The EU's curious silence over Spain's Rajoy

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy at a news conference in Madrid, 22 July Mr Rajoy was challenged by a reporter on Monday

Spain is the fourth-largest country in the eurozone. Although there are some more optimistic signs - like an increase in exports - the country remains in recession.

In the past year the economy has shrunk by 1.8%. Unemployment is close to 28%. Debt is still rising. The IMF has warned that although Spain's banks are stronger than a year ago they still face high risks. The banks' bad loans are still rising. In other words, although there are slender signs of a recovery, Spain remains close to the casualty ward.

Europe's leaders, including Angela Merkel, have placed a lot of faith in Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. He has a strong majority in parliament and is regarded as a safe pair of hands. The word of his government, when it commits to reforms, is respected.

But Mr Rajoy is facing serious allegations of corruption. The former treasurer of his party alleges that they ran a slush fund fed by illegal donations from construction companies. Some of that money, he says, was passed to Mr Rajoy and other party leaders. He has testified that 25,000 euros (£21,500; $33,000) was handed to Mr Rajoy as recently as 2010.

Start Quote

Until he answers these questions, Rajoy cannot govern”

End Quote Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba Spanish Socialist leader

The treasurer, Luis Barcenas, has changed his story. He was detained last month while under investigation for running the slush fund and for holding secret Swiss bank accounts. Yet he has provided a detailed record of these transactions which have been published.

More than six out of ten Spaniards now believe Mr Rajoy accepted some of these undeclared cash payments, a recent opinion poll suggests. More than 80% believe his Popular Party was involved in illegal financing, according to the same survey.

The opposition leader is Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba. Although he stands to gain from Mr Rajoy's discomfort he makes the point that "until he answers these questions, Rajoy cannot govern". He has demanded that he go before parliament before the summer recess to explain himself.

Mr Rajoy has dismissed the allegations and seems irritated that questions are being asked. He has repeatedly said he will not stand down. To date he has seen no need to provide a detailed explanation.

'Bad communicator'

In most democracies that would not wash. He would have faced forensic questioning and his job would have been on the line. Earlier this week, during a visit by the Romanian prime minister, it was a Romanian journalist who asked Mr Rajoy about the corruption scandal.

Tom Burridge reports on Spain's "most angry" demonstration since reports of the party funding scandal broke

"Well I normally respond in parliament," replied Mr Rajoy. "I answer questions, I take part in debates and I always answer to journalists when I'm asked about it."

That is a rather generous interpretation of what has happened. The prime minister has not faced a forensic cross-examination. The Spanish people need to know whether over a 20-year period he received any extra money from a party fund that was not declared. It would be interesting to know whether he would agree to an independent judicial enquiry to establish the truth of these allegations.

So after much prompting, Mr Rajoy will appear in parliament next week on 1 August, when most Spaniards are on vacation. The question is whether he will continue with a broad dismissal of the allegations or whether he will be able to lay this scandal to rest with a point-by-point rebuttal.

Mr Rajoy's reticence is in character. The view in Brussels is that he is a bad communicator. When the Spanish banks were bailed out he did not appear before the cameras until the following day.

Unusual silence

European officials, however, give him high marks for committing to far-reaching reforms. But Europe's leaders and officials have also been unusually tight-mouthed over this corruption scandal - considering the importance of Spain to the eurozone.

On Tuesday, EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding waded into Bulgarian politics by saying "my sympathy is with the Bulgarian citizens who are protesting against corruption".

Also the leaders of the various political groups in the European Parliament are never shy in commenting on prime ministers who they suspect of flouting European values. Hungary is a case in point.

On several occasions, Europe's leaders have chastised the Greek government and, in no uncertain terms, have told the Greeks what they should do. But on Spain there is a curious silence.

It may be that Mr Rajoy is entirely innocent but, at a critical moment for his economy and for the eurozone, many of his own people do not believe him.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 207.

    #206 Sieu

    "No one dies in the US for lack of medical care"

    -- only lack of money !

  • rate this

    Comment number 206.

    205 1/6 of US GDP is spent one way or another on the health and medical care industry. It's big business and will only get bigger as baby boomers reach old age.No one dies in the US for lack of medical care, there's too much money in it and courts won't allow neglect.That 1/6 US GDP is larger than the GDP of any EU nation.In some towns there's an MRI on ever corner and they need to keep them busy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 205.

    #204 Sieu

    "I could drop dead in the street tomorrow and no matter what my medical care costs my out of pocket expenses will be zero"

    -- in Europe --they also do not treat dead people.

    "I don't think it's going to be that way in much of Europe starting soon"

    -- MH suggests you will beat Europeans to it

    -- My condolences.

  • rate this

    Comment number 204.

    202 I'll always have excellent medical insurance.I could drop dead in the street tomorrow and no matter what my medical care costs my out of pocket expenses will be zero.In some hospitals it does cost $2 a day to rent a TV set.Most hospitals don't charge for phone service anymore. I don't think it's going to be that way in much of Europe starting soon.I wouldn't trade for their care quality either

  • rate this

    Comment number 203.


    --do they at least give you a decent lunch

    --Smoked beef sandwich with white bread ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 202.

    #201 Sieu

    Will you still have medical insurance when your contract ends at the Blogging company ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 201.

    200 Hard living and hard drinking. Also a lot of couch potato sitting in front of the TV watching sports, eating pizza, KFC, Taco Bell, Burger King, drinking beer or sitting all day at a computer. Generally men in the US are notorious for not seeing a doctor until something is very wrong. Many refuse annual checkups, illnesses go undetected until well advanced.Too fat, too lazy.Can't be bothered.

  • rate this

    Comment number 200.

    #197 MH

    "t is at the bottom of life expectancy. A US male lives four fewer years than in top ranked countries"

    --don´t look good for Sieuarlu !


    --what do you reckon ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 199.

    197 Aha! I said in an early post that one or more certain someones would change the subject to why the US is worse off and/or blame the US and/or Israel for every problem in the world going back to Adam and Eve.See, it's reliable like clockwork, never fails just like the Geyser Old Faithful.Only Old Faithful is worth a trip to Yellowstone Park to see, this isn't.

    Well what about the Fugawi???

  • rate this

    Comment number 198.

    189. margaret howard
    In the constituency I lived in the saying was, 'if they pinned a red rosette on a donkey it would win'.
    But how would you 'centrally fund' parties ? Would it be equal for all parties ? So, for example, the BNP and Socialist Workers would get the same as Labour/ Tory/ LibDem ? If you see where I'm going ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 197.

    194 QOT

    US life expectancy is 50th of 221 nations

    27th of the 34 industrialized countries

    Of 17 high-income countries in 2013 it had the highest infant mortality heart and lung disease sexually transmitted infections adolescent pregnancies injuries homicides disability

    It is at the bottom of life expectancy. A US male lives four fewer years than in top ranked countries

  • rate this

    Comment number 196.


    America is totally screwed up.

    Some States have legalized ´pot´

    --but you can´t get medical insurance if you smoke it.


    -- I see a German explosion before repayment.

    --Greece should be allowed to go bankrupt and return to the Drachma -- the price for Europe to get rid of them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.

    187. qot
    "Bailouts -- they called them loans"
    A little mind reading there ? Because the German visitors, pro & anti, brought that up. The anti's argument was that a ' loan is something that gets paid back'.
    Tell me your opinion, will this loan get paid back ?
    "I love reading treaties and Constitutions."
    You'd be called an anorak in England !!

    188 sieuarlu
    the number of times this happens !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 194.


    --this Obamacare is turning into a farce--

    --" You WILL be healthy -- or else you will lose your job and pay 50% higher insurance !"

    --smokers need not apply-- the obese are already in the gun-sights.

    -- Dictatorial health care !

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    189 I still haven't heard your decision about whether or not you'd like to become an honorary member of the Fugawi tribe. They are a nomadic tribe, customarily following buffalo herds. Today the are still nomadic but it's easier to keep in touch with them with mobile phones and they don't get lost with GPS and maps. They don't hunt buffalo much anymore, they buy their meat in the supermarket.

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.

    Every land mass in the world apart from Europe is experiencing economic growth.
    The UK is now coming out of recession posting 1.4% growth over the last year.
    We should be looking outwards and unshackling ourselves from a future that will drown us in red tape and thousands of useless laws.

  • rate this

    Comment number 191.

    "At least 31 people have been killed in another wave of violence across Iraq, officials say"
    BBC tonight

    Just how many more people will have to die after this illegal war we supported before anyone will be held to account ?

    Seeing how keen EU is on referenda, maybe he could be persuaded to campaign for them before any country can go to war.

    That REALLY would be for a proper cause

  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    Spiegel (German)

    --The opposition to American Prism and British Tempora is forming.

    --will be a hot Summer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 189.

    But even when we get to vote we have had a virtual 2-party system until now. The constituency I live in has been Conservative from the start and I have no chance of influencing anything.

    Added to that, our two parties are financed by special interest groups, the Cons by big business and labour by the unions.

    Until finance comes from a central fund there is no democracy but rampant corruption

  • rate this

    Comment number 188.

    Nothing like a good train wreck with about 80 people dead and many more badly injured to get the public mind of a small matter of some illegal campaign contributions. Rajoy is lucky.The accident couldn't have come at a better time.Now he's on the scene playing the hero, national unifier, consoler in chief.Must be divine providence.He could hardly have scripted it better if he'd arranged it himself


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