Former Spanish Prime Minister addresses Penn students
December 6, 2010, 3:35 am·
Former Prime Minister of Spain Jose Maria Aznar’s visit to Huntsman Hall Friday received such a large attendance that half the audience had to watch Aznar speak from another room via video feed.
The visit was organized by a group of Spanish students at the Wharton School and financed by the Europa! Wharton Graduate Association Club and the Lauder Institute.
During Aznar’s time in office from 1996 to 2004, Spain experienced historic economic growth and emerged as a leading European economy. In 1999, he also led Spain in the transition to the euro. “Mr. Aznar is one of the most relevant European leaders in the last decade,” Wharton MBA Student and Europa! coordinator Santiago Casanova wrote in an e-mail.
Lasting an hour and a half, Aznar’s visit was divided into a lecture about the relationship between the European Union and the United States and a question and answer session.
Commenting on the role of the European Union and the US following the recent economic crisis, Aznar stressed the importance of defending free trade. “Promoting free trade and free economies is absolutely indispensable to maintaining prosperity,” he said.
Aznar also stressed that countries should adapt to the current global economic situation in this “confusing moment” in history. “It is not a question of the cause of the crisis, the question is what are we supposed to do now,” he said.
“Europe in this world is a declining continent — wealthy, rich — but it is declining,” he commented. “It is necessary to adapt.”
Another topic Aznar discussed was the emergence of new super powers in addition to the US. Asia is a “great force economically in the future of the world,” he said. He also discussed world poverty, energy and terrorism.
During the question and answer session, Aznar fielded questions about the economic crisis, the future of the euro, Latin America, WikiLeaks and immigration. “Personally, I don’t understand how it is possible to reduce deficit with more deficit,” Aznar said about the situation in the US. He also further underscored the need for economic reforms in Europe. “The Spanish state in this moment is unsustainable,” he said.
Former lecturer in the Romance Department Esther Recio, being from Spain herself, said it was interesting to see such a famous Spanish figure speak. Though she thought Aznar provided good answers during the question and answer session, she added that at times “he was talking in circles rather than getting to the point.”