Berlin and Madrid seek consensus on budgets and immigration

FILE PHOTO: Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez speaks during a news conference after the European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium June 21, 2019. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/

By Andreas Rinke and Belén Carreño

MADRID/BERLIN, Jan 17 (Reuters) – German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez will seek a consensus in Madrid on Monday on more left-leaning policies for Europe in areas ranging from fiscal policy to migration.

The visit of Scholz, who took over from conservative chancellor Angela Merkel last month, comes with great expectations from Sánchez, who, according to sources, sees the trip as a step to rebuild the Madrid-Berlin axis.

“We got along well with Angela Merkel’s government, but Scholz belongs to our Social Democratic family. Ideologically there is more affinity and it has to be noted,” a senior Spanish government official told Reuters.

Achim Post, secretary general of the European Parliament’s socialist bloc and a leading member of Scholz’s Social Democrats in Germany, noted that left-wing parties now lead Spain, Portugal, Germany and the Nordic countries.

He said he hoped that Scholz and Sánchez, who are scheduled to give a press conference at 3:00 p.m. GMT, would take the opportunity to promote policies such as a more equitable distribution of refugees among the countries of the European Union.

“The fact that the governments of Spain and Germany are now led by Social Democrats opens up new scope to jointly strengthen cohesion and progress in Europe,” Post told Reuters.

The Spanish Socialists (PSOE) uneasily followed Scholz’s November negotiations to form a coalition government, fearing too many concessions to the Liberals.

However, the “traffic light” coalition with the Greens and liberal Free Democrats reassured the European Social Democratic family, a Social Democrat MEP told Reuters.

“The positions of Scholz and Sánchez will not be exactly the same, but neither will they be contradictory,” he said.


During the 2010 debt crisis, Germany was seen in Spain as a prominent member of the “frugals” in northern Europe who imposed financial restrictions and looked down on the “wasteful” neighbors to the south.

Sánchez’s government sees Scholz’s visit as a start to break those two blocks, said the high-ranking Spanish government official.

“We will not abandon our agreements with Paris and Rome, which continue to be preferential partners. But now we can also exchange our ad hoc positions on some issues with Germany,” said the source preparing today’s meeting.

European economy ministers will meet today to discuss when to return to the stability pact suspended during the pandemic.

Madrid hopes to convince Berlin to support a more relaxed set of eurozone fiscal rules, also backed by France and Italy, that sets GDP-to-debt reduction targets at a more “realistic” level and curb the momentum of the deficit reduction.

The latest data shows that the eurozone average is close to 100% of GDP debt, from Greece, with a ratio of 207%, to Estonia, with 19%. Spain stands at 122% and Germany is close to 70%.

“We need a new credible rule. Most of the big euro countries cannot meet the 60% target. Setting a new target would give markets confidence,” the Spanish source said.

(Reporting by Andreas Rinke and Belen Carreno, writing by Emma Thomasson, editing by Aislinn Laing and Ed Osmond, translated by José Muñoz in the Gdansk writing)

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