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FT interview:

Rajoy forgets the european highest rate of youth unemployment

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“Assailed on all sides – by a meltdown in the banking sector, soaring unemployment and a crisis in the public finances – he has been forced to break one election promise after another. He has slashed spending and raised taxes, to the fury of Spanish voters. The low point came last June when he had to go cap-in-hand to the EU to negotiate a €100bn bailout for Spain’s tottering banks. The economic and political turmoil has left Mr Rajoy bloodied but resolute (…) Spanish prime minister is at pains to explain why he is determined to stay the course, and why he believes his strategy is beginning to bear fruit.”, Tobias Buck, the Financial Times Director and Lionel Barber, correspondant in Spain point out in their interview with the former Spanish President Mariano Rajoy.

The main message of the interview, in addition to the fact automobile multinationals trust again in Spain is that “Spain was the only large economy in the EU in which there was a fall in unit labour costs between 2009 and last year, a trend that has not gone unnoticed in boardrooms across the continent”.

Mr Rajoy acknowledges that unemployment remains Spain´s “most important problem”, but insists that the labour market reform he pushed through last year will help.The legislation makes it easier for companies to depart from region-wide collective wage agreements, allowing more flexible deals at factory level. It also makes it easier and cheaper to fire workers on fixed contracts, a change long demanded by Spanish employers.

Economists say that the jury is still out on Mr Rajoy´s overhaul of the job market, and they highlight the lack of mobility of Spanish labour. But Mr Rajoy is sanguine.“Recent job losses have taken place in the real estate sector, in the financial sector and in the public sector,” he says.“But in other sectors of the economy jobs have not been lost. So the labour reform has started to bear fruit.”

And another key messenge: “The unity of Spain goes back more than five centuries.This is the oldest country in Europe,” he says, insisting that Spaniards, including Catalans, are “united by many things”.But Mr Rajoy argues that the Catalan push for independence runs counter not only to history, but also to the present.“The world is going in a totally different direction,” he asserts, pointing to the increasingly dense web of supranational alliances and federations that spans the globe.“We are working towards greater integration and not the opposite,” he says.

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