MADRID (Reuters) – Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez appointed a new foreign minister but retained his economy minister in a cabinet reshuffle on Saturday.
Jose Manuel Albares was named foreign minister, while Isabel Rodriguez will become the new government spokesperson and territories minister.
Nadia Calvino kept the economy portfolio and was also promoted to First Deputy Prime Minister.
Albares, the current ambassador in Paris, takes over from Arancha Gonzalez Laya, who was widely criticised for her handling of a crisis with Morocco after agreeing for Western Sahara independence leader Brahim Ghali to be treated in an Spanish hospital.
“The main task of this cabinet will be to consolidate the economic recovery and job creation,” Sanchez said.
Another important departure is Sanchez’s chief of staff, Ivan Redondo, considered the prime minister’s right-hand man and responsible for his electoral successes. He will be replaced by Oscar Lopez, a member of the Socialist Party.
The five members of Unidas Podemos, a minority partner in the coalition government, retain their positions.
The average age of the new team is 50-years-old, and the proportion of women increased to 63%.
Sanchez took office in January 2020 after months of political instability that led to Spain’s fourth election in four years.
After just two months in power, the coalition government had to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic which forced it to impose one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns and damaged its tourism-dependent economy.
Sanchez has also had to cope with the issue of Catalan independence, a conflict which has split Spain since an illegal referendum attempt in 2017.
Three weeks ago, the prime minister pardoned nine jailed Catalan pro-independence politicians.
Some figures in the negotiations over the pardons have been moved or lost their jobs. The justice minister has left the government while Miquel Iceta, who was in talks with the Catalan regional government, becomes culture minister.
(Reporting by Belen Carreno, additional reporting Graham Keeley, Editing by Angus MacSwan)