His words appeared today scattered everywhere accompanied by odd yet expressive pictures, undoubtedly making for fitting material in the euro peripheral saga. He would have reaffirmed a commitment to abide by a deficit target that was negotiated rather than agreed with the European Commission, most accounts tell us, and scolded some his outspoken neighbours in a tit-for-tat monologue.
Since Spain’s president Mariano Rajoy talked on Wednesday to his People’s Party parlamentary group, though, no one has grasped the possibility of a reversed reading. Was Rajoy not lecturing his overall majority and, furthermore, the party that controls over 80pc of the country’s regional governments and 50pc of local authorities? Indeed, analysts and commentators remark again and again the challenge the autonomous regions pose to the austerity plans designed in Madrid without much realising, nevertheless, that the party in office is more often than not the same, apart from the usual few exceptions, Catalonia and the Basque Country among them.
The fact is that Rajoy doesn’t need to leave his own political party’s headquarters to send his message to those who now must follow the instructions with little margin for creativity, least of all protestation. And in this sense, it was a clear speech.
First, this is it:
“Controlling the budget deficit is now our most urgent task and we all have to understand this. I’ll try to explain it as clearly as possible […] if we do not control the budget deficit, it means that we face enormous difficulties to access financing, so we would not be in charge of our budget.
“Let me explain briefly the situation today. Last year, all public administrations spent €90 more billion than what we had. In other words, 15 more trillion of our pesetas than the income we got. Or put it another way, last year all the administrations charged every Spaniard with a debt of €2,000. This we had to borrow, because we’ve spent it and we did not have it. And you borrow only when they trust you are going to repay, so you should not have too much debt and should reach a healthy economic growth that generates employment, and income.”
That was lesson one: this is how the world works and this is the relationship between the markets and their clients. You grow up and confront your responsibilities because no one else will step in your shoes and clean your house for you.
And lesson two, we better don’t waste our time in party politics or provincial bickering. And that also goes for you Monti-Sarkozy-whoever else, comprende?
“We will ignore the noise, no need to be distracted by petty matters […] What we have to do and what we have to attend to is important, that is what we will do to turn around the situation we are living in and generating economic growth and employment. Our obligation today is to govern. You make the decisions.
“On this matter, the situation in the euro area, I would like to make some comments that include what I have said before when I said this is our bet, this is our project, this is what we need and this is what the majority wants, that is, the euro project. Well, on this subject I would say this on some statements that have been produced in the EU, more explicit last night by some leaders.
“We, the government of Spain and the Spanish people, are against no one. We do not talk about other countries. We wish all European countries well. What is good for Spain is good for the euro area and what is good for the countries of the euro zone and the European Union is good for Spain. We all have problems and we work to solve them on our own, but also to help the euro zone, and we expect others to do the same, to assume their responsibilities and be cautious in their statements, and work to improve their countries and the euro area because we all have a great responsibility and because we all want a strong Europe in a strong euro.”
Rajoy, the perfectly reasonable president.