Re-elected Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar spelled out plans for his second term yesterday, promising more competition and investment in the “New Economy” but no concessions to separatists. “A new political age is beginning,” Aznar said in his inaugural speech to a new parliament, a day before he was due to be confirmed as leader of the new government by Congress. “We have not put foward...a mere continuation of our programme. Our proposal is ambitious, serious and coherent and will allow Spain to enter the 21st century in good shape.” Aznar's conservative Popular Party won a surprise outright majority in parliament in the March 12 general election and no longer has to rely on regional nationalists to govern. However, Aznar stressed he was open to dialogue and said he would meet with trade unions to discuss reform of existing labour laws to bring about “full employment”. Spain's unemployment rate of 15 percent is the European Union's highest although down from 23 percent four years ago. Aznar also said he would call immediate talks with unions and political parties on new pension reforms, and press for more competition in the economy, chiefly in the near monopoly natural gas market and telecoms where liberalisation began recently.

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