Zapatero calls for unity against terrorism

8th April 2008, Comments 0 comments

He also stressed on the need to support the failing economy when presenting his government programme on Tuesday.

8 April 2008

MADRID - Spain's Socialist prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who won a second term in the elections a month ago, presented his government programme on Tuesday, calling for unity in the fight against the militant Basque separatist group ETA.

Zapatero also stressed the need to buttress the faltering economy when presenting the programme to parliament ahead of a vote to reconfirm him as prime minister later this week.

ETA was "weaker than ever" though it was still able to kill, Zapatero said in a reference to the killing of former Socialist councillor Isaias Carrasco two days before the 9 March elections.

The group had failed to make use of the opportunity offered by a negotiation attempt in 2006, and it "only has one destiny: to stop its criminal savagery," said Zapatero, who is not expected to talk to ETA again.

Zapatero appealed to conservative opposition leader Mariano Rajoy for unity against ETA, the fight against which created deep divisions during the previous legislature, with Rajoy's Popular Party (PP) regarding the negotiation attempt as a concession to terrorists.

Spain does not want to discuss Basque independence, which ETA has sought for four decades in an armed campaign that has claimed more than 800 lives.

Zapatero's speech also focused on the state of the economy, with growth expected to drop from 3.8 percent in 2007 to possibly even under 2 percent this year.

The global economic circumstances had grown less favourable, Zapatero cautioned, announcing measures including a re-employment plan, tax relief for low-income groups and businesses, and talks with employers and trade unions.

Measures are to target especially the once-booming construction sector, whose rapid meltdown is expected to kill some 400,000 jobs.

The economic measures would not undermine social security benefits, Zapatero pledged, evoking a "prosperous but decent" Spain championing the rights of discriminated groups such as women and homosexuals, engaged in the fight against climate change and poverty.

The parliamentary debate was expected to continue until Wednesday, followed by a first round of voting in which Basque and Catalan regionalists were deemed likely to abstain, depriving Zapatero of the absolute majority necessary for him to be elected.

He would then be elected with a simple majority in a second round on Friday.

The Socialists increased their number of seats by five to 169 in the elections, but remained short of an absolute majority in the 350- member parliament.

For a prime minister to be elected in the second round usually creates expectations of a weak government, but the Socialists wanted to make clear they would not pay for support with excessive concessions to the Basque and Catalan regions seeking more autonomy.

Zapatero was expected to maintain the "hard core" of his previous government, retaining his deputy Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega as well as the economy, foreign and justice ministers.

[dpa / Expatica]


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