Debate highlights divided Spain

LAST UPDATED: 5 Jul, 2007 @ 10:41
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Government promises no future dialogue with Eta

SPAIN is in a better position today than it was before the PSOE party gained power in 2004.

That was the over-riding message of Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero in the recent State of the Nation debate.

In a tense, often heated, exchange between Zapatero and shadow leader Mariano Rajoy, the PM said: “Spain has grown in these past three years. The country is more dignified, decent and with more rights for its citizens.”

Rajoy responded in the same way he has led the Partido Popular in its three years of opposition: with immediate disagreement with the government. “We would all like to live in this idyllic country the Prime Minister has described. However, I have never heard anyone talk about Spain in this way.

“The government has been having a siesta for the past three years,” he said during the last debate before next year’s General Election.


The main topic under discussion was the government’s failed attempt at peace talks with Eta. Rajoy condemned Zapatero for contemplating dialogue with the separatist group, which has been responsible for the loss of more than 800 lives in its four-decade fight for independence from Spain and France.

“You have lied, you have given in to terrorists, you have deceived the Spaniards, you have played with the hope of many citizens.”

Zapatero then took the opportunity to tell the nation there would be no future peace talks with Eta.

This follows the car bomb at Barajas airport in Madrid, which claimed the lives of two Ecuadorian immigrants, late last year and the group’s recent cancellation of their 15-month “permanent ceasefire.”

“All hope of peace was shattered with the bomb at Barajas and the calling off of the ceasefire.

Away from arguments over the government’s brief flirtation with the separatists, there was good news for future parents as, from January 1 next year, Zapatero promised 2,500 euros for each child born from legally-resident parents.

“We need more children to make progress in Spain,” the Prime Minister told congress in the televised debate.

The hand out will also extend to adoptions.

The move is the government’s latest in a line of social initiatives, following gender equality legislation and making religion classes optional rather than compulsory in Spanish classrooms.

The government has also legalised same-sex marriages and is trying to push through the Law of Historical Memory, which among other things seeks to compensate victims of the civil war and dictatorship of General Franco.

Zapatero also used the debate to outline his administrations advances in the past three years. Since 2004, the minimum wage has risen by 110 euros per year, crime has fallen and three million new jobs have been created.

The PP opposition criticised the increasing cost of housing over the past three years, which has risen in some regions by 39 per cent.

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