Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Body Language

It's not hard to see why Mariano Rajoy's minders are doing their best to keep their man out of public view. Spain's prime minister had his first European summit this week and displayed his absolute lack of communication skills. Not that he practices very much. Say what you like about Zapatero, he knew how to look an audience in the eye and speak to them. Even if he was constantly moving his imaginary box from one side to another. Rajoy always looks as if he can't wait to get away, and as if he has a bad taste in his mouth. 

When he was officially greeted in Spanish by Herman Van Rompuy, who is allegedly someone important in the EU, Rajoy couldn't even muster a smile of acknowledgement. Instead we got the Mariano grimace and that bad taste again. The only time he smiled was when he told the Finnish prime minister that the imminent labour market reform would cost him a general strike. The remark was not intended to be reported and someone had to go and wake up Spain's union leaders to tell them what was expected of them. The outcome is that they are now almost obliged to call the strike, otherwise they'll make Rajoy look stupid!

If you want to know what plans Spain's government has for the economy then you really need to read the foreign press. The economy minister (or should that be one of the economy ministers?), Luis de Guindos gave quite a precise description of the content of the proposed labour market reform to the Wall Street Journal. All of which is curious when you consider that no such description had been offered to the Spanish people, and when the details were supposedly still being thrashed out between employers and unions. It's all part of the game, the content of this reform is said to be part of the letter sent to the Italian and Spanish governments prior to the European Central Bank acting to reduce pressure in the debt markets. We know the Italians got the letter, but both Zapatero and Rajoy have been allowed to act as if they are just deciding themselves to implement these measures instead of being told what to do. 

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