Viewing cable 04MADRID960, DEALING WITH ZAPATERO: AN INEXPERIENCED BUT
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|04MADRID960||2004-03-18 18:06||2010-12-07 12:12||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Madrid|
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MADRID 000960 SIPDIS E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/18/2014 TAGS: PGOV PREL SP PSOE SUBJECT: DEALING WITH ZAPATERO: AN INEXPERIENCED BUT PROBABLY MANAGEABLE PARTNER Classified By: Ambassador George Argyros for reasons 1.4 (B) and (D). ¶1. (C) Summary: This message provides initial embassy thinking on how to deal with President-Elect Zapatero in the lead up to his government's formation and the early stages of his administration. Zapatero has no experience in administration or foreign affairs. He is likely to be a difficult but manageable interlocutor and carries with him the Spanish Left's skepticism of U.S. motives. Opposition to the war in Iraq is central to Zapatero,s appeal to voters. Nonetheless a UNSCR that gave the UN a leading role in the Iraq mission could allow Zapatero to save face and agree to maintain Spanish forces in Iraq. End summary. ¶2. (C) Some things to bear in mind --It is important to recall that Zapatero, who is 43, has no experience whatsoever in government administration. He has served as a member of the Parliament since he was 26. --The Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) was shocked that they won the elections and Zapatero and his people are scrambling to figure out what to do. He also made a number of campaign statements that might have come out differently had he thought he had a real chance of becoming president of the government of Spain. --As leader of Spain, Zapatero will be able to draw on some experienced PSOE party operatives and experienced diplomats and economists such as Miguel Angel Moratinos and Miguel Sebastian. But he will also have to make certain he does not provoke the image that he is replaying the corrupt government of Felipe Gonzalez, the PSOE President of Spain from 1982-1996. So his team likely will include a mix of experienced people and newer and less experienced hands. The learning curve will be steep. Zapatero and his team will have a certain settling in period once the reality of government sets in. --We have already seen some 'wiggle room' in public statements on certain issues, including possibly on the pull out of Spanish troops from Iraq. Zapatero,s possible foreign minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos indicated in the March 18 Wall Street Journal that a UN resolution prior to June 30 could provide the context in which Spanish troops could remain. If by May we are beginning to negotiate a resolution and if France and Germany are on board, Zapatero might agree to leave the troops in Iraq. --Zapatero will have to work to dispel the image that he won because he will appease terrorists (or that he was elected by Al-Qaeda). He will almost certainly hear from his European colleagues on this issue. He will have to calibrate his decisions to avoid the impression that terrorists can influence his foreign policy moves. --Though terrorism and foreign policy are now front and center for Zapatero, many Spaniards believe his main challenge will be handling the increasingly vocal nationalist tendencies in Catalonia and the Basque region, which could threaten the Spanish constitutional order. Zapatero does not have the gravitas nor the credibility to deal with these issues effectively, many fear. It is not in the U.S. interest to see instability in the Spanish national system. --Under Zapatero, Spain will continue to face a terrorist threat, both from Al-Qaeda and from ETA. This is our most significant common challenge, on which we should seek to build a firm relationship. --On macro-economic issues, we can expect sound policies. The PSOE initiated many of the reforms which laid the basis for Spain,s current economic success, and Zapatero himself has credited the success of Aznar,s economic policies in the past. Zapatero has already endorsed PP Minister of Economy Rato to head the IMF. There are continued grounds for cooperation in this area. --The USG has worked well with previous socialist governments. Under Felipe Gonzalez, Spain reaffirmed its membership in NATO, despite the Socialists, previous opposition to NATO membership. We negotiated a renewal of our bilateral defense agreements. There is a positive history with PSOE on which to build. --We will have to accept that there are some issues on which we will disagree with the Zapatero government. Zapatero,s political philosophy, and that of his closest associates, is grounded in the European Left,s reflexive skepticism about U.S. motives at best, and anti-Americanism at worst. --We have long-term interests in Spain that transcend governments in power. Spain is a NATO ally, a strong and growing economic force in the EU with shared common historical and linguistic links with the Americas. Knowledge of and ties with the U.S., however, remain quite thin. Zapatero has little understanding of the U.S. --Spanish democracy is still rather immature - less than 30 years old. The high voter turnout last week was a victory for democracy in Spain. We should avoid castigating Spanish voters and allow them to come to their own conclusions about the government that they have elected, albeit under extraordinary circumstances. ¶3. (C) Our overall approach --We believe it is in U.S. interest, both for relations with Spain and more broadly in Europe and in the Iraq Coalition that we allow Zapatero some time before we come to conclusions about steps he will take, including on Iraq. --The public line the White House and the Department have thus far taken, for example in the White House and Department briefings of March 16, is working and we can already see it resonating through opinion pieces in Spanish media. This will help us avoid an unhelpful U.S.-vs- Zapatero image that may be difficult to dispel later on when some rapprochement might be possible or needed by us or Spain for other reasons. --Rather, we should emphasize our long-term interests in and alliance with Spain, our good relations with the previous PSOE government, our shared interest combating terrorism, the strength of our economic relations and our shared interest in repairing strained transatlantic relations (the theme here is that Zapatero need not choose between Europe and the United States). --We should allow other European leaders to express their concerns to Zapatero about the appearance of giving in to terrorism. The views of France and Germany carry particular weight with Zapatero. We should offer our support and advice in the effort against terrorism, and should continue to do so at the highest levels. --We should also emphasize that transatlantic relations and close ties with Europe are not either/or propositions. The U.S. strongly supports European integration and enlargement. ¶4. (C) It will be important that the USG seek to engage Zapatero and his new team at senior levels as soon as possible, and continue practical areas of U.S. - Spanish cooperation that are outside of the difficult issues such as Iraq. Some suggested practical steps: --Secretary Powell connect with probable PSOE Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos as soon as possible. --Presidential letter to Zapatero as soon as he is invested (probably in late April); second congratulatory phone call as soon as he is in office. --Offer high-level intelligence briefing to Zapatero on counter-terrorism and other key world issues. --Suggest that Zapatero would be welcome in Washington as soon as he is able to visit. --Engage at high levels on counter-terrorism cooperation, with a visit by Secretary Ridge to meet with his counterpart (under new ministry name of Ministry of Security) once the new government is invested, and follow up at other levels immediately. --Suggest regular high-level and working-level consultations with new MFA on key issues - Middle East, Latin America, UN Security Council issues, human rights, common threats and challenges. Public diplomacy outreach the primacy and breadth of the U.S. - EU relationship will also be important. --Defense issues: Spain reaffirmed its membership in NATO under PSOE government. We should continue our good level of defense dialogue, contacts, and cooperation, including in the Balkans and Afghanistan; dialogue on Iraq if we get a new UN resolution. Continue "business as usual" with military-military contacts. --Terrorism Finance: The events of March 11 represent an opportunity to persuade Spain to take a greater leadership role on these issues in the EU and elsewhere, particularly in terms of assistance. Spain had proposed hosting a terrorism finance conference early this year. We should convey our willingness to support such a conference should the government wish to do so. We should also continue our willingness to consider Spain for standing membership in the CTAG. --Iraq Contracts: The Spanish private sector continues to show interest in and frustration with the contracting process. We believe Spanish companies have a lot to offer. We recommend going ahead with tentative plans to have the CPA,s Program Management Office (PMO) brief on subcontracting (sponsored by a private sector entity) in late April as currently planned. It will demonstrate the possible benefits of cooperation. --Trade Issues: We recommend signaling to the new trade team a willingness to consult on the Doha Round and progress in the FTAA - a likely area of continued interest for the new government. --Housing: Zapatero has already signaled that housing will be a key issue for his government and has already said he will create a housing ministry. Based on the U.S.-Spain Housing forums which took place under former HUD Secretary Martinez, leadership with the Ministry of Public Works (where housing currently stands) suggest a dialogue with HUD as soon as this ministry is established, building on ties already created, many of which at the working level will remain. --R&D/S&T/Productivity: There is a wide scope for increased R&D cooperation given that the PSOE platform included a pledge to significantly increase the amount of R&D spending. Along the same lines, improving worker productivity is another key PSOE pledge. As a leader in this area, U.S. may be able to share experiences with the new government. ¶5. (C) Possible PSOE response --Zapatero likely will prove an inexperienced partner. There are a number of issues on which he will clearly differ from Aznar, but there are areas on which we can build on long-term cooperative efforts. What will change --From the PSOE side, we can expect some initial reservations about our engagement overtures. But as the reality of government sets in, Zapatero and his team may welcome a matter of fact approach from us focused on practical steps in areas on which we can agree. --Zapatero,s European focus will be a key element of his foreign policy. He has made it clear he intends to follow the lines of France and Germany on most issues. He has already said that he will drop Aznar,s insistence in the EU constitution debate on maintaining the Nice treaty voting formulas. Again, though, as Zapatero realizes he is governing one of Europe,s fastest growing economies, he will quickly find that on some issues Spain will want to have a voice that is separate from those of France and Germany. But as our relationship with France and Germany evolves, we may find areas of opportunity with Spain under PSOE as well. ARGYROS