Tuesday, June 14, 2005

By this time next week we’ll know whether Galicia has joined the Basque Country and Catalunia in having a coalition government composed of Socialists and Nationalists. To me, it’s surreal to watch these ‘nations’ [as they call themselves] fighting to weaken their links with the Spanish state while Spain is trying to submerge itself in a European superstate. Ironically the Basque, Catalan and Galician nationalists all favour this superstate - in the insane belief, I imagine, that they’ll have more control over their affairs as satrapies of Brussels than as ‘autonomous communities’ in Spain. Such is the power of dreams. Of course, it would all be very different if the EU weren’t the cash cow it’s been for Spain for 20 years. And when this eventually stops, it’ll be interesting to see how the traditionally rule-averse Spanish then view the Brussels regulations machine. As the French Foreign Minister might say, longer term it defies all logic.

A Spanish friend and I have been corresponding on the issue of the work/life balance. I’ve had no difficulty in agreeing that the Spanish model is superior to the Anglo-Saxon version but have made the point that things can’t go on forever when someone else is paying for your high quality of life. The genius of the French founders of the EU was to get others to subvent their country’s lifestyle. But the British have never been as willing as the guilt-ridden Germans to featherbed French farmers and this is what the current EU row is really all about. With the German economy now in serious trouble and with the current generation of Germans feeling rather less guilt than their parents/ grandparents, the days of the French boondoggle are surely numbered. No wonder Chirac is fighting such a tough rearguard action, especially as he’s desperate to create some goodwill in his own backyard, if only to stay in power and out of prison.

As for the Spanish boondoggle, well the government has taken advantage of the current crisis in the EU to reopen the issue of when Spain’s funds will begin to run down and to demand a delay of 4 years, from 2008 to 2012. Cancellation of the British rebate [or el cheque británico as it’s called here] would certainly help to finance this.

Enough of politics. I’ve touched from time to time on three characteristics of Spanish life – pragmatism, a concern to be noble [or at least not petty], and a lack of rampant commercialism. I’m reminded of these every day, when I park my car on the premises of a private club before walking across the bridge into Pontevedra. The club is little patronised during the day and I like to believe the management is well aware of what I and others are doing but take the view it’d be pointless and vindictive to stop us parking in spaces that aren't needed. I can’t imagine this happening in the UK, where at best I’d have to pay and at worst I’d come back from town to find my wheel clamped. Viva españa.

No comments: