New Spanish ministers sworn in after reshuffle

AFP , Monday 12 Jul 2021

Women now head 14 of Spain's 22 ministries, up from 12 in the previous cabinet. Sanchez has made feminism and gender equality a banner of his government

Spain's King Felipe, centre, poses with Spain's new ministers and other ministers affected by a cabinet re-shuffle after the swearing in ceremony at the Zarzuela Palace in Madrid, Spain, Monday, July 12, 2021. AP

New ministers in Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's government were sworn in on Monday after a reshuffle brought in a younger cabinet dominated by women aimed at focusing on economic recovery from the pandemic.

Sanchez sacked several heavyweights including Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo on Saturday and brought in seven new faces in his first major reshuffle since his left-wing minority coalition came to power in January 2020.

Sanchez, whose Socialist party has been lagging in opinion polls, said the new government would kick off a "new stage" in economic and social recovery.

Women now head 14 of Spain's 22 ministries, up from 12 in the previous cabinet. Sanchez has made feminism and gender equality a banner of his government.

The mean age of the ministers is now 50 instead of 55, in what Sanchez called a "generational renewal".

Economy Minister Nadia Calvino, a former director general of the European Commission's budget department, was elevated to replace Calvo as deputy prime minister.

Jose Manuel Albares, who up until now was Spain's ambassador to France, replaced Arancha Gonzalez Laya as foreign minister.

She was widely criticised for allowing Western Sahara independence leader Brahim Ghali to be treated at a hospital in Spain, angering Morocco which lays claim to the former Spanish colony.

Although the Polisario Front leader left Spain on June 2, diplomatic relations have remained tense.

Albares said he wanted to "further strengthen our ties" with Morocco, which he called "our great neighbour and friend in the south".

In May, the Socialists and their coalition partner, the far-left Podemos party, were routed in regional elections in Madrid by the conservative Popular Party (PP), which had campaigned on the need for looser pandemic restrictions.

The PP has surged ahead of the Socialists in opinion polls following that election.

Recent surveys suggest the PP and the far-right Vox together would win an absolute majority in parliament if a general election were held.

The government's decision in June to pardon nine Catalan separatists serving lengthy jail terms over their role in a failed 2017 independence bid has also drained support.

Spain suffered the largest contraction in Europe during 2020 as lockdowns wrecked its tourism-dependent economy.

It is set to receive up to 140 billion euros ($166 billion) from a European Union economic rescue fund in the next few years.

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