April 14. 2024. 6:09

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Spanish Eurocrat leaves Brussels to run for regional elections

Diego Canga Fano, a Spanish high-ranking 30-year-long Eurocrat, has decided to leave Brussels to run for Asturias’ presidency in May with the support of the centre-right People’s Party (EPP). In an interview with EURACTIV, he explained why and how this could set an example for others to follow.

Since the first regional elections after Franco’s dictatorship in 1983, Spanish socialists (PSOE) have been the undisputed regional leader, being out of office only between 1995 and 1999.

In his 30-year-old career, Canga, who runs as an independent but with EPP support, has worked in all key EU institutions, including the European Parliament, where he worked as head of cabinet for former President Antonio Tajani.

In an interview with EURACTIV, he said his time for politics has come.

“I asked myself, should I stay in Brussels and see from a distance how my region goes down? Or should I be courageous and try to offer my European experience to help my region become again competitive?” Canga said.

“So, I said I’ve done everything in the European Union, let’s try politics”, he said.

Fano accused socialists of Asturias’ unemployment rates and population decline and vowed to boost competitiveness with “European money”.

“The socialists have been running the show for almost 40 years, people are tired”, he added.

“I don’t like what I’m seeing in my region, we are losing 25 citizens a day, notably young people are leaving because of lack of opportunities basically to Madrid or Barcelona”, Canga noted.

Canga stressed the need to reduce public sector jobs, which is “the only growing sector” under the socialist government, and to boost the private sector instead to bring back “economic dynamism”.

Canga has decided to take on this opportunity, offered by PP’s Secretary General Nunez Feijoo, to bring to Asturias his EU expertise – and connections.

“I love my country, and I love my region. And I think I have to share the experience I got from the European Union. Now it’s my time to serve my region”, he said.

Focus on agrifood, metal sector

Canga said he plans to use his connections and experiences acquired during his career in Brussels to bring Asturias closer to the EU.

Last week, he held several meetings in Brussels with EU officials such as EU Parliament President Roberta Metsola, EPP’s chief Manfred Weber as well as EU Commissioners Adina Vălean, Margaritis Schinas and Mariya Gabriel to “find opportunities for Asturias” in the fields of research, transport, and agriculture.

Canga seeks to open up the Asturian agrifood and metal sector to the EU’s internal market by boosting its competitiveness using “European money”.

“My main task is to make the SMEs grow in capacity and make they use better the internal market”, he said.

The EU profile and the challenge

In a traditionally socialist region, Canga acknowledges that “it is going to be difficult” to win the elections.

According to the latest polls, the PP is 2 points away from PSOE, “and I am two months ahead of the election, so I can make”, Canga said.

The Spanish Eurocrat believes that his “European” and “independent” profile will help attract voters from both far-right Vox (European Conservatives and Reformists-ECR) as well as “moderate” socialists.

“Socialists have been running the show for years, and people are tired of the current government. I am confident there will be some movement from Vox to the PP, and also, some moderates from the left are going to pick me”, he said.

Asked if he would work with Vox to govern the region, he replied that his ideal scenario is to “govern alone” and would “try” to avoid such a partnership.

On a state level, the current PP leadership has ruled out a collaboration with Vox.

However, at the regional and local level, the door of such a collaboration is half-open as the two are already collaborating in the region of Castile and Léon as well as in several municipalities.

Canga also eyes votes of Spaniards abroad. According to data, 7,000 voters in Belgium could take part in the Asturia elections, 40,000 in Europe and 80,000 in Latin America.

But Canga also sees challenges in his career shift.

As an EU senior official, Canga has focused on long-term strategies and broad trends.

The regional level, he said, is “extremely specific” as “people want to know what is going to happen tomorrow” and not in some years.

Even though he hopes this long-term strategical vision will be “useful” for Asturias, he acknowledges that it will be a “challenge” to “adapt” to the regional reality.

“If I’m successful, I think more people [EU civil servants] will follow because I am kind of a pioneer”, Canga concluded.

(Max Griera | EURACTIV.com – Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos)