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Better security

Spain will have an overall, integrated strategy against a range of potential threats

The government has approved the document containing the Spanish Security Strategy, prepared by Javier Solana (holder of several ministerial posts in the González governments, former NATO secretary-general and EU foreign policy chief) and endorsed by the National Defense Council in its latest meeting.

The purpose of the initiative was to evaluate, and hierarchically classify, the potential risks that weigh upon the country, as well as to design an integrated institutional structure, equipped with new procedures to cope with these risks. This was a necessary and pending job, insofar as Spain had long been lacking in an overall vision of national security- a lack that took the form of an excessive compartmentalization of the chief organizations in this field. The model now approved by the government resembles that which exists in the United States and in some European countries, such as France, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

While for some time now successive Spanish governments have implicitly accepted the transition from the concept of defense to that of security, this change of theoretical orientation had not yet been translated into practical terms.

The creation of a Spanish Security Council was a step toward carrying out this much-needed translation, giving concrete form to the idea that the military component, in spite of its obvious importance, is not the only one that must be taken into consideration. The concept of security not only implies a readiness to cope with the threats once they actually materialize, but also, and indeed above all, to possess the capacity to deactivate them before they become real and present dangers.

The document distinguishes as many as nine separate threats, which range from armed conflicts and terrorism to computer attacks and natural catastrophes, not forgetting economic instability and energy vulnerability. With respect to terrorism, it rightly points out that its obvious capacity to inflict serious physical harm must not be confused with the possibility that it may destabilize democratic institutions, as experience has amply demonstrated.

Of more doubtful value is the passage in which immigration is considered in terms of a threat, placing its treatment in the sphere of security, an approach that may well end by conferring an apparent legitimacy on responses that are in fact driven by populist and xenophobic currents.

The Zapatero government has taken a first step, which should hopefully lead on to more substantial developments in the immediate future. It does not appear that this is the intention of the Popular Party, which has distanced itself from the initiative, at least until the next general elections are over.