A voice of experience

Former prime minister of Spain offers ideas to solve European economic crisis

José María AznarJosé María Aznar


José María Aznar, the former prime minister of Spain, spoke at MIT Sloan on Monday, December 6, 2010, about his ideas and suggestions on how to help the European economy.

Aznar discussed how the loosening of economic borders will influence Europe’s economic future and the survival of the European Union (EU) in today’s international marketplace. “It is impossible to continue ignoring the economic and financial effects of the European crisis. Acknowledging and acting upon the roots of what is causing social distress is what political leadership should now offer European citizens. It is not just an economic crisis—it is a political, cultural, and social crisis,” Aznar said. “It is not enough not to do things wrong, it is necessary to do them right. And to keep doing them right.”

Aznar spoke to a capacity crowd in the Wong Auditorium as part of the Dean’s Innovative Leader Series (DILS). Before Aznar took office in Spain, his country was economically paralyzed by high unemployment, a deficit, and little growth. During his tenure as prime minister, from 1996-2004, he created five million new jobs and had a budget surplus. In 2001, Spain had the fastest growing economy in the EU, giving the country the eighth largest economy in the world.

To succeed, the European Union project must have peace, freedom, and prosperity, Aznar said. All citizens must be protected in order to achieve growth. Freedom, security, and progress rely on the government leadership to exist, and would cease to exist if not protected, Aznar said.

Aznar offered two suggestions to European leaders to help fix the economy. The first is for them to exercise political leadership that is realistic and responsible. He also said that Europe lacked intensity in its commitments and agreements on economic innovation. “The objectives of those commitments were to advance economically through competition, innovation, and balanced budgets. To succeed, leaders must take on more responsibility to protect our security and the worlds, and to favor democracy and freedom inside and outside the country,” he said. “Much political leadership is needed to get Europe back on the right track. Stability must be back, and must be complied by all, to avoid any country becoming a threat to another.”

This DILS presentation was made possible through collaboration with the Spain@MIT Club, the MIT Leadership Center, and the MIT Sloan Office of External Relations.