Spanish PM Reshuffles Government

In this handout image released by La Moncloa on July 10, 2021 Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez makes an official statement to announce a reshuffle in his cabinet during a press conference at La Moncloa Palace, in Madrid. (Photo by Borja Puig de la BELLACASA / LA MONCLOA / AFP)

 

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Saturday reshuffled his government for the first time since the left-wing coalition came to power in January 2020.

Sanchez said it represented “a generational renewal” because the mean age of the ministers was now 50 instead of 55.

And women now make up 63 percent over 54 percent in the previous government.

“This will make our country once again the reference for women-men equality,” Sanchez said.

His minority coalition is composed of Socialists and the radical-left Podemos party.

Podemos kept their five portfolios in the 22-member cabinet.

Foreign Affairs Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya was replaced by Jose Manuel Albares, who was Spain’s ambassador to France. Socialist Carmen Calvo, who was number two in the government, has also left the cabinet.

Sanchez presented the reshuffle to the king earlier in the day.

The Spanish government had been weakened over the past several months.

Early in May, Podemos and the Socialists were routed in regional elections in Madrid by the conservative Popular Party (PP).

The PP has surged ahead of the Socialists in opinion polls following that election — at the end of May, polls showed the PP and the far-right Vox together would win an absolute majority in parliament if a general election were held.

The government’s decision in June to pardon nine Catalan separatists has also drained support.

The pardons have been condemned by Spain’s right-wing opposition as well as by the Supreme Court, but Madrid hoped they would give impetus to talks with Catalonia’s new leader, Pere Aragones, who was more open to dialogue than his hardline predecessor.

Since Sanchez’s coalition came to power, it has relied in part on the support of ERC, a leftist Catalan separatist party, which in return demanded talks on resolving the separatist conflict in wealthy Catalonia.

A week after the pardons,  Aragones said separatists would resume talks with the government in the second half of September.

An Ipsos poll in June found that 53 percent of Spaniards opposed the pardons, but 68 percent of Catalans were in favour.

Gibraltar Still Hanging After Brexit Deal – Spain PM

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez speaks to the press as he arrives at the EU headquarters’ Europa building in Brussels on December 10, 2020, prior to a European Union summit.
JOHN THYS / POOL / AFP

 

Madrid and London have yet to reach agreement on the status of Gibraltar, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Thursday after Britain and EU finally sealed a Brexit trade deal.

The easy flow of people and goods across the border from Spain which underpins the economy of Gibraltar, a tiny British territory on the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula, risks ending when Britain leaves the EU at midnight on December 31.

“Spain and the United Kingdom are continuing dialogue to reach an accord on Gibraltar,” Sanchez said on his Twitter account after hailing the accord between Brussels and London.

Madrid, London and Gibraltar have been working out the status issues separately from the 10 months of Brexit trade negotiations that finally ended Thursday’s deal.

“For us… the clock is still ticking,” said Gibraltar government chief Fabian Picardo, while adding that he was “optimistic that we will be able to finalise that agreement.”

The enclave is entirely dependent on imports to supply its 34,000 residents, and each day some 15,000 people cross into Gibraltar from Spain every day to work, accounting for half of the territory’s workforce.

Without an accord, the movement of goods between Gibraltar and Spain will be subject to customs procedures from January 1, with unwanted economic consequences.

READ ALSO: UK-France Border To Stay Open At Christmas 

Picardo told AFP late last month that Gibraltar was considering joining the visa-free Schengen area — which Britain has never been part of — to avoid this hurdle.

“We are looking for an accord that will allow maximum fluidity,” he said.

Spain ceded Gibraltar to Britain in perpetuity in 1713 following a military struggle, but Madrid has long wanted it back.

In 2013, a dispute over an artificial reef in waters claimed by both sides sparked a war of words that triggered months of gridlock at the border after Spain intensified checks, which ended only after Brussels stepped in.

Rising COVID-19 Infections ‘Worrying,’ Says Spain PM


JOHN THYS / POOL / AFP

 

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Wednesday called a recent rise in coronavirus infections “worrying”, warning that stricter measures to curb the spread could be needed for Christmas.

Spain was one of the first European nations to suffer a second spike in Covid-19 infections but restrictions such as nighttime curfews helped to halve the incidence level in November.

But the number of daily infections had risen to more than 10,000 on Tuesday from roughly 9,000 at the beginning of December, according to health ministry figures.

“In recent days we have observed a worrying rise in the number of cases,” Sanchez said during a debate in parliament.

The prime minister said he would not hesitate to instruct regional governments, which are responsible for health care, to toughen their Christmas plans.

The rules that have so far been introduced for the Christmas holidays include a cap on the size of indoor gatherings and restrictions on travel within Spain.

“It is up to us to not to open the door to a third wave,” Sanchez said.

“We can’t let our guard down.”

Spain has been one of Europe’s worst-hit countries, with the virus infecting more than 1.7 million people and causing over 48,000 deaths.

-AFP

Spain PM Concerned At Madrid Spike In COVID-19 Infections

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez addresses media representatives at a press conference following a European Union Summit at European Union Headquarters in Brussels on October 18, 2019. AFP

 

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Tuesday his government is concerned about a spike in coronavirus infections in the capital Madrid.

Spain was one of the hardest-hit countries when the coronavirus struck Europe this year before a strict lockdown helped reduce the outbreak’s spread.

But infections have surged since the lockdown measures were fully removed at the end of June, especially in Madrid, with the rise in infections often linked to the return of nightlife and social gatherings.

“We are worried about the state of public health and the evolution of the virus in Madrid,” Sanchez said in an interview with news radio Ser.

The socialist premier added that “some” regional governments which he did not identify needed to boost their ability to track Covid-19 cases and improve their “strategic capacities” in the fight against the virus.

Spain’s central government last week made 2,000 soldiers available to help regional governments, which are responsible for health care, to track people who have been exposed to those infected with virus.

So far 11 of the country’s 17 regional governments had requested soldiers, Sanchez said.

Madrid, which is governed by the conservative Popular Party, requested 150 soldiers.

Spain registered over 23,000 new Covid-19 cases since Friday, health emergency chief Fernando Simon told a news conference on Monday, bringing the total to 462,858.

Of the 1,656 hospitalisations from the disease during the last seven days, 420, or 25 percent, were in Madrid, according to health ministry figures.

The region accounted for nearly half of the 141 deaths in the last seven days.

Spain has recorded a total of 29,094 virus deaths since the start of the pandemic, one of the world’s highest tolls.

AFP

Spanish PM Seeks Final Two-week Lockdown Extension

(Files) Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez addresses media representatives at a press conference following a European Union Summit at European Union Headquarters in Brussels on October 18, 2019. AFP

 

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Sunday he will seek parliament’s approval to extend Spain’s state of emergency one final time, which would keep the coronavirus lockdown in place until June 21.

The current emergency is set to expire on June 7, and the Socialist premier told a press conference that one last two-week extension was required, while welcoming that his hard-hit nation is “on the verge of arriving safely” out of confinement.

The sixth extension since March will need to be ratified on Wednesday by the 350-seat parliament, where Sanchez’s coalition is in a minority.

But he can count on a Catalan independence party to abstain, as well as the support of Basque nationalists, under deals which he sealed on Saturday.

In mid-May, Sanchez tried to extend the state of emergency for a full month, but was forced to reduce the request to two weeks to secure the support of the centre-right Ciudadanos party.

Announced on March 14, the state of emergency has allowed the federal government to control the response in a country where regional governments hold great sway.

READ ALSO: EU Tells UK Post-Brexit Deal Vital During COVID-19 Crisis

Spain has been one of the most affected countries by the pandemic, but as its numbers of new cases and deaths have slowed, it has gradually lifted the lockdown.

The measures are expected to be fully lifted in late June or early July, depending on the region.

AFP

Spain To Declare State Of Alert Over Coronavirus Spread

This hand out picture provides by the Moncloa Press office shows Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez holding a videoconference with some of his ministers over the coronavirus outbreak at the Moncloa Palace in Madrid, on March 13, 2020.
Jose Maria Cuadrado Jimenez / LA MONCLOA / AFP

 

Spain’s government is to declare a state of alert over the rapid spread of the deadly coronavirus, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Friday after infections soared to over 4,200 with 120 dead. 

“There will be a cabinet meeting tomorrow to declare a state of alert across the country for a period of 15 days,” Sanchez said.

“Unfortunately we cannot rule out that over the next week we could reach more than 10,000 infections,” he said.

The government would adopt a series of extraordinary measures in order “to mobilise all the resources of state to better protect the health of all of its citizens”, he said pointing to both public and private resources, as well as civilian and military.

“Several very tough weeks… are ahead of us,” Sanchez added, saying Spain was “only in the first phase of the fight against the virus”.

READ ALSO: Trump Declares State Of Emergency On Coronavirus

“Victory depends on every single one of us…. Heroism is also about washing your hands and staying at home.”

Following Sanchez’s comments, the Madrid regional authorities ordered all shops in the region be shuttered from Saturday through to March 26, covering the state of alert period, save for those selling food, chemists and petrol stations, in order to slow the virus spread.

“We are ordering the closure of establishments and stores save for (those selling) food and basic necessities,” the regional executive stated.

AFP

Spanish PM Under Pressure Over Catalan Protests

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez addresses a press conference in Brussels on October 18, 2019. AFP

 

Ahead of next month’s general election, Spain’s Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez faced sharp criticism on Sunday for his handling of violent Catalan separatist protests even as calm returned to Barcelona and other cities overnight.

The centre-right Ciudadanos party, which was born out of opposition to Catalan separatism, held a rally in front of Catalonia’s regional government headquarters in Barcelona under the slogan: “That’s enough! Justice and coexistence”.

“We have had enough of seeing how radicals roam freely and scare millions of Spaniards on their land. The streets belong to everyone,” Ciudadanos leader Alberto Rivera tweeted before the rally began.

He has called on Sanchez to suspend Catalonia’s autonomy just as the central government did in 2017 after the Catalan parliament declared independence following a banned secession referendum.

The streets of Barcelona and other Catalan cities have been rocked by protests since Spain’s Supreme Court sentenced nine separatist leaders, many of them former regional government ministers, last Monday to jail terms of up to 13 years for sedition over the failed 2017 independence bid.

Nearly 600 people have been injured in clashes with police since the protests started. A police officer was in “very serious condition” and a demonstrator was in “critical condition” according to Barcelona mayor Ada Colau.

 ‘No dialogue’ 

In an interview published in top-selling daily newspaper El Pais, the leader of the main conservative opposition Popular Party (PP), Pablo Casado, accused the government of “pretending nothing has happened” and promising that everything will return to normal “with moderation”.

“There can be no dialogue with those who make Catalonia burn,” he said in reference to Catalonia’s separatist president Quim Torra who on Saturday called for “unconditional” negotiations with Sanchez.

That appeared to be aimed at ensuring that a legal referendum on independence, currently a non-starter for Madrid, was up for discussion.

Sanchez, who came to power in June 2018 with the support of Catalan separatist parties, refused to meet with Torra until he “clearly” condemns this week’s violence and recognises that half of Catalonia’s roughly 7.5 million residents do not want independence.

A poll published in July by a public Catalan institute showed support for an independent Catalonia at its lowest level in two years, with 48.3 percent of people against and 44 percent in favour.

 ‘Increase polarisation’ 

The court’s decision has thrust the Catalan dispute to the heart of the political debate ahead of Spain’s November 10 general election, its fourth in as many years.

According to the first poll since Monday’s verdict, the ruling Socialists are likely to secure the most votes but again fall short of a majority. The PP was tipped to make significant gains.

Published by the daily El Mundo, the survey predicted Sanchez’s Socialists would capture 122 seats in the 350-seat parliament, slightly down from 123 it took in the last election in April, while the PP would win 98 seats, up from 66.

“Order and territory has never been a winning bet for the Socialists,” Pablo Simon, a political science professor at Madrid’s Carlos III university, wrote in a blog post on Saturday, adding the Catalan crisis will “increase polarisation” which would benefit parties with more extreme positions like the far-right Vox and radical separatists CUP.

Barcelona returned to relative calm Saturday night after six days of demonstrations against the jailing of separatist leaders.

But on iconic Las Ramblas street, protesters set up barricades and lit fires before they were dispersed by police firing foam projectiles.

Overnight Friday, radical separatists had hurled rocks and fireworks at police who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.

AFP

Spain PM Loses First Parliament Vote To Remain In Power

Spain PM Pedro Sanchez                                                                PHOTO: Emilio Naranjo / POOL / AFP

 

Spanish caretaker prime minister Pedro Sanchez lost a first parliamentary confidence vote on Tuesday as he seeks to remain in power after an inconclusive general election.

A total of 124 lawmakers in the 350-seat parliament voted for the Socialist premier, leaving him well short of the absolute majority he needed.

Another 170 MPs voted against and 52 abstained. Four remaining votes belong to suspended lawmakers.

READ ALSO: China Calls US Sanctions On Oil Trader ‘Illegal’

A second, decisive vote has been scheduled for Thursday afternoon, before which Sanchez needs to reach a coalition deal with far-left Podemos, a party that was once arch-rival.

Sanchez is currently caretaker premier after coming first in the April general election but without the majority he needed with just 123 seats, forcing him to look for support.

If he manages to form a coalition government, it would be the first in post-dictatorship Spain.

In debates on Monday and Tuesday ahead of obligatory post-election parliamentary votes this week, Podemos and regional parties that could back Sanchez accused him of not reaching out to possible allies despite needing their help.

‘Playing poker’ 

The second vote on Thursday requires only a simple majority.

With the support of far-left Podemos’s 42 lawmakers and a few others from small regional parties, he could get through.

But given the anger of these potential allies, that support looks uncertain.

Sanchez’s Socialist party has been locked negotiations with Podemos for months and only recently reluctantly agreed to form a coalition government with the party.

But Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias angrily lashed out at Sanchez in the parliamentary debate on Monday.

He accused the socialists of refusing to give his party positions that carry any kind of weight and wanting them to be “a mere decor” in the government.

In Tuesday’s vote, Podemos lawmakers abstained.

Catalan separatist party ERC, meanwhile, accused Sanchez of being “irresponsible” for not appearing to want to negotiate with anyone.

He also slammed him for not having mentioned the separatist crisis in Catalonia in his Monday speech to parliament.

ERC had previously said it would not stand in Sanchez’s way despite their differences over how to handle the crisis.

But Gabriel Rufian, ERC’s leader in parliament, said: “the feeling was that you are playing poker with the hopes of hundreds of thousands of people who came out to vote on April 28.”

ERC voted against Sanchez Tuesday.

Aitor Esteban of the PNV Basque nationalist party said the socialists had not even been in touch with them in the past few weeks.

“They have taken for granted that our vote was going to be positive,” he said.

“You’re the one who should be looking for alliances,” he told Sanchez. His party also abstained in Tuesday’s vote.

If Sanchez cannot secure the votes he needs, he has another two months to find a solution, failing which the Spanish will face another general election.

“What we are seeing in Spanish politics is effectively the natural tensions that occur as a political system transitions from an old way of operating (single-party governments) to what appears to be the new normal…(coalition governments),” said Alfonso Velasco, an analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit.

“Spain might need another election for politicians to accept the new reality.”

AFP

Spain Election: Socialists Win Amid Far-Right Breakthrough

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro and Socialist Party (PSOE) candidate for prime minister Pedro Sanchez (R) delivers a speech beside his wife Begona Gomez during an election night rally in Madrid after Spain held general elections on April 28, 2019.  JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

 

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s Socialists have won snap elections without the necessary majority to govern solo in a fragmented political landscape marked by the far-right’s entry into parliament.

The results raise the spectre of another period of instability for Spain, with Sanchez depending on alliances with hostile rivals in an environment that has soured since Catalonia’s failed secession bid in 2017.

A significant development was the rise of the ultra-nationalist Vox party, which garnered just over 10 per cent of the vote in a country that has had no far-right party to speak of since the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.

READ ALSO: 29 Killed, Several Missing In Indonesia Floods

Sanchez’s Socialist Party (PSOE) got 123 lawmakers out of 350, or close to 29 per cent of votes — short of an absolute majority but much better than the 85 seats it got in 2016.

“The Socialists have won the general election and with it the future has won and the past has lost,” he told cheering supporters from the balcony of the party’s headquarters in Madrid, claiming victory late Sunday.

The big loser was the conservative Popular Party (PP), which bagged 66 seats compared to 137 in the previous election that saw it govern Spain with a minority government.

 Possible alliances 

Sanchez, who came to power in June after ousting conservative prime minister Mariano Rajoy in a no-confidence vote, could seek to forge alliances with far-left Podemos and smaller groupings like Catalan separatist parties, as he had done over the past 10 months.

He could also try to cosy up to centre-right Ciudadanos, which won 57 seats. Together, they would form an absolute majority but voters from both parties would likely frown on such a move.

“I hope Sanchez won’t reach an agreement with Ciudadanos, I want a left-wing government,” 51-year-old Esther Lopez, said at the Socialist Party headquarters, wearing earrings marked “PSOE.”

Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera, built his campaign on disparaging Sanchez, criticising his attempts to negotiate with Catalan separatist parties in a bid to ease a secession crisis in the northeastern region.

In an editorial on Monday, Madrid daily El Mundo called on Sanchez to “reach out to Rivera and consider forming a moderate government — which would undoubtedly go down well in Europe — to ensure the stability” of the country.

 Far-right emergence 

The crisis in Catalonia was precisely what fuelled Vox’s meteoric rise from the outer margins of politics to the national scene, after gaining nearly 11 per cent of votes in December regional polls in southern Andalusia.

Founded by Santiago Abascal, a disgruntled former PP member, it will now take 24 seats in the national parliament.

This is less than what opinion polls had predicted.

“I thought Vox would get way more votes, with this result Vox won’t have any weight in parliament as no one supports them. We needed more seats,” said Maria Bonilla Ortega, a 22-year-old philosophy student in central Madrid, a Spanish flag draped around her shoulders.

Abascal was more optimistic: “We can tell Spain with a complete calm that Vox has come to stay,” he told cheering supporters.

After a tense campaign, voter turnout was high at 75.76 per cent, up from 66.48 per cent in 2016, election authorities said.

Catalonia shadow 

With a strong stance against feminism and illegal immigration, Vox stood out with ultra-nationalist rhetoric advocating the “defence of the Spanish nation to the end” and a hard line against separatists in Catalonia.

The region in northeastern Spain was the scene of a secession attempt in 2017 that sparked the country’s biggest political crisis in decades and caused major concern in Europe.

The issue has continued to cast a pall over Spanish politics.

Sanchez was forced to call Sunday’s elections after Catalan pro-independence lawmakers in the national parliament, angered at the trial of their leaders in Madrid, refused to give him the support he needed for his 2019 budget.

Right-wing parties for their part lambasted Sanchez, at the head of a minority government, for talking with separatists who still govern the region, accusing him of cosying up to those who tried to break up Spain.

That controversy is likely to continue as two Catalan separatist parties gained even more lawmakers in the national parliament than they did in 2016 — up to 22 from 17.

The five separatists elected are in jail and currently being tried at Spain’s Supreme Court.

In a sign of the impact the crisis had on voters, Dolores Palomo, a 48-year-old domestic worker, said she had always voted for the socialists but cast her ballot for Ciudadanos this time at a polling station in Hospitalet de Llobregat, near Barcelona.

The reason? Sanchez “is a puppet of the separatists,” she said.

AFP

Spain To Raise Minimum Wage 22 Per Cent In 2019

Leader of the Spanish Socialist Party PSOE Pedro Sanchez gives a speech during a debate on a no-confidence motion at the Lower House of the Spanish Parliament in Madrid on June 01, 2018.
PHOTO: Emilio Naranjo / POOL / AFP

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Wednesday his cabinet would approve next week a 22 per cent increase in the monthly minimum wage to 1,050 euros ($1,192) in 2019.

The increase, “the biggest since 1977”, will be submitted to a cabinet meeting in Barcelona on December 21, he told parliament.

“A rich country can’t have poor workers,” said Sanchez, who is widely expected to call an early general election next year.

The measure was part of his minority Socialist government’s draft 2019 budget unveiled in October but which he is struggling to pass in parliament so it will now be approved by decree.

The announcement comes after French President Emmanuel Macron unveiled Monday a 100-euro ($113) per month increase in the minimum wage from next year in a major concession to “yellow vest” protests which have roiled the country.

After years of austerity policies imposed to cope with the fallout from the 2008 financial crisis, governments are under increasing pressure to ease the purse strings, especially for the lower paid.

Sanchez’s Socialists control just 84 seats in the 350-seat parliament, the smallest number for a government since the country returned to democracy following dictator Francisco Franco’s death in 1975.

He negotiated the draft 2019 budget with far-left party Podemos, which controls 67 seats, but would still need the support of Catalan separatist parties to pass the spending plan and they have steadfastly refused.

The government estimated the minimum wage hike will cost the state 340 million euros per year.

Employers groups and the conservative opposition parties, the Popular Party (PP) and Ciudadanos, oppose the wage hike, saying it will hurt job creation.

PP leader Pablo Casado has said the 2019 budget, which also includes tax hikes, is “economically suicidal”.

AFP

Spain’s PM Sanchez Repeats Brexit Veto Threat After May Talks

Leader of the Spanish Socialist Party PSOE Pedro Sanchez gives a speech during a debate on a no-confidence motion at the Lower House of the Spanish Parliament in Madrid on June 01, 2018.
PHOTO: Emilio Naranjo / POOL / AFP

 

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez maintained his threat to scupper Britain’s draft deal to exit the European Union following a meeting with UK counterpart Theresa May on Thursday.

“After my conversation with Theresa May, our positions remain far away. My government will always defend the interests of Spain. If there are no changes, we will veto Brexit,” Sanchez wrote on Twitter after arriving for a historic state visit to Cuba.

Madrid is seeking a guaranteed veto on post-Brexit relations between the EU and Gibraltar, the British enclave on Spain’s southern tip.

Spain wants to retain what it sees as its right to negotiate the future of Gibraltar with Britain on a bilateral basis, which would give it an effective veto.

An original clause in the draft deal stipulated that after the UK left the bloc, any agreement between Britain and the EU could only apply to Gibraltar if it had previously been negotiated on a bilateral basis with Spain.

However, that clause has since disappeared from the final draft.

Although the legal service of the EU Council has tried to reassure Spain that the current text does not preclude this, Madrid wants that veto power clearly spelt out.

May is due to sign a treaty with EU leaders to leave the bloc on Sunday, but Spain holds the power to prevent that from happening.

“The negotiations are now at a critical moment, and all our efforts must be focused on working with our European partners to bring this process to a final conclusion,” May told Britain’s parliament, defending her draft deal.

Gibraltar is a tiny 2.6 square mile (6.8 square kilometre) territory that is home to about 30,000 people.

It was ceded to the British crown in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht that ended the War of the Spanish Succession with a more general agreement to preserve the balance of power in Europe.

Earlier on Thursday, Gibraltar’s chief minister accused Spain of being heavy-handed.

“Spain does not need a veto to get us to a table,” Fabian Picardo told the local parliament.

The euro zone’s fourth-largest economy “does not need a whip to get the smallest economy in Europe to sit around the table with it and have a meaningful discussion about cooperation,” he added.

AFP

Spain Defends Selling Arms To Saudi Despite Khashoggi’s Murder

Leader of the Spanish Socialist Party PSOE Pedro Sanchez gives a speech during a debate on a no-confidence motion at the Lower House of the Spanish Parliament in Madrid on June 01, 2018. 
Emilio Naranjo / POOL / AFP

 

Spain’s Socialist prime minister defended Wednesday arms deliveries to Saudi Arabia despite an outcry over the murder of a Saudi journalist, saying it was in the country’s “interests” to keep selling military hardware to the kingdom.

“If you ask me where I stand today, it is in the defence of the interests of Spain, of jobs in strategic sectors in areas badly affected by the drama that is unemployment,” Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez told parliament.

Spain’s state-owned shipbuilder Navantia in July signed a deal worth 1.8 billion euros ($2.0 billion) to supply oil-rich Saudi Arabia with five navy ships.

The shipbuilder is located in the southern region of Andalusia, a socialist bastion which has one of Spain’s highest unemployment rates and which will hold regional elections in December.

Sanchez said he shared the “dismay and condemnation” of international public opinion regarding the “horrible assassination” of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.

But the “seriousness of these horrible events which I unequivocally condemn can not and should not prevent us from acting responsibly,” he added.

Catalan separatist parties and far-left party Podemos, whose support Sanchez’s minority government depends on, have called on the government to suspend Spain’s arms sales to Saudi Arabi in protest against Khashoggi’s murder.

Sanchez’s government came under fire in September after it decided to go ahead with the delivery of 400 laser-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia, amid concerns that they could harm civilians in Yemen where the kingdom is engaged in a bloody conflict.

The government had earlier said it would block the export of the weapons but Sanchez justified the about-face at the time on the grounds that it was needed to preserve good ties with the Gulf state, a key commercial partner for Spain.

Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and prominent critic of powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was killed after entering the consulate in Turkey on October 2.

His murder has revived the debate in countries around the world over their ties to Saudi Arabia.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Sunday that Berlin would not export arms to Saudi Arabia for now in the wake of Khashoggi’s violent death.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that it would be “extremely difficult” to cancel a 2014 blockbuster sale of armoured personnel carriers to Saudi Arabia Without “paying exorbitant penalties”.

AFP