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SPANISH POLITICS

How Spain’s PM Pedro Sánchez is set to become ‘King of the Socialists’

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez will on Friday become president of an international socialist grouping encompassing 132 countries, a potential springboard to a major post on the world stage.

How Spain's PM Pedro Sánchez is set to become 'King of the Socialists'
Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez speaks during NATO Parliamentary Assembly annual session in Madrid on November 21, 2022. (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

A year before a general election in Spain, which polls suggest he will struggle to win, Sánchez is the only candidate to head the Socialist International (SI) — an umbrella group of 132 centre-left parties from around the world.

The telegenic 50-year-old will take over the reins of the SI, which is gathering in Madrid this weekend, from former Greek prime minister George Papandreou.

“While symbolic… this post could be a way (for Sánchez) to regain credit among voters by presenting himself as influential on the world stage,” said Pablo Simón, political science professor at the Carlos III University.

“But it also could be that he plans on capitalising on this network of international contacts” which the post offers to “play a prominent role later” in a top global body, he added.

Former Portuguese prime minister Antonio Guterres led the International Socialist before he went on to head the United Nations refugee agency in 2005 and then become UN secretary general in 2017.

“All prime ministers who love foreign affairs have a tendency to look for an international post to secure a post-governmental career,” said Teneo Intelligence analyst Antonio Barroso.

‘More weight’

Sánchez has made international affairs a priority since he came to power in June 2018, in contrast to his conservative predecessor Mariano Rajoy, and has sought to boost Spain’s influence in the European Union.

Within days of taking office, Sánchez made international headlines by agreeing to take in migrants from the Aquarius rescue ship who were rejected by other European nations.

The first modern Spanish premier to speak English fluently, Sánchez served as chief of staff to the UN high representative to Bosnia during the Kosovo conflict.

He has fostered good relations with France and Germany, which has made Spain “one of the engines of European politics”, said Simon, citing as an example Madrid’s lead in talks over the energy crisis sparked by the war in Ukraine.

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and his wife Maria Begoña Gómez Fernández arrive for the welcoming dinner during the G20 Summit in Badung on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on November 15th, 2022. (Photo by WILLY KURNIAWAN / POOL / AFP)

Sánchez successfully lobbied to have his foreign minister, Josep Borrell, appointed as European Union foreign policy chief in 2019.

“Spain has much more weight in the European Union debate than 10 years ago,” said Barroso, adding the premier had “boosted Spain’s credibility” with its “European partners”.

Beyond the EU, Sánchez hosted a crucial NATO summit in Madrid in June, just four months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and has “reconnected” with Latin America, which has shifted to the left in recent years, said Simon,

Sánchez visited four Latin American countries in August 2018, his first official trip outside Europe, in what was seen as an effort to underscore the region as a priority of his foreign policy.

With Biden and Macron

During the recent G20 summit in Indonesia, Sánchez posted a photo of himself meeting German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and US President Joe Biden.

Seen as an attempt to burnish his credentials on international affairs, the photo was much mocked on social media.

But Ignacio Molina, a senior analyst at the Elcano Royal Institute think tank, said he believes Sánchez’s priority is to remain Spanish prime minister after the general election, which is expected at the end of 2023.

The speculation about a possible senior role for Sánchez at a global body comes from Spain’s opposition parties, which have “spread the idea that he uses international meetings to prepare his future in case of an electoral defeat next year”, Molina said.

“I don’t think he’s deliberately developing an international network for personal reasons. It’s more because he’s at ease in European politics, where he faces less opposition.”

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SPANISH LAW

EXPLAINED: What is Spain’s anti-trafficking law?

The Spanish government has passed a draft bill that seeks to beef up the fight against human trafficking and exploitation, addressing everything from prostitution to arranged marriages and organ trafficking.

EXPLAINED: What is Spain’s anti-trafficking law?

On November 29th, Spain’s Council of Ministers approved a draft law aimed at tackling human trafficking.

The law, known as la ley de trata (or anti-trafficking law) will bolster measures against sexual exploitation, forced and arranged marriages, slavery, forced labour, organ and tissue removal, and situations where vulnerable people are forced to engage in criminal activity.

Spain’s Justice Minister, Pilar Llop, said that the law will protect “people who suffer a lot in our country and also in other countries around the world,” strengthening the fight against trafficking mafias and organised crime groups to “break the business chain that is generated using human beings as commodities.”

The law will, among other things, create a national plan for the prevention of trafficking, protection and privacy protocols, a compensation fund for victims, social, health and financial support, and increase awareness of the problem at the educational level.

A particular focus of the legislation will be on minors, migrants, asylum seekers and refugees – groups thought to be most vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking.

Prostitution in Spain

Many cases of human trafficking in Spain result in sexual exploitation, but there exists no single law that deals directly with prostitution in Spain. Prostitution was decriminalised in 1995, though its related activities, such as pimping, trafficking, and sexual exploitation are still illegal.

READ ALSO: What’s the law on prostitution in Spain?

Although the clandestine nature of the sex work makes accurate data hard to find, according to a 2011 UN report, Spain is the third biggest centre for prostitution in the world, behind only Thailand and Puerto Rico.

In 2016, UNAIDS estimated that over 70,000 prostitutes were working in Spain, but some estimates put that number as high 350,000.

It is believed that 80 percent of them are foreigners, with many reportedly coming from Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Morocco and eastern Europe.

If the draft law is finally approved, its sexual exploitation clauses would include prison sentences of up to eight years for procurers such as pimps or madams.

Customers of prostitutes that have been forced to be sexual workers could also face fines and prison sentences of between six months and four years.

The Spanish government wants prostitution banned in its current form in Spain.

Forced labour

Clearly, the ley de trata will hope to combat some of the sexual exploitation of women in Spain, but the anti-trafficking legislation is more far-reaching than that and is also intended to tackle forced labour and slavery – two big but underreported problems in Spain.

According to the U.S State Department’s 2022 report on human trafficking in Spain, “labour trafficking is under-identified in Spain. Authorities report the pandemic increased worker vulnerabilities and contributed to the rise in labour trafficking in 2020 and 2021, especially in agriculture, domestic work, and cannabis cultivation in Catalonia.”

“In 2022, Ukrainian refugees, predominantly women and children fleeing Russia’s war against Ukraine, are vulnerable to trafficking. Labour traffickers continue to exploit men and women from Eastern Europe and South and East Asia, particularly Pakistan, in the textile, construction, industrial, beauty, elder care facilities, and retail sectors.”

It should be said, however, that the report also notes that “the government of Spain fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking” and kept it in its Tier 1 of nations.

What does Spain’s anti-trafficking law include?

  • National Trafficking Plan

The law will create a protocol to coordinate the immediate referral of trafficked persons to specialised services, which will be overseen by a National Rapporteur on Trafficking and Exploitation of Human Beings run through Spain’s Interior Ministry, according to the Spanish government website.

The rapporteur will oversee anti-trafficking policy and represent Spain in the international arena, a role considered crucial as human trafficking is often a cross border, international problem.

  • Education

According to Article 7 of the law, efforts will also be made to improve educational awareness of the problems of trafficking and exploitation with a focus on human rights, sexual education, and democratic values.

  • Social, labour, and health support

A ‘Social and Labour Insertion Plan’ will be created for victims of trafficking and exploitation that provides social, health and employment support for victims.

This could include housing access, physical, psychological and sexual health support, employment opportunities, and financial assistance for victims and their family members.

  • Tightening labour market regulation

As trafficked and exploited people are so often brought in from abroad (and often dependent on the traffickers themselves for housing, food, money and so on) the regulation of migrant worker recruitment will be tightened through beefed up surveillance and labour standards.

  • Compensation fund

A compensation fund – the Fund for the Compensation of Victims of Trafficking and Exploitation (FIVTE) – will also be created, and will be taken from state budgets, as well as money or goods confiscated from convicted traffickers.

  • Protection and privacy

The anti-trafficking law will also provide protection services and maintain the victim’s right to privacy, protect their identity, access to free legal advice and even offer a living income.

According to Article 36 of the bill, victims trafficked from abroad will have the right to voluntary and assisted return to their country of origin. If they were brought illegally into Spain and don’t have official documentation, the Spanish government will issue them with the appropriate papers needed for travel as well as provide them with the option of residency.

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