Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Economist magazine thinks the Spanish government and its people should be proud of the peaceful way greater powers have been devolved to Catalunia ‘in accordance with the wishes of the people’. Daniel Hannan takes a rather different view, in this week’s Spectator magazine, suggesting Catalunia has effectively declared itself a sovereign entity in loose association with the Spanish state. But, then, Hannan is a politician and lives in Madrid. So perhaps he has a better feel for the issues. And a deeper understanding of what is actually going on in Catalunia these days. I wonder if the Economist would be so relaxed if Cornwall and Brittany both demanded the same semi-independent status as ‘Celtic nations’ who deserved to rule themselves. I suspect not.

Meanwhile, not far away in the Basque Country a baker’s dozen of ETA members has been arrested in connection with extortion of a ‘Revolution Tax’ from local businesspeople. ETA may be involved in a peace process and ‘committed’ to seeing it through to a permanent ceasefire but, as with the IRA, their criminal activities haven’t ceased. And, showing just how much he’s learned from the guide book given to him by Gerry Adams, the leader of the political arm of the terrorist organisation condemned the arrests as an ‘attack upon the peace process’ and demanded all ‘acts of aggression’ must cease. Needless to say, he is also seeking the internationalisation of the process, in the hope this will foster the image of the Basque Country as Spain’s Ireland. This, of course, is also the objective of the Galician ‘nationalists’. Hence – among other nonsenses - the specious stress on Galicia’s Celtic-ness.

Further away – in the UK – the English seem to be finally waking up to the fact that, although they heavily subsidise their Scottish neighbours, they are not allowed any say at all in the running of Scotland. In sharp contrast, Scottish members of the British parliament not only vote on English matters but actually keep Tony Blair in power, despite his unpopularity in England. Something has got to give and it will be interesting to see how this issue [the so-called ‘West Lothian problem’] is resolved over the next few years. Meanwhile – as I’ve said before – it’s rather as if the Spanish state gave Catalunia total control over its ‘domestic’ affairs, then heavily subsidised the Catalunians and, on top of this, allowed ambitious Catalans to run the entire Spanish government.

In Spain, the 21st June is not ‘midsummer’ [as it is in the UK] but just the beginning of the season. As of today, dress rules change and we are allowed, for example, to wear shorts in the street. For, no matter how hot it is in May, this is rather frowned on in that month. More seriously, it’s also the day when many businesses [including the banks] shift to summer hours. This usually means they open at 8 and close at 2. Actually, some businesses did this as of yesterday, as I found when I polled up at 7.30pm yesterday at the offices of the gestor who is handling the tax submission that was due in today. Its not just the Spanish who leave things until the last moment. If you live here, you will too. It’s very catching.

Worst of all, the change to summer hours means they started drilling the granite outside my front gate at 7.45 in the morning. But more of this tomorrow.

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