As European Union leaders met to thrash out an agreement for the 2014-20 budget, alarm bells were sounding in Brussels this week over the number of corruption cases hitting Spain.
In an internal “political” report to which EL PAÍS has had access, the European Commission has warned of the negative effect of the scandals, particularly after the publication of the papers of ex-Popular Party (PP) treasurer Luis Bárcenas, which purportedly record extra payments of thousands of euros to PP leaders. “This is only the latest in a series of high-profile corruption cases, including one against the son-in-law of the King Juan Carlos,” reads the report. “As a consequence, Spaniards have lost confidence in their political class.”
Brussels still considers it “very premature” to speculate if the situation might pose a potential threat to the stability of the government. But it stressed that “the growing frustration could cause many Spaniards to feel a complete disconnection from politics” and highlighted the drop in the polls experienced by two main parties, the PP and the Socialists, as a collateral effect.
As well as the political consequences, the report also warns of the potential economic fallout of the corruption cases. “International investors are closely following the situation,” it points out. “Along with the still-to-be-concluded reform of the banking system and the unknown elements surrounding the institutional structure (reforms to local government and the Bank of Spain, the creation of an independent fiscal authority, the division of power with the regions and Catalan independence), corruption is another burden for investor confidence in Spain.”
International investors are closely following the situation”
Until now Brussels has maintained a respectful and practically impregnable silence on the Bárcenas case. Government sources on Thursday said there was no “specific concern” about Spain at the summit. “The case has not come up in the conversations among the leaders. What there is is a general concern, a certain anxiety over the stability of Spain and Italy, due to the elections,” the same sources admitted.