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The foreign daydream

Does Spain have its foreign policies worked out? If we look at the countries theoretically closest to us, such as those in Latin America, the answer seems to be a resounding no

When history repeats itself it does so as farce, said Marx. And José Manuel García-Margallo, our foreign minister, recently offered us a textbook example. The minister had a mission in Israel: to lobby for the Spanish companies that are seeking construction contracts there, particularly for the high-speed train. That mission must have seemed too easy, because he saw fit to offer Spain's services in a Herculean task: that of mediating in the eternal conflict between Palestine and Israel. A bright idea popped into his head: Spain was going to open a consulate in Gaza. A few hours later, we saw him emerge, backpedalling, from a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The idea was premature. No, Spain was not going to open a consulate. Possibly, though we are not told in so many words, Netanyahu had told him that the consulate and the construction contracts were not compatible.

The visit thus shrank to a mere gesture of support for our construction companies, and ceased to be invested with the grand political importance that someone had conceived for it. Where, then, did the bright idea come from? This time the faux pas cannot be blamed on our previous foreign minister, Ángel Moratinos - another sunny optimist, but at least he knew better than to step on that particular patch of quicksand. In other words, the bright idea came on the spur of the moment, or was worked out by some remarkably ignorant person installed in a big office with plenty of time on his hands for daydreaming.

Does Spain have its foreign policies worked out? If we look at the countries theoretically closest to us, such as those in Latin America, the answer seems to be a resounding no. Consider Argentina (Repsol), Venezuela (no demands for democracy), Bolivia, Ecuador, and the flagrant case of Cuba, where the democratic opposition has had the rug pulled out from under it again because Spain sent an ignorant political string-puller with an expired driver's license to contact the dissident Oswaldo Payá.

The PP's performance in foreign affairs thus far is showy and inconsequential

If we turn to Europe, where foreign and domestic affairs are necessarily mixed, no policy is apparent either. Spain loses influence in the EU because the sectarian party line prevails over the country's interests. There are no Spanish representatives of any weight in economic posts, because Mariano Rajoy withdrew his support from people who did not please him. We are left with the EU commissioner Joaquín Almunia, simply because the ruling Popular Party was unable to remove him.

This gaping void is something the government is attempting to fill with extemporaneous surprise shows that bring a blush to even the most hardened spectator. The economy minister, Luis de Guindos, announced in a interview in The Wall Street Journal that Spain is going to see its GDP drop by 1.5 percent. He says this without having previously told our Congress, or even our national media, in one of those press conferences that are so dear to the PP, where questions are forbidden. Is this foreign action? No, it is just a personal show, so as to return to Madrid and get off the plane with a newspaper folded under his arm and say: "Look, I've been interviewed by The Wall Street Journal."

Another good song-and-dance was put on recently by María Dolores de Cospedal, who signed a collaboration agreement between the PP and the Chinese Communist Party. Is it possible even to imagine the far-reaching consequences of such a document? The garlic growers of Spain, threatened by Chinese competition, will demand an explanation, and the May 15 movement will want her advice on how to talk with the Communists about new forms of political participation.

Zapatero's Alliance of Civilizations was an absurdity and a non-starter. The PP's performance in foreign affairs so far has been worse than a farce.

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