For members


Why is Spain not in the G20 (but is always invited)?

Despite photogenic Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez appearing at the summit in Bali this week, Spain is not a member of the G20. Why is that, and will Spain ever join?

Why is Spain not in the G20 (but is always invited)?
US President Joe Biden talks with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez as part of the G20 Summit meeting on the Indonesian resort island of Bali. Photo: Dita Alangkara/AFP

If you keep up with Spanish social media or its news channels, you might’ve seen in recent days that Spain’s Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, has been at the G20 meeting in Indonesia.

As they often do with Sánchez, the photography of events have taken priority – at least for the internet – over the policy.

Photos of Sánchez alongside major world leaders, including President Biden, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and French President Emmanual Macron, in the immediate aftermath of a missile landing in NATO member Poland have been widely shared.

Sánchez’s place among these world leaders, and by extension Spain’s position among the major superpowers, some say, confirms the country’s place as a ‘big’ or ‘important’ nation on the global stage.

But the truth is that the Spanish leader was in Bali as a ‘permanent guest as Spain is in fact not a member of the G20.

What is the G20? (And why is Spain not in it?)

The G20, or Group of 20, is according to its own definition “the main international forum for economic, financial and political cooperation, it addresses the great global challenges and seeks to generate public policies that solve them.” 

The 20 countries making up the G20 are the US, UK, Germany, France, Russia, Italy, India, China, South Korea, Canada, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Turkey, Australia, and this year’s hosts, Indonesia.

Founded in 1999, the G7 countries were joined first by Russia and the 12 major emerging economies around the world.

As Spain was not among the world’s major economies nor was it considered emerging, it was left out the group. 

The group makes up around 85 percent of the global gross economic product, 66 percent of the world’s population, 75 percent of its international trade, and 80 percent of global investments.

US President Joe Biden (C), Britain Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, Japan Prime Minister Kishida Fumio, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel, Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Netherlands’ Prime Minister Mark Rutte gather to hold an “emergency” meeting to discuss a missile strike on Polish territory near the border with Ukraine. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

Nineteen of the G20 members are in the top 33 economies in the world, and Spain ranks at 14th of the 33, above bigger economies than G20 members Mexico, in 15th, Indonesia, 16th, Turkey 17th, Saudi Arabia 19th, Argentina 21st and South Africa in 33rd.

Spain has the fifth largest economy in the EU, it is the home of the language spoken by 8 percent of the world’s population, according to the Cervantes Institute, and is the second most visited place on earth, attracting 83.5 million tourists a year.

But still, it is not in the G20.

So why is Spain always invited?

The 2008 financial crisis ravaged the Spanish economy and left it in over a half-decade of economic decline.

When the G20 met to address the impending global economic meltdown that year, Spain was not invited.

Yet, in the end José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Spain’s Prime Minister at the time, was allowed to attend the summit after making an arrangement with the then French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who let Zapatero take one of the two seats France had at the summit due to Sarkozy being the rotating presidency of the EU at the time.

Since then, Spain has continued to attend the G20 summits as a ‘permanent guest,’ and is the only country with such status.

Will Spain ever join the G20?

Now that Spain has been a permanent member of the G20 for almost 15 years, it seems safe to say that the G20 will not increase its number of formal members anytime soon.

To do so, an existing member would have to removed – unless they want to change the name to G21, or G22 – and this seems unlikely because though there are countries with smaller economies than Spain, their membership of the G20 adds a geographic diversity to the policy making that another European nation like Spain would take away from.

That’s not to say that it might not extend permanent guest status to other countries, however. 

According to the Elcano Royal Institute, a Spanish think-tank focusing international and strategic studies, what Spain needs to do “to consolidate is its role as a permanent guest and eventually opt to be a member if the occasion arises… [is to] provide analyses, positions and proposals that interest it as a country and the other partners in this framework.”

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


Who will win Spain’s 2023 election – Sánchez or Feijóo?

With Spain's next general election 12 months away, recent polls suggests that the 'Feijóo effect' is softening and Pedro Sánchez's PSOE is regaining ground. Is the PP still capable of winning a majority, or can Sánchez stay in power?

Who will win Spain's 2023 election - Sánchez or Feijóo?

Over the last year, the received political wisdom has been that Spain’s centre-right Partido Popular (PP) are all set for a return to government.

After the disruption of the pandemic, followed by war in Europe and consequent energy and inflation crises, Pedro Sánchez’s ruling Socialist party (PSOE) would be cast aside at the ballot box, the logic went.

The question wasn’t if PP would win the next general election, but by how much. Or in other words, would they be forced to rely on the far-right Vox to party to prop them up in government, like they have at the regional level in Castilla y León, or could they rule alone?

READ ALSO: Spain’s far-right Vox sworn into regional government

After PP brought in the Galician Senator Alberto Núñez Feijóo to replace the erratic Pablo Casado as leader in March, PP jumped up in the polls. Painted as steady, moderate, and calm conservative voice, Feijóo was thought to be a safe pair of hands that would guide the PP back to La Moncloa.

PROFILE: Feijóo – The new leader of Spain’s opposition party

The polls

But recent polling released this week has cast doubt on that thinking, with Sánchez’s PSOE cutting PP’s lead in half – going from 7.1 percent behind in the polls to just 3.2 percent, according to two major polls – and evidence that the Feijóo effect might be wearing off.

Though PP is still ahead in the polls, their lead is shrinking, and the fact that Sánchez’s Socialists seem to be rallying after all the external events that have plagued their time in office suggests there may be more life in the 2023 election than many anticipated. 

According to polling carried out by 40dB for Spain’s leading daily El País, PP continue to lead the vote and would win an estimated 127 seats (29.9 percent of the vote) if a general election were held today. PSOE would win 107 seats, around 27 percent of the vote.

Projected Deputy seats according to the latest polling from El País. Source: El País.

According to the IMOP-Insights barometer for El Confidencial, carried out between October 10th and 22nd, Sánchez’s PSOE has gone from an estimated vote of 24.4 percent (96 seats) to 26.8 percent (103 seats) since their latest poll published on October 12th, a difference, they say, of 582,000 voters.  

El Confidencial also has PP’s lead falling, though slightly less than El País, to 30 percent and 122 seats. The difference between the two main parties in terms of voters and MPs, they say, is around 800,000 votes and 19 MPs.

In short, PP’s lead is shrinking but still relatively significant. 

Vox in government?

According to polling from El Confidencial, PP and Vox would between them win 173 seats, which would leave them 3 seats short of a majority, and though almost all polling suggests that the Spanish right block (PP and Vox) would win the election in some form, there is no polling yet to suggest they would win a parliamentary majority. 

Despite PP’s slight fall in the polls, Vox have not been the beneficiaries thus far. In fact, according to the El Confidential model, if elections were held today far-right Vox would lose up to 13 of its current 52 deputies, going from a 15.2 percent vote share in November 2019 to an estimated 13.8 percent if elections were now.

This continues a six-month downward trend for the far-right party and is likely reflective of a poor showing in the Andalusian elections over the summer, as well as public infighting with its former candidate Macarena Olona. 

Analysis by El Confidencial suggests Vox’s historic entry into the regional government of Castilla y León has actually hurt them, and they are currently recalibrating their strategy with an eye on mirroring the tactics of Italian Prime Minister and Vox ally, Giorgia Meloni.


Head to head – Sánchez vs Feijóo

As is the case in many European countries in the 21st century, the steady Americanisation of politics has elections much more presidential in nature, with a greater focus on the personality and performance of party leaders as opposed to policy. How does that play out in Spain?

Polling data from El Confidencial in August put the PP’s projected vote share at 33.4 percent (equivalent to 137 seats) but since then the so-called ‘Feijóo effect’ has slowly died off. 

Sánchez and Feijóo are pretty much neck and neck when it comes to personal ratings, according to El País, with both on 19 percent (Sánchez’s deputy Yolanda Díaz is not far behind on 17.8 percent, and Vox leader Santiago Abascal is on 11.6 percent).

However, when you remove the rest of the field and focus solely on the two main party leaders, the results are stark.

The SocioMétrica poll for El Español found that 28.4 percent of respondents preferred Feijóo, among all leaders, compared to 24.6 percent for Sánchez. But between these two, 57.2 percent went for Sánchez and just 42.6 for Feijóo.

In the six months since May, when El País last polled Spaniards on the leaders individually, Feijóo has suffered some significant setbacks. In May, 52.5 percent of respondents valued his experience, a figure that has now dropped to 35.6 percent. Similarly, the percentage of those polled who considered him prepared for government has shrunk from 37.9 percent to 32.5 percent.

Though the ‘Feijóo effect’ does seem to be wearing off somewhat, the PP leaders remains popular with his core voters. His drops in approval ratings are likely due to what the Spanish media are calling the ‘wear and tear’ of politics, and suggests that his early high numbers were symptomatic of the customary bump new leaders often get.

One thing that is significant is the fact that Feijóo’s steady approval ratings on the right suggest he is losing popularity among centrist swing voters, a subsection of the electorate many assumed was the natural terrain of Feijóo and the PP. With the polls suggesting that Vox aren’t picking up these votes, PSOE are.

Feijóo’s slip in the polls also coincides with Pedro Sánchez recovering his image, and he now leads Feijóo in most characteristics, including language management, charisma, intelligence, determination, empathy, courage, and honesty.

Whereas a few months ago Spanish political pundits were likely to point to the pandemic and inflation crisis as reasons Sánchez would lose the next election, the electorate now seem to increasingly see it as good experience. El País data shows approval of his experience has skyrocketed from 26.7 percent in May to 41 percent in November, and so too his preparation, from 26.9 percent to 32.4 percent.

Spain’s 2023 general election has no fixed date yet, but it expected to go ahead in November 2023 and no later than December 10th.