Spain’s government bitterly split over upping military spend

The release Tuesday of a billion euros for the army has split Spain’s ruling coalition, with left-wing hardliners Podemos opposing the defence budget increases promised to NATO by Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.

spain military spend
Labour Minister Yolanda Díaz (left), who represents Podemos in government, on Tuesday called for an “urgent” meeting of the coalition’s monitoring committee which is tasked with ensuring that the commitments made when the coalition deal was inked in January 2020 were being respected. Photo: Andres BALLESTEROS / POOL / AFP)

As host of last week’s summit of the alliance’s leaders, Spain, like other members, committed to increasing its investment in defence to 2.0 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP), as required by NATO.

Without waiting for the next round of tortuous budget negotiations, Sanchez’s cabinet on Tuesday released 999.7 million euros ($1.02 billion) in military funding to “deal with all the extraordinary expenses” linked to the war in Ukraine, government spokesman Isabel Rodríguez said.

The funding was released as part of the “commitment” Sanchez made to NATO, she said.

According to NATO’s latest annual report, Spain invested 1.03 percent of its GDP on defence spending in 2021, one of the lowest figures among alliance members, with only Luxembourg investing less.

But Podemos, Sánchez’s junior coalition partner which has been highly critical of arms shipments to Ukraine, roundly rejected the military funding injection and opposes raising the defence budget.

Labour Minister Yolanda Díaz, who represents the party in government, on Tuesday called for an “urgent” meeting of the coalition’s monitoring committee which is tasked with ensuring that the commitments made when the coalition deal was inked in January 2020 were being respected.

Podemos said it had only heard about the allocation of funds to the military through the press — a charge denied by the Socialist party.

“Spending on weapons at the demand of a foreign power rather than investing it in better healthcare, education and social protection is not a budget that our country needs,” said Podemos’ leader and Social Rights Minister Ione Belarra said on Monday.

In an interview with the local daily El Diario Montañes, Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares, who belongs to the Socialist Party, said he could not comprehend Podemos’ opposition.

“I can’t believe that any political force could be against guaranteeing Spain’s security and protection at a time when the threat to our security has increased in a way that it hasn’t done in decades,” he said.

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Spain to splash out €1.2 million on free mobiles for MPs

The Spanish government has approved the purchase of 825 state-of-the-art mobile phones and other tech gadgets for its Members of Parliament in the midst of a cost of living crisis in the country.

Spain to splash out €1.2 million on free mobiles for MPs

As millions of Spaniards struggle with rising energy, food and fuel prices among other spiralling living costs, the Spanish government has given the green light to splurge €1.23 million of taxpayers’ money on mobile phones, tablets and laptops for its 350 MPs.

The 825 next-generation mobile phones include 550 iPhones and 275 Samsung devices with internal storage of up to 512GB and 6-inch OLED screens, all of which will be insured and include technical assistance as part of the deal.

Although it has not been officially confirmed, the Apple devices are likely to be iPhone 13s, which currently have a high street value of between €900 and €1,800 in Spain.

Lower House employees, parliamentary advisors and other civil servants working in El Congreso de los Diputados (the Spanish Parliament) are also set to receive a free mobile.

The parliamentary tech upgrade, published in Spain’s State Bulletin (BOE) on Wednesday September 7th, has been deemed necessary as mobiles are “elements of assistance to parliamentary duties” and the last free devices MPs were given were iPhone 8s that don’t reportedly have the necessary capabilities for current security standards, nor can they have the latest iOS and Android software installed.

Members of Parliament belonging to centre-right party Ciudadanos will not accept the free mobiles, according to their leader Inés Arrimadas.

“It’s madness that in the midst of the crisis Spain is undergoing, the Spanish Parliament will spend more than a million euros to give all MPs the most expensive mobile phones on the market,” Arrimadas tweeted, calling on the Lower House to “rectify” its decision.

When 350 Members of the Spanish Parliament received free mobiles, tablets and home internet in 2016, only five of them turned down the handout.

According to the latest data available on Spain’s Transparency Portal, Spanish Members of Parliament receive on average a base salary of €3,050 gross per month for their parliamentary work, which doesn’t include earnings they receive for their other political work.

MPs also have the right to claim financial aid, exemptions and expenses for their parliamentary duties, and depending on the Spanish region for which they carry out their duties, they can claim additional compensation.

Therefore, Spanish MPs have gross annual salaries of between €55,803 and €70,143 for their parliamentary jobs, twice or almost three times as high as the average gross annual salary of workers in Spain, which in 2022 stands at around €24,000.

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