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Seminar: Spanish Steps

  • Date(s)
    30 March 2007
  • Time
    10:00 a.m.
  • Location
    Spanish Embassy

Policy Network organised an exclusive roundtable discussion on 30 March at 10:00 am with Dr David Mathieson, an associate of Madrid-Based foreign affairs think-tank FRIDE and former adviser to the then-British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook. The seminar was hosted by the Spanish Embassy. Dr Mathieson discussed his latest pamphlet, published by Policy Network, titled “Spanish Steps: Zapatero and the Second Transition in Spain”.

Having led the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) to victory in 2004, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has embarked on a radical agenda of social and political reform. Within Spain, his plans to recognise gay marriage and promote gender equality were controversial, but prevailed against stiff conservative opposition. He has also devolved increasing power to the regions of Spain and pursued dialogue with Basque separatists in order to find a solution to the long-running conflict.

Zapatero’s bold social reforms are accompanied by a commitment to sound macroeconomic management, with the Spanish Treasury running a succession of fiscal surpluses. Under his premiership, the Spanish economy has been among Europe’s most successful performers, with falling unemployment and strong economic growth.

As progressive and social democratic parties across Europe and the United States struggle to renew themselves, both in and out of office, the record of the Zapatero Government contains important lessons for the centre-left. This is certainly apposite for progressives in the Britain as the Blair leadership era draws to a close and Labour attempts to renew itself in government.

In the late-twentieth century, progressive governments succeeded in combining economic growth with social inclusion, largely through the development of human capital in education, training and labour market programs. However, the accelerating process of globalisation has thrown up a new set of challenges that need to be addressed through a progressive framework.

In this context, the exchange of ideas and experiences among policy-makers, advisers and thinkers on the centre-left becomes even more important. By understanding the achievements and failures of the Zapatero Government, progressives can find a source of inspiration for new policy ideas within their own countries.

In this respect, Dr Mathieson’s pamphlet is an important contribution to the revitalisation of social democracy.

The roundtable discussion focussed on the lessons that can be drawn from three years of PSOE Government in Spain, and applied these lessons to a British and European context. Domestic trends and developments within Spanish politics, and the future policy direction of the Zapatero Government was also discussed.

The session began with an introduction by Dr Mathieson, who summarised the key points within his paper, and drew several conclusions about its relevance to European social democracy. Senior figures, including the Spanish Ambassador HE Senor Don Carlos Miranda, Lord Daniel Brennan and Sunder Katwala (General Secretary of the Fabian Society), responded to Dr Mathieson and opened up for broader discussion. The discussion concluded at 12h00.


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