Parliament’s ratification vote on Sweden and Finland’s NATO accession on Thursday divided the Spanish coalition, with socialists of PSOE voting in favour and its minority partner in the progressive executive, left-wing Unidas Podemos, abstaining.
In favour of Sweden’s and Finland’s entry were PSOE (S&D), centre-right Popular Party (PP/EPP), far-right VOX, centre-liberal Ciudadanos (Citizens), Basque nationalist PNV and Catalan pro-EU Partido Demócrata Europeo Catalán (PDECat), the Spanish public broadcaster RTVE reported.
But not only Unidas Podemos (GUE-NGL) abstained from the left camp. The four MPs of Izquierda Unida (IU, United Left) integrated in the governing left-wing formation voted against.
IU’s national coordinator and Minister for Consumer Affairs, Alberto Garzón, also abstained, ignoring the Executive’s internal voting “discipline”.
Unidas Podemos justified its abstention arguing that they do not want to “subordinate” themselves “to the interests of the United States”, but respect the “sovereignty” of other countries.
Pablo Hispán, MP with centre-right opposition Popular Party (PP), regretted that Spain has: “the only government in Europe that is going to vote differently on NATO enlargement, that one side (PSOE) is in favour of the Alliance and the other (Unidas Podemos) claims that it is a ‘criminal organisation’”.
However, some of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s parliamentary allies, such as regional parties ERC, EH Bildu, Más País and Compromís, abstained, arguing that one cannot vote against a sovereign decision to join NATO expressed by Swedish and Finnish citizens.
“Everyone knows what we think of NATO (the party fiercely opposes the military pact) but, at the same time, it is an issue that affects the sovereignty of Finland and Sweden “, Pablo Echenique, Unidas Podemos’ spokesperson in Parliament, stressed Thursday.
The accession protocol to NATO requested by Sweden and Finland must be ratified by all members of the Alliance.
On Thursday, Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares (PSOE) played down the importance of the latest rift with Unidas Podemos: “Both Sweden and Finland are very grateful for the speed with which Spain is responding to what is not a demand of the Spanish Government, but a request of both (European) governments”, he said.
Before the NATO Summit held in Madrid in June, Labour Minister and Unidas Podemos member, Yolanda Díaz, expressed her support to the executive’s position on NATO, but other party members such as former Secretary of State for the 2030 Agenda, Enrique Santiago, voiced his opposition.
“Let no one be surprised because the Spanish Communist Party supports the solution of conflicts, calls for the dissolution of military alliances and calls for the construction of peace alliances,” said Santiago.
The war in Ukraine and the complex security situation in Europe have fuelled pro-NATO sentiment in Spain, where 83% of people interviewed expressed a positive opinion of the military pact, according to a recent survey published by “think tank” Elcano.
Spain joined the NATO alliance in May 1982, and at a referendum in March 1986, 56.85% voted in favour of membership.
(Fernando Heller | EuroEFE.EURACTIV.es)