In his opening speech to the Socialist Party’s 37th Congress, Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero told delegates last Friday: “We are not going to hold up the reforms we want for this country – we’re going to put our foot down on the accelerator of change.” The main issues on the agenda were nuclear energy, water, abortion, euthanasia, allowing all immigrants to vote in local elections, and the relations between Church and State. By Sunday, the last day of the Congress, the different commissions had agreed on a large number of issues. It was agreed to respect the natural life of the country’s nuclear reactors, increasing security measures there but not promoting new nuclear parks. Instead, the accent would be on extending the use of clean, renewable energy sources to gradually reduce reliance on other energy sources. For example, all Socialist Party offices will install solar panels and reduce the amounts of paper used. As regards water, it was agreed to seek a national consensus on transferring water from regions where it is abundant in the north of Spain to drier regions like Murcia, Alicante and Valencia in the south. Regional governments have blocked most such transfers in the past. While it was agreed to gradually eliminate liturgies and religious symbols in public places and at official State acts, the Congress voted against banning the Catholic Church from State funerals on the grounds that for the moment no other religion is organised enough to take its place. The Congress also rejected a review of the extisting agreements between the Church and the State. Although it was agreed to extend the right to vote in municipal actions to all immigrants, not just those from other EU countries, observers said this was a bit of a pipedream at the moment, since all other EU countries had rejected moves in that direction. If it ever became reality, foreign voters would have more political weight than native Spaniards in Almeria, Gerona and the Balearic islands where they already outnumber the locals. As regards euthanasia, it was agreed to draft a law to permit the cutting off of palliative treatment which artificially prolongs the patient’s life, causing more suffering, when the patient so requests. It was also agreed to set up a group of experts to review the laws on abortion to include advances in laws in the rest of Europe, while respecting the wishes of the women who request the procedure and the medical staff who carry it out. As most political observers had predicted, the Prime Minister resisted attempts to move the party further to the left and managed to get through the three-day event without mentioning the economy, except to tell those present to consume more.


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