The growth of the black economy in the UK mentioned yesterday is seen by some as a popular reaction to the bureaucratic and regulatory burdens imposed by officials indulging in the gold-plating I referred to the other day. Right on cue comes a citation from Mark of a report that wearers of kilts in Scotland will be asked to produce the licence proving the animal fur used in their manufacture was obtained in the correct EU-ordained way. Even then, they may still be prosecuted. You can just imagine this happening in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, etc., can’t you?
Which naturally leads us into the issue of the recent EU treaty-which-isn’t-really-a-Constitution. The unanimous view here on the Continent – and in Ireland – is that at least 90% and possibly 99% of the rejected Constitution of 2006 has been restored by this instrument. Mr Blair, however, chooses to tell the British public something quite different, in the hope of avoiding a promised referendum. Thus he exits on a high note. Though from low moral ground. For those non-British readers who can’t fathom euro-scepticism, here’s a useful article. Says the writer - Once again, we see that, as well as being undemocratic in itself, the EU traduces democracy within its member nations. Which made me wonder whether the core problem isn’t that British democracy is several hundred years older than many in Europe. Which gives the British a rather different perspective of what it is and why it needs protecting and preserving.
Returning to Spanish politics, my thanks to Duardón de Albaredo for yesterday’s clear summary of the Navarra situation. If, though, you’re still confused, this quotation should clarify all - Nai-Bai demanded that the Socialists make a public statement in favour of a PSN-Nai Bai-IU coalition and abandon negotiations with UPN. But only if you have a masters in Alphabet Soup Variations. In today’s press, the news is that the socialist party in Navarra has indeed offered further negotiations with the Nai-Bai nationalist block. Meanwhile, over in the Balearic Islands, the horse-trading finally seems to have ended, leaving the ‘ugly dancer’ PP party off the floor - even though they came within one seat of an overall majority. There will be a ‘centre-left coalition’, with the socialist PSOE candidate likely be the new President, supported by the block of various small parties described by both the PP and the PSOE as corrupt. Which, it seems, is not always a negative in Spanish politics.
Finally on Spanish politics, we had a prime example yesterday of a regional President both featuring in the national media and sparking a fight with Madrid. The new PP president of the Valencia region gave his investiture speech entirely in Valencian – which some say is indistinguishable from Catalan – and stressed he’d be firm with the central government in defending the region’s interests. He’s also going to be strong with the EU, which I take to be a reference to Brussels’ attempts to get the regional government to end the infamously widespread corruption in the construction industry which has cost many thousands of people [mostly non-voting foreigners] their homes. I guess this goes down well with the locals.
Am I the only person to think there’s something a little odd about the finding of an abandoned car near Portugal containing massive amounts of ETA explosives? Albeit only 5 hours after it had been ditched and after some local thieves had broken into it and taken what was on the seats. The story is that ETA scouts saw that there was a border patrol ahead and came back to warn their colleagues, who then left the car and drove off in a third vehicle. Within hours, the President was reported to have congratulated the police for their tremendous work [In setting up a border patrol?] and there were similarly laudatory messages in the press the following morning. Call me a sceptic, but why would ETA have little stickers on their detonators showing their ‘logo’? Could it possibly have been a set-up designed to burnish Mr Z’s anti-terrorist credentials? Perish the thought.
Finally, some good news on the Spanish economy - “New figures for productivity show an improvement in Spain for the first time in eight years, with an advance of just 0.2%”. On the other hand . . . “The average wage in Spain has fallen by 4% in real terms over the past decade, despite the economic boom over that time. Spain is the only OECD country which has seen a turndown in purchasing power over this period. This is despite the fact the increase in GDP has been greater than the European average. The Government has preferred to highlight another section of the OECD report showing the massive creation of employment in Spain – which the it claims leads to greater social cohesion.” Well, maybe. Many of the newly employed are cheap-to-employ immigrants [hence the reduced average wage] and there may be questions over mid-term cohesion.