by Tito Drago
(IPS) MADRID -- Spain's Socialists, who staged a surprise victory at the polls Sunday, anticipate a major overhaul of the country's foreign policy.
Under the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE), Spain's foreign policy will no longer be dependent on Washington, but will focus on a united Europe, and on improving relations with Latin America and the Arab world, say the party's leaders.
PSOE leader and prime minister-elect Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, former European Union special envoy to the Near East and probable future foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, and Socialist EU Deputy Francisca Sauquillo outlined the central points of the future government's foreign policy.
"My government will be deeply pro-European. We will recover our traditional strong ties with Europe, Latin America and the Mediterranean region," Rodriguez Zapatero told a news briefing Monday.
Referring to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, he said George W. "Bush and Blair should engage in self-criticism because you can't bomb a country 'just in case'."
He also confirmed that "unless the UN takes over in Iraq, I will withdraw Spain's troops before Jun. 30," the deadline set for the transfer of power from the occupation forces to Iraqi authorities.
Moratinos told IPS that the new government's top priority will be to modify the country's anti-terrorism strategy, abandoning "preemptive wars" and promoting a more active European role.
"That should be done while respecting the values and principles of international law as well as international cooperation for peace and development in the countries of the South," said the former special envoy.
The United States and Europe should deal with each other on an equal footing, he said, "and Spain should work hard to strengthen its relations with the rest of the EU, which were hurt by the Aznar government's position on Iraq."
Aznar has been an unconditional ally of the United States and the United Kingdom, and is considered one of Bush's top foreign allies.
The PP government supported the invasion of Iraq and participated in the occupation, deploying 1,300 troops to that country -- the third-largest contingent from western Europe, after Britain and Italy -- despite the overwhelming public opposition to the war on Iraq.
Aznar's foreign policy often put his government at loggerheads with Spain's EU partners, especially the two biggest, France and Germany.
Sauquillo, who founded the Movement for Peace, Disarmament and Freedom (MPDL) under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco (1939-1975), told IPS that "we Socialists are 100 percent Europe-oriented, and we want a strong Europe with a unified foreign policy."
The EU deputy, whose movement was a target of harsh repression under the Franco dictatorship, added that members of the European Parliament had already "pointed to a split in Europe's foreign policy, in large part attributable to Aznar and his policies."
Sauquillo said "Latin America is the big Cinderella of the European Union, despite meetings between the leaders of the two blocs. We must also help correct this, as well as reestablish good relations with the Maghreb [Arab North Africa], and especially Morocco, which deteriorated as a result of Aznar's misguided policies."
Tension with Morocco peaked in July 2003 when Defense Minister Federico Trillo ordered paratroopers to evict Moroccan police from the tiny Mediterranean island of Perejil, located off the northern coast of Morocco. The island, which is disputed by Spain and Morocco, is known as Leila by the latter.
After the row was resolved and the incident was fading into memory, Trillo publicly stated, in February, that "I would have liked to have taken Perejil Island eight years ago, and I would like our fishing industry to be able to fish in Moroccan waters."
Spain and Morocco have several pending issues to deal with: the incomplete decolonization of the former Spanish colony of the Western Sahara; fishing rights in waters of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic; and Morocco's demands for sovereignty over the cities of Ceuta and Melilla, Spanish enclaves located in Moroccan territory.
Sauquillo also says there is another issue to which the future PSOE government should give priority status: the situation of immigrants in Spain.
"A qualitative change is required in immigration policy. What is needed is regulated immigration, without condemning immigrants beforehand," she argued.
"It is terrible that a massacre like the one we have suffered had to occur before a few people in the government recognized them as people," said the EU deputy, referring to Aznar's decision to grant Spanish nationality to undocumented immigrants who were wounded or killed in Thursday's train blasts, and their families.
"Under the PP government, many immigrants did not even go to the public hospitals out of fear that they would be arrested or deported. That situation has to be resolved with a global change in immigration policy, respecting the country's laws but also respecting human beings," she added.
However, not everyone believes there will be a radical change in foreign policy under the Socialists.
Professor Carlos Malamud, director of the Latin America division in the Elcano Royal Institute, a non-governmental organization with links to the PP, commented to IPS that "In general terms there will be continuity, as there has been until now, and there will be no rupture of the alliance with the United States."
"A thaw in relations with Cuba is possible, and ties with the right-wing government of Alvaro Uribe in Colombia might become less intense," he added.
The analyst also believes the PSOE government will follow the same policy as the PP towards immigrants.
Some one million undocumented foreign nationals living in this southern European nation of 40 million work without labor contracts, which means the y have no right to social security, vacation pay or severance pay, and generally earn less than the minimum wage.
Another analyst who believes there will be no major changes is Jose Juan Ruiz, Latin America strategy director in Banco Santander, one of Spain's biggest banks, which has major investments in Latin America.
"Relations with Latin America go beyond changes of government, because the strategy is medium- to long-term in nature, and if I had to make a prediction, I would say those relations will just keep growing stronger," he told IPS.
March 16, 2004 (http://www.albionmonitor.com) All Rights Reserved. Contact email@example.com for permission to use in any format.
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