June 23. 2024. 7:49

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Spanish government split over ‘opaque’ billion-heavy military aid to Ukraine

Spain’s decision to send €1.1 billion in military aid to Ukraine has opened a deep rift in the country’s progressive coalition government, with far-left Sumar spokesman Ernest Urtasun criticising Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s majority PSOE party for making the decision in a non-transparent manner.

Speaking at a press conference in Madrid, Urtasun, who is also culture minister, called on Sánchez to put plans to send arms to Ukraine to a parliamentary vote, claiming the green light was given with “total opacity” and without even consulting his party, Euractiv’s partner EFE reported.

Urtasun also recalled that Sumar, led by Deputy Prime Minister and Labour Minister Yolanda Díaz, had previously expressed opposition to the increase in Spanish defence spending announced by Sánchez to reach the NATO target of 2% of national GDP.

“This lack of transparency (of the PSOE with Sumar) is not serious when talking about an issue as important as defence,” Urtasun lamented.

The announcement of Spain’s new arms shipment to Ukraine, which includes Patriot anti-missile systems, additional Leopard main battle tanks and thousands of rounds of ammunition, was made by Sánchez at a joint press conference in Madrid with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The Ukrainian president made an official visit to Spain on Monday, from where he is expected to travel to Brussels and Portugal on Tuesday.

Sánchez stressed that Spain’s military aid to Ukraine will allow Kyiv to “reinforce” its defence resources, including its “anti-aircraft defence,” which he said are “key” to protecting the civilian population from Russian attacks on its territory.

At the same time, Sánchez reiterated Spain’s full support for Ukraine “for as long as it takes”.

The Ukrainian president again called on all of Kyiv’s allies to urgently send more air defence systems to change the situation on the front line.

“The main problem we have today is that Russia uses more than 3,000 guided aerial bombs a month,” said Zelenskyy, EFE reported.

Sánchez defends his decision

According to Zelenskyy, Monday’s agreement – which both governments have been working on for months – sets aside €1 billion in aid until 2024, and “through the European Peace Facility Fund [which has collected €11.1 billion so far], another €5 billion is accounted for” until 2027.

The fund has committed to date €11.1 billion.

Since the start of Russia’s war on Ukraine in February 2022, Spain has also provided military aid to Ukraine, amounting to €300 million.

The bilateral agreement covers the supply of more material, the creation of military jobs in Ukraine, and the transfer of Spanish defence technology to Kyiv.

Strong criticism from Podemos

In an effort to try to iron out differences with his coalition partner, Sánchez explained that a “memorandum of understanding” does not need to be approved by parliament, unlike an international treaty.

“It is a memorandum of understanding. It is not necessary to pass it through the Congress of Deputies. It is not an international treaty.” repeated Sanchez in the face of insistent questions from the media, following the anger of Sumar, which has 31 MPs in the 350-seat parliament.

Meanwhile, the far-left Podemos party, a former ally of Sumar with five MPs in parliament, strongly criticised the shipment of more Spanish arms to Ukraine, saying Madrid was not contributing to peace in the region.

The radical left party’s organisational secretary and candidate for the European elections, Pablo Fernández, said this was “extremely serious” because it meant “full participation in this regime of war”.

“We in Podemos defend peace as a strategic measure, and we believe that it is important to establish a truly transformative left in Europe that is capable of achieving progress and extending the rights of citizens,” Fernández stressed.

Meanwhile, the head of the opposition and leader of the Spanish Partido Popular (EPP), Alberto Núñez Feijóo, also attacked Sánchez for not informing parliament earlier, although, unlike the radical left, he was in favour of sending more arms to Kyiv.

(Fernando Heller | EuroEFE.Euractiv.es)

Read more with Euractiv

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