sánchez has spread the field and picked his moments.
Italy’s budget standoff with Brussels provides such a moment — for Sánchez to side with Brussels and push back against Italy’s Matteo Salvini and others criticizing the EU by noting that the budget rules being enforced by the European Commission are rules that Italy itself helped draw up.
“What you cannot do is question the Stability and Growth Pact [the EU’s fiscal rules]. I know that the EC is being enormously flexible, but also clear about the need to comply with the rules. In the end, these rules were not imposed on Italy or Spain. We have given them to each other … We must therefore comply with them.”
In an interview with POLITICO Sanchez said “I declare myself a militant pro-European,” he said, sitting on a white leather chair beneath a painting by Joan Miró. “I believe that the challenge facing the EU is to write a new social contract that we are not going to be able to build or write at the level of the member states, and we have to do it at a joint level, at the level of the EU. And in that sense, with the misfortune of Brexit, with the anti-Europeanism that Italy, the Italian government, is showing right now, I believe that … the axis that should be articulated is that of Berlin, Paris, Madrid — to which I would also add Lisbon.”
“Sánchez has decided to break with constitutional-minded parties and turn populists and nationalists into his allies,” said Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera. “He’s opted for the [British Labour leader Jeremy] Corbyn way … while Ciudadanos is in convergence with [French President Emmanuel] Macron’s liberal democrats.”