Change of guard in Spain

THE change of guard in Spain with Socialist leader Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero taking over as the prime minister signals a new wave of thinking in Europe. Zapatero forced the world to sit up and notice the change in Spain last month when he vowed to pull out Spain’s troops from Iraq severely criticising US president George W Bush for the Iraq disaster. “The war in Iraq was a disaster. The occupation of Iraq is a disaster,” the Spanish leader had declared.

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Published: Mon 19 Apr 2004, 12:12 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 1:08 AM

Where is Spain headed under the Socialist prime minister? Understandably, the prime minister has focused himself on the task at hand. That is, overhauling the administration that has been under Jose Maria Aznar’s Popular Party for the last decade or so. Zapatero is alive to the challenges of being part of a Europe that is fast changing with the European Union’s expansion. However, taking over as the leader of a country that is still reeling from the Madrid attacks, Zapatero is keen on sending out the message that he is no soft touch on terror. Reiterating a hard line against terrorism, the prime minister has made it clear that unless the UN takes charge in Iraq, he will bring home the 1,300 Spanish troops currently part of the US coalition. He has set a deadline of June 30, when the troops’ mandate expires. Articulating a growing opinion in Europe, Zapatero has advised US president Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair to engage in self-criticism. “You can’t bomb a people (because) they pose a perceived threat,” Zapatero had said in statements on the Iraq war anniversary. “Wars such as that in Iraq only allow hatred, violence and terror to proliferate.” These words are no mere opinions. They form a part of the pattern that is emerging in Europe and hint at the continent’s resolve to play greater role in the world affairs. Now that the Cold war is over and the iron curtain is gone, a chastised Europe is not prepared to be blindly led by the US.

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