Following a slight improvement in 2018, Spain has continued its gradual progress and risen another place in 2019. Despite a year of further political upheaval, Spain’s strong cultural legacy at the juncture between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, and between Europe and Africa, has ensured its overall score remains high. In addition, engagement between the national government and newly elected regional leaders has begun to reduce tensions from the separatist movement in Catalonia. The nomination of Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell Fontelles as the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy will ensure that Spain’s soft power continues to increase into 2020 and beyond, as well as drive confidence in the country’s government institutions more generally. Spain should now focus on continuing engagement with regional leaders, and further reducing tensions between the national government and separatist Catalonia in order to boost its soft power ranking.
Spain’s broad cultural appeal is felt across the world with tourists flocking to its cities, and its top-tier football teams’ continued attraction of fans around the globe, keeping Spain at an enviable 5th in the Culture sub-index. Spain’s investment in digital also continues to reap its rewards, with the nation gaining a further three places after last year’s impressive jump in the rankings.
Spain continues to struggle with business confidence. The small increase in the Enterprise sub-index it has seen this year is largely a reflection of global financial uncertainty and in other countries in the index, rather than improvements made by Spain. Continued political uncertainty and limited scope for reform with a minority government will continue to diminish business confidence, despite continued stable growth and moderate inflation.
To return to the top ten, Spain must leverage the increases it has seen in the Engagement and Digital sub-indices to attract businesses to the country and increase investor confidence. Spain must also ensure that stability in the Government sub-index does not result in complacency. By addressing existing political uncertainty, Spain can build its engagement with businesses and continue to increase its scores across the indices.