Discussion with the Permanent Representative of Spain to the UN
Welfare management in Spain is facing challenges
The recent arrest of the king’s brother-in-law links the royal family to corruption
The European Union is popular amongst the Spanish public
Political consensus in Western Sahara appears unlikely
The UN Initiative hosted a discussion with the Honorary Mr. Agustín Santos Maraver, Spain’s Permanent Representative to the UN, on Dec. 6.
Maraver’s visit coincided with 40th anniversary of the public referendum of the Spanish constitution, which was approved by the Spanish public on Dec. 6, 1978.
Much of Maraver’s presentation concerned the Spanish constitution and the challenges it faces in modern times. Like the United States, welfare management in Spain is controlled by regional governments. Maraver claims that this situation, coupled with the economic turmoil of the late 2000s, encouraged some regions, such as Catalonia and Basque Country, to consider independence from Spain.
The role of the monarchy in Spain has also been questioned. The monarchy of Spain holds a mostly nominal title, but it retains significant economic influence. A history of corruption linked to the royal family climaxed in June with the arrest of the king’s brother-in-law for tax fraud and embezzlement.
Spain holds one of the highest approval ratings for the European Union. With this support, Maraver said he is optimistic about the challenges the EU faces with rogue Eastern European members such as Poland and Hungary. He believes these nations are in the same process of modernization that Spain faced in the 1960s. He also added that climate change and immigration are issues only international institutions can fix.
Following the 2017 Catalan referendum for independence, regional government leaders were arrested for a variety of charges including sedition and rebellion. The jailed politicians have since started a hunger strike. Maraver said regional self-determination is not in the Spanish constitution. Catalonia also happens to be the richest, most-industrialized region in Spain, making regional independence a threat to the federal government. Since Maraver’s visit, Jordi Turull, a Catalan leader, has been moved to a hospital.
Asked about the legal status of Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, Maraver said that any political consensus is far away. When annexed by Morocco in 1975, Western Sahara had a population of 60,000 which has now grown to over 550,000 inhabitants. After years of conflict between the Moroccan government and the separatist Polisario Front, several nations and the African Union now recognize the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), a state in Western Sahara founded by the Polisario Front. Morocco insists that Western Sahara is a part of its territory.
This report was compiled by Danny Hegberg on Dec. 15, 2018, and edited by Jamin Chen.