President Aznar of Spain Speaks at Yale

February 18, 2014

Before a standing-room-only crowd of over 100 people packed into the lecture hall of Sterling Memorial Library on February 11, President José María Aznar, former Prime Minister of Spain, shared his thoughts on the future of southern Europe, and the continent as a whole.

Speaking to Yale students, scholars, and members of the local community, President Aznar focused on the five most important challenges he sees Europe facing today: consolidating the Euro and making structural economic reforms; rethinking the limits of welfare states for a more sustainable system; creating a new narrative for Europe’s future and place in the world; a shift from optimism to realism when it comes to foreign affairs and defense; and strengthening and expanding the transatlantic partnership between the U.S. and Europe and other Atlantic countries.

His two terms in office (1996-2000 and 2000-2004) marked a time of great transitions in Spain: Spain’s incorporation into the EU and adoption of the Euro, rapid economic growth, and the beginning of Spanish involvement in the global War on Terror to name a few.  With this experience influencing his analysis, he advocated in his talk for a combination of restriction of the public sector, more freedom for the private sector to create jobs, and a more responsible balance between individuals’ rights and responsibilities when it comes to the financing of European welfare states.  Southern Europe has been in the news in recent months for reasons related to the economic crises in the area- for example, Greece and Italy are both struggling with debt crises, low tax revenues, and high unemployment- but President Aznar believes the future for the region is not necessarily bleak.

“Solutions are different for each and every country,” he said, “but countries know very well what they need to do [to solve their problems].  Only the lack of political will…can separate them from progress.”

The continued strength and primacy on the world stage of Europe was a recurring theme of the talk.  President Aznar firmly believes that Europe is not subject to a period of inevitable decline, and that it is still of great strategic economic and cultural importance in the world, especially when working in concert with its greatest ally, the United States.  He said, “The 21st century need not be the Pacific century.  It can also be a new Atlantic century. But in order to get there, we all have to put our own house in order. There is still a huge amount that we all have to do at the national level.”

Since leaving office President Aznar has been involved in the conservative FAES think tank, the European Advisory Panel of The European Business Awards, the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation, and serves as a member of the Board of Directors of News Corporation.  He is also a Distinguished Fellow of the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University and chairs the Atlantic Basin Initiative, and has been traveling and speaking extensively with groups around the world.

This visit was organized by Yale’s Office of International Affairs.  For more information, please visit world.yale.edu.

José María Aznar, former Prime Minister of Spain, shared his thoughts on the future of southern Europe, and the continent as a whole.   

Speaking to Yale students, scholars, and members of the local community, President Aznar focused on the five most important challenges he sees Europe facing today: consolidating the Euro and making structural economic reforms; rethinking the limits of welfare states for a more sustainable system; creating a new narrative for Europe’s future and place in the world; a shift from optimism to realism when it comes to foreign affairs and defense; and strengthening and expanding the transatlantic partnership between the U.S. and Europe and other Atlantic countries.

His two terms in office (1996-2000 and 2000-2004) marked a time of great transitions in Spain: Spain’s incorporation into the EU and adoption of the Euro, rapid economic growth, and the beginning of Spanish involvement in the global War on Terror to name a few.  With this experience influencing his analysis, he advocated in his talk for a combination of restriction of the public sector, more freedom for the private sector to create jobs, and a more responsible balance between individuals’ rights and responsibilities when it comes to the financing of European welfare states.  Southern Europe has been in the news in recent months for reasons related to the economic crises in the area- for example, Greece and Italy are both struggling with debt crises, low tax revenues, and high unemployment- but President Aznar believes the future for the region is not necessarily bleak.

“Solutions are different for each and every country,” he said, “but countries know very well what they need to do [to solve their problems].  Only the lack of political will…can separate them from progress.”

The continued strength and primacy on the world stage of Europe was a recurring theme of the talk.  President Aznar firmly believes that Europe is not subject to a period of inevitable decline, and that it is still of great strategic economic and cultural importance in the world, especially when working in concert with its greatest ally, the United States.  He said, “The 21st century need not be the Pacific century.  It can also be a new Atlantic century. But in order to get there, we all have to put our own house in order. There is still a huge amount that we all have to do at the national level.”

Since leaving office President Aznar has been involved in the conservative FAES think tank, the European Advisory Panel of The European Business Awards, the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation, and serves as a member of the Board of Directors of News Corporation.  He is also a Distinguished Fellow of the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University and chairs the Atlantic Basin Initiative, and has been traveling and speaking extensively with groups around the world.

This visit was organized by Yale’s Office of International Affairs.  For more information, please visit world.yale.edu.

By: Leslie Bull