Independence campaigners in Spain are closely watching the referendum in Scotland.
A similar vote is planned in Catalonia in November, which the Spanish government in Madrid strongly opposes.
Euronews spoke to Pedro Sánchez, the leader of Spain's centre-left Socialist Party (PSOE), which is now in opposition.
Marta Vivas, euronews: “Pedro Sánchez, Secretary-General of the PSOE party, let’s begin by talking about your political career. Why did you decide to become active in politics?”
Pedro Sánchez, Spanish Socialist Party leader: “Today in Spain and in many parts of Europe, there are many people who see the future as a threat. And I want to transform that future of threats into a future of opportunities. Two and a half years ago, I was outside politics, I was a university professor. And my political commitment is to modernise Spain and Europe, with the creation of jobs and opportunities within Europe and with the need for the world to see a competitive Europe of opportunities, and also one that spreads peace in the rest of the world.”
euronews: “What kind of socialist are you, what do you propose?”
Pedro Sánchez: “I’m a reformer, a moderniser. I think Spain must modernise its economy. I believe Spain and Europe must make progress towards better transparency, citizen participation and democracy in our institutions. We must struggle against corruption, which is the main poison of our democracy, and we need to create work. Above all for those young people who don’t have any at the moment.”
euronews: “PODEMOS (The left-wing ‘We Can’ movement) won more than one million votes in the European elections. It now has five MEPs in the European Parliament. What do you think led all those people to vote for this political group?”
Pedro Sánchez:“I don’t know. I believe that politics is about building, not destroying. And I will always be on the side of all those who see politics as inspiring hope, which is optimistic, about the future. We can’t turn the clock back 50 years… I think there are now people in Spain who earn 340 euros a month, who can’t make ends meet. Little work is created and the work that is created is very precarious. There is poverty in the workplace. The important thing is to offer possibilities for work and for decent work.”
euronews: “In a recent interview you said that “populism ends up like Venezuela under Chavez”. What did you mean by that? How do you define populism?”
Pedro Sánchez: “With proposals such as those I’m making, to tackle a process of fiscal reform which makes the most well-off pay more tax and thus liberates the fiscal burden on the working and middle classes, this is a realistic and fair proposal from a social point of view. To suggest that we nationalise all strategic sectors of the economy is simply impossible. So, between a proposal that positions for social justice – but which also has its feet on the ground – and another which offers false solutions to real problems, I’ll take the first.”
euronews: “Your party supported austerity measures a few years ago, how do you think those measures helped people in the street?”
Pedro Sánchez: “There are different ways of doing politics in difficult situations, like those in Europe with austerity. I think Europe should change its economic policy. I’ve suggested a specific public investment plan for countries with an unemployment rate of above 15 percent. I’ve suggested that the youth guarantee programme which is now limited to under 25-year-olds, is raised to 30 year-olds. Why? Because for example in Europe there are lots of young people between 25 and 30 years old who are unemployed. So Spain, like the rest of Europe, should change its austerity policies for growth and job creation. And for that, in our situation, in Europe’s case, you also have to count on the support of European institutions.”
euronews: “Let’s now talk about Scotland. What do you think would be the impact of Scottish independence on the rest of Europe, in other regions?”
Pedro Sánchez: “In many cases, what’s important, what counts is to know how these feelings come about, these desires which show themselves in this vote. Of course, if I place a bet on something, it’s for a united and strong Europe and a Scotland which is also united and strong in the European Union and in the United Kingdom.”
euronews: “But these sentiments of independence can have a certain influence on other regions…”
Pedro Sánchez: “You mean in Spain, and in the Catalan debate. I think that in Catalonia what we need to do – and what I’ve said to both (Spanish prime minister) Rajoy and to (Catalan president) Mas – is to face up to a process of renewing the Constitution. We’ve had 35 years of constitutional success. But it’s true that we must renew that Constitution. We must reorganise our territorial coexistence. We must organise our authorities at each institutional level in Spain and in the European Union. And we can only do all that with constitutional reform. I want a Catalonia in the forefront of Spain, from the change in economic and social policy that we socialists want to champion. I do not want a Catalonia outside Europe.”
euronews: “How can this constitutional reform, from what you’re talking about, give more autonomy to the regions and how can that benefit Spain?”
Pedro Sánchez: “Essentially, what we’re talking about is reorganising responsibilities. Today, lots of people don’t know what the responsibility of each level of administration is. What needs to be recognised in the Constitution – which now is not the case – is who is responsible for public health, who is responsible for education, who is responsible for policy on languages, how the model of autonomous financing is put together, which is not in the Constitution either – I believe that would clarify life for citizens a lot and above all, and it’s important, would make savings for the State. Because in the end, it would be much more efficient. We argue for federal models like those in Germany or the United States. In Europe, we socialists say that Europe should be a federal Europe. When we talk about more European Union, we talk about a federal union. That’s also what we are standing up for in Spain.”
euronews: “Let’s end with Scotland. What do you think should be the Spanish position if (an independent) Scotland asks to join the European Union?”
Pedro Sánchez: “If we are going to gamble on something, it’s for this strong, united union which we’re all in. And I certainly believe that, regarding the Catalan question, we should argue in favour of understanding, coexistence and above all to recognise inside Spain, that Catalonia is a different nation, that merits being recognised. And that Spain can’t be understood without Catalonia, and Catalonia can’t be understood without the rest of Spain. It’s difficult when there are leaders who demand that their citizens choose between being Spanish and being Catalan. I think that instead of causing division, right now in Spanish and Catalan politics we need lots of good judgement, lots of courage to confront the challenges we all face.”