Sunday, December 18, 2005

The Spanish press seems well-satisfied with what Spain got from the EU budget negotiations. These include the continued status of net beneficiary until after 2013 and a new fund just for Spain. But the formulae being as arcane as they are, the opposition party is able to argue the talks were a complete failure for the President as ‘Spain will unfairly finance 25% of the EU expansion’. There seems to be a widespread view that every country conceded something in order to achieve a compromise but, for the life of me, I can’t figure out France gave beyond a vague promise to have talks in 2008, after Chirac has departed the scene. Maybe they withdrew some outlandish demand that was never going to be met. Perhaps that Tony Blair be hung, drawn and quartered. Talking of Chirac, he seems to have offended Spanish sensibilities by ditching his alliance with Spain in favour of one with Germany only 24 hours after forming it. What on earth did they expect?

I’ve mentioned that Chinese ‘bazaars’ are cropping up all over the city. These have been met with consternation and now by concern on the part of local shopkeepers. The latter, of course, are in business for themselves and not for their customers. So, as they regard hard-working, lower-priced, open-more-hours competitors as unacceptable, they’ve taken the traditional route to meet the challenge. They’ve persuaded the local council to pass a law preventing the Chinese shops from opening longer than them. Stuff the customers.

After two nights of partying next door, I can make another observation on why Spain is such a noisy country. Not only does everyone just love to talk; everyone loves to talk at the same time as everyone else. Actually, I doubt this is new observation on my part. But it did strike me in Sintra, touring a palace behind a group of Spaniards, that very few of them have the sort of reticence that others have about their voiced thoughts being thought of as stupid. You can guess the result.

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