Our recent and massive poll in the run-up to the European elections (Unlock) confirms that the Spaniards are one of the most ardent believers and defenders of the European integration project. For 46% of Spaniards, being European is as important as their own nationality, while less than 20% reject Europe, a percentage significantly lower than that observed in Germany, Italy or France.
Spain has always been shaped by the proverb of the philosopher José Ortega y Gasset: “Spain is the problem, Europe is the solution”. The Thirty Glorious [Years]in which the rest of Europe raised its standard of living, only arrived in Spain after the restoration of democracy and joining the European Union. Consequently, the idea of a democratic deficit linked to EU membership does not find a taker in Spain. Contrary to this, Spaniards are only second after Romania among those who believe that EU membership protects them against the excesses or failures of their national governments. This data is consistent with the latest European Commission Eurobarometer (Spring 2019/91) which shows that 75% of Spaniards think their country has benefited from EU membership.
This is so embedded in Spanish psychology that, although Spanish “Europeanism” was tested by the 2008 crisis, we now live in a paradox: where Spain was once the “light of Rome, the heretic’s hammer and the sword of Trent”. , reserve of illiberal national-Catholicism and spokesperson for Franco, it is today considered the spiritual home of Europeanism and one of the few remaining leaders of the European project. Despite austerity and the legacy of inequality and unemployment left by the 2008 financial crisis, Spaniards are deeply in favor of the euro, far above their fellow Europeans. With 42% of Spaniards worried about unemployment (second after Italy) and 39% about corruption (second after Romania), Spaniards see Europe more as a boost than an obstacle in the fight against these two evils.
The usual complaint, both in the general elections last month and in the European, regional and municipal elections this month, is that there is no talk of Europe and that the debates do not take due account of European issues. Many outside Spain, however, watch with envy that none of the four prime minister candidates or any of those at the top of the EU electoral lists can blame Europe for all the misfortunes of the nation. Even more impressive is the fact that Spain has stood out after years of being seemingly invulnerable to the threat of a xenophobic far-right party. Contrary to the majority of EU members, where migration is the first subject of concern for citizens after Islamic radicalism, Spaniards are more concerned about economic issues (mainly employment) and the resurgence of nationalisms than by migration. In fact, Spain is one of the countries, along with Poland, Hungary and Romania, where people say they are more worried about their nationals leaving their own country than others arriving.
Although Vox has not only succeeded in making immigration a national issue, its European proposals (aligning with the Visegrad group) are so absurd that they do not deserve a single moment in the spotlight. Even Podemos, which has sometimes referred to Spain as a German colony while calling for the Brussels establishment to strike with an audit of the debt acquired by Spain during the crisis, is still critical – as it turns out. must – but not belligerent. when it comes to the European project.
No, the Spaniards are wise and they don’t blame Brussels for their ills: they know perfectly well that their problems are their own and that they inflict themselves. They also know that Europe is not the only solution to these problems and that Spain cannot solve them alone. Looking around and seeing Brexit, the yellow veststhe proclamations of Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, the authoritarianism of Viktor Orban, it seems that everything else in Rome’s ancient empire has gone mad.
Spain wants to promote Europe’s military and defense autonomy, complete the Eurozone, establish a smart immigration policy and, above all, it wants to promote a more cohesive and social Europe. These are very laudable goals. The best Spain can do for Europe right now is to use common sense, avoid tropes and backlash, and bolster the resolve of other Europhile nations. Come to Spain to test European waters. It will do you good.
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