The Government faces 2023 with three prominent events on the calendar: the municipal and regional elections in May, the national ones with a date yet to be determined, and July 1, when Spain will begin to hold the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union. Something that Sánchez, due to his marked European profile, has waited with special enthusiasm. Its number two, the First Vice President of the Government and Minister of Economic Affairs, Nadia Calviño, also began to show off last week the major issues that the EU countries will address during the Spanish presidency, after which she appealed to citizens to think about what benefits the measures implemented by the Executive had brought them.
On January 1, Sweden took the presidency of the Council of the EU for six months and it will be precisely this country that will give the baton to Spain. However, from Moncloa they have already begun to prepare for the event, reinforcing the professional teams and receiving representatives from other European countries. Thus, the head of the economic portfolio announced it during his speech at the VII Conference of Ambassadors of Spain that took place in the second week of January. Calviño stated that different MEPs had approached writing down tasks for the second half of the year, since they trusted the role that our country could play after managing to limit the price of gas.
Spanish Presidency of the Council of the EU with an economic focus
The Minister for Economic Affairs stressed that during this period the 27 will address important economic issues such as changes in fiscal policy, review the previous resource frameworks of the European Union to finance the repayment of the debt generated with Next Generation funds and review the multiannual financial framework. However, the position in which Spain reaches this marker arose from how the negotiation evolves to extend the Iberian exception beyond June, when it would cease to be in force.
It seems that the Government, especially the socialist wing, also reads these challenges in an electoral tone and intends to amortize the conquests that they reach in Brussels at the national level, where in parallel they will carry out the electoral campaign for the general elections. However, this strategy could have some leaks. Carmen Torres, an expert in political and institutional communication and a professor at Nebrija University, points out that “selling” international affairs is not an easy task. “I usually explain to my students that, for an event to become news, in addition to being current and relevant, it has to arouse interest in the public. But normally, they conceive of the international as matters that are too far away,” she points out.
The communication strategy will be key
However, it appreciates that the Spanish presidency may represent an opportunity for the Government to move forward in this regard, given that although citizens do not tend to pay attention to the issues that are agreed upon in the European instances, they are more receptive with respect to the international events taking place in the country, such as the NATO summit last June. “Precisely, due to the proximity of the action. In the case of international events held in Spain, the international agenda is attracted to a nearby setting, which Spanish society is able to identify with and feels as its own,” he maintains.
“We cannot ignore the national political and economic context in which the presidency will take place, marked by the electoral climate and a campaign environment, which could be very favorable for the Government if it manages to convey the message of cooperation, unity and international strength by putting in value its management in Europe”, affirms Torres. Although he warned that to achieve this, it is necessary to bet on transferring relevant, practical and useful content to the public, since realizing it in abundance could generate the opposite effect of saturating and generating resistance or distrust.
It is difficult for international politics to give votes
“The voter does not decide his vote based on international politics,” says Adrián Caballero, professor of Political Science at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. “International politics does not usually enter the agenda of the electoral campaign, nor in the communication of the previous months,” he maintains. However, he believes that this strategy makes sense within the Government’s commitment that 2023 will be a “quiet” year in which efforts are allocated to promoting economic management once the pending tasks at the social level such as the Housing Law.
Therefore, Adrián Caballero, who is also a doctor in Political Communication, reads Calviño’s words not only in terms of seeking applause from the European institutions, but also bringing that endorsement to Spain in view of the upcoming elections, in order to take chest data from inflation, employment or the amount of funds received compared to the rest of the funds. In this sense, he appreciates that large negotiations such as the aforementioned cap on gas will not translate into votes, but that citizens will notice it on their electricity bill. Therefore, it is equally important to dedicate efforts to strengthen the weight in these institutions, as Sánchez has tried to do, in order to carry out the policies that are demanded in the country of origin.
In addition, in the event that Sánchez is finally the socialist candidate for the general elections, the political scientist does understand that the prominence that the Prime Minister has been able to acquire can contribute to a better perception of him as a candidate. “The Spanish system is made up of closed lists, but what matters is the candidate who stands for Moncloa,” he points out, which is why they are factors that contribute to building his image. “As the elections approach, it will be interesting how they value the political leader, the campaign is about that and they play it there,” he points out, because this perception plays a role in the decision of the vote.
the weight of the economic vote
The professor from the University of Barcelona also highlights the role that the economic vote will have in the next general elections, after a legislature that has been characterized by fighting a recession. “The economic vote is always there, it rewards or punishes the government,” he explains, but there is a part of society that votes based on how the country’s economy is doing and another that does so by reading its particular situation. “In the European welfare states, citizens vote based on personal finances, because they understand that if it is okay, it is because the government has acted appropriately. Something that in the US works the other way around, because being so liberal they cannot blame to the president of the situation”.
However, in the event that things go well, the opposition will try to make the economic vote disappear if it believes that it cannot win the story that way, he argues. Instead, the government will use the months until the elections to take advantage of its achievements. “A part of the Spaniards looks at his pocket, that his family has a job, the bills, the situation of his friends and if the general feeling is good, the Executive will seek to relate this positive situation with his economic management.” In addition, facing the polls, this is favorable to the PSOE, since the good economic situation does not demobilize its electorate and, on the contrary, it could discourage those of the center right.