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Political paralysis leaves Spain out of the European fleet in the Persian Gulf

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Spain will not be present in the European fleet to protect the passage of Hormuz. The absence of government in the country since April is also having other unwanted consequences

Spain will not participate for now in the European mission led by France to protect the route through the Strait of Hormuz, located in the Persian Gulf. The main reason for his absence is the political paralysis suffered by the country since the general elections in April. In Europe, they begin to assume that there are certain strategic decisions that Spain until it forms a government, cannot take.

Recently, Paris contacted the Spanish government and several European capitals to ask if they had their participation in Hormuz, a key geostrategic point where 20% of the crude oil traded in the world circulates. The Netherlands and Denmark have already confirmed their presence and ten more countries are waiting for parliamentary approval. This mission has its reason in several pirate attacks against international tankers between May and June of this year, which caused a rise in the price of crude oil and an escalation of tensions in the region.

“The European capitals understand that the fact that the Spanish Government is in office limits its decision-making power,” explains a European diplomatic source familiar with the negotiations, who in September was surprised at the Spanish rejection despite his previous interest in participating in the project.

Spain, far from Europe

Asked about this operation in Hormuz, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs refers to the Council of Ministers on December 13. During this meeting, military missions abroad were carried out in which the Armed Forces are currently participating, involving 2,800 military personnel and representing an expenditure of 1,176 million euros. No mission was included in the Persian Gulf. The spokeswoman of the Government, Isabel Celaá, acknowledged in the subsequent press conference that no substantial changes were expected, only “slight operational adjustments in some of them.”

This case reflects very well how the perception of Madrid’s role in Europe has changed in just half a year, as well as the consequences of taking nine months without a government. In April, after Pedro Sánchez won the general elections with 28.67% of the votes and became de facto the main socialist leader in the EU, it was said that Spain could become the most important actor in Europe after France and Germany. That is, take advantage of the emptiness that the United Kingdom would leave after Brexit and the inactivity of the populist government in Rome. But the inability to form an executive in summer and the subsequent November elections – which threw a similar blockade – have thwarted the plans.

“The formation of government in Spain does not worry much in Brussels, but if we continue like this we run the risk of missing out on the opportunity to be important in the EU,” emphasizes Ignacio Molina, principal investigator of the Elcano Royal Institute. “There are still possibilities because there will be Brexit in January and the pro-European government in Italy is circumstantial. However, we can earn the reputation that you cannot count on us and that, at best, we do nothing and do not we cause problems.”

Among other things, the eight months in office of the Government have paralyzed the president’s foreign agenda, one of the most pampered areas of his activity and in which he feels most comfortable. During this time, Pedro Sánchez’s trips abroad have been limited to the trips to summits to which he had to go because of his position, nothing more.

An eternally functioning government

But the blockade weighs more and more on the domestic tasks of the Executive. The appearances of the Council of Ministers have become a pulpit in which the spokeswoman has been forced, for months, to impart doctrine on the investiture negotiations – a work that nevertheless is conducted more from the party – because the Government It has no power to approve initiatives that go beyond the ordinary activity of dispatch or attention to urgent matters. All the impulse of the Cabinet is paralyzed, while the Courts cannot advance precisely because of the lack of an investiture.

The PSOE and Unidas Podemos have not yet made public their joint government programme, so the concrete measures that both will try to implement in a legislature that, if it goes up, is expected to be convulsed and perhaps short because of the lack of stability and dependence on the ERC. Pedro Sánchez and Pablo Iglesias did disclose, two days after the 10-N elections, their basic roadmap for the next four years. In it they are committed to repeal of the most harmful aspects of the labor reform; the protection of public services, especially education, health and dependency; the shielding of pensions and the search for the sustainability of the system; the just ecological transition and the fight against the climatic emergency; the strengthening of SMEs and freelancers and the promotion of reindustrialization and the primary sector or the approval of new rights (such as euthanasia) and the deepening of historical memory measures.

They are also waiting for the deployment of “feminist policies” (fight against sexist violence, reform of the Criminal Code so that the express consent of women is key in sexual crimes, equal pay, the total equalization of the permits of paternity and maternity); attention to emptied Spain; the search for fiscal justice and budgetary balance or the fight against precariousness in culture. Of course, another of the pending folders is the exit to the “political conflict” in Catalonia, a fundamental matter of debate with ERC and of which hardly any details are known, beyond which, if the agreement between the two forces is closed, there will be a negotiating table between governments. Sanchez wants this to be the legislature “of dialogue” and territorial “distension”.

The Socialists also want to promote State pacts with the other parliamentary forces, also with the right: great consensus to weave a long-pending educational reform, on immigration, for the modernization of the Administration of Justice, a ‘green pact’ aligned with the Green Deal promoted by the European Commission, State agreements for industry, science and innovation, for university, culture and against sexist violence. This chapter also includes a new agreement in the Toledo Pact Commission to guarantee the sustainability of the system and the shielding of pensions.

A fleet against piracy

If they had participated, Spain could have contributed frigates, patrol boats or maritime patrol aircraft, as it already does in the Atalanta operation, a joint European mission where Somali piracy is being fought in the Horn of Africa. “Surprisingly the overexertion that Spain has been maintaining in the Atalanta operation, sometimes alone, and that even participation, even if symbolic, in the Gulf is not considered,” underlines Fernando Ibáñez, maritime safety expert and professor at the University Distance from Madrid and the International Security and Defense Campus.

France confirmed this Thursday, through the spokeswoman for the Armed Forces Anne-Cecile Ortemann, that it will send its Frigate Courbet in January, while the Netherlands will provide another frigate and a helicopter in February and Denmark will join the Gulf in September 2020. More incorporations are expected over the next year.

This mission has been organized in parallel to that created by the United States in summer, just as several attacks against international merchant ships in the Gulf waters took place. The United States blamed Iran and its militias for being behind them, although Tehran denied having anything to do. In addition, in July the Persian country captured an oil tanker in Hormuz after the United Kingdom had retained one in Gibraltar. Months later, those ships were released.

In recent months, France, Germany and other European countries have avoided joining the United States so as not to disturb Tehran and try to refloat the nuclear agreement signed with Iran in 2015, which Washington left in 2018. Iran has shown its suspicion to This type of operations, stating that they should leave protection in the hands of regional actors.

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