The continent’s conservative leaders headed en masse to the European People’s Party Congress in Madrid on Thursday to demonstrate their unequivocal support for the policies and reforms applied by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in Spain over the last four years.
The closing ceremony for the international conference, which was attended by a dozen past and present heads of state and government – including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, former French president Nicolás Sarkozy and Italian ex-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi – turned into an early campaign event for the Spanish Popular Party leader, who on Monday is due to sign the decree calling a general election for December 20.
Rajoy has taken the bull by the horns, adopted difficult measures, and now there are a million more jobs and citizens can move forward” German Chancellor Angela Merkel
Rajoy used his speech to claim how his policies have rescued Spain from the economic abyss in which he found it in 2011 when he inherited power from the Socialists (PSOE) and to attack both the PSOE and emerging party Ciudadanos with greater force than normal.
The PP leader stressed that the policies of the European People’s Party were the only ones valid, attacking the Socialists for only generating “out-of-control deficits and destroying jobs.”
All over Europe and also in Spain, all kinds of parties were emerging who “fix everything in half an hour and have never been in power,” he said in an attack aimed at new political forces such as Ciudadanos, labeling them all “new and old demagogues.”
Former French president Sarkozy had kicked off proceedings by highlighting his “pride at being able to count on a prime minister” such as Rajoy and promising to return to Spain after the December vote as he was certain the PP chief would be reelected.
As expected, Merkel also gave her complete support to Rajoy and his reforms in her address, the most anticipated of the day. “Dear Mariano, we are here, in Spain, which has overcome tough times, such as its passage from dictatorship to democracy and the crisis, to underline that this country is an extraordinary member and to wish you, dear Mariano, much luck and success in the elections,” the German leader said.
Merkel also assessed how Spain had emerged from the economic crisis, emphasizing how different the country now is thanks to Rajoy, who has “taken the bull by the horns, adopted difficult measures, and now there are a million more jobs and citizens can move forward.”
Merkel specifically referred to the cases of Spain, Ireland and Portugal as examples of countries where European conservative policies had been applied and that could now count themselves as among the most prosperous nations in Europe. “We don’t tell lies to people, we work hard,” she noted of the European People’s Party’s formulas.
Prior to the closing event, the current heads of state and government in attendance held a mini-summit presided by Rajoy, who also used the Madrid event to hold meetings with the heads of European institutions, as well as Berlusconi – one of the stars of the congress – and the leaders of Latvia and Austria.
English version by Nick Funnell.