Tuesday, October 02, 2007

A survey of 29 health services across Europe says there’s now a three-tier situation here. At the top of the best group is Austria, followed by Holland, France, Germany and the Nordic countries. Britain rates only 17th, behind Estonia and just above Italy and Portugal. As yet, I can’t find Spain’s ranking but I suspect it’s above Britain’s.

One of the accusations levelled at President Zapatero is that he’s well and truly let the genie of nationalism out of the bottle. Evidence of this is said to include the refusal of town halls across the country – especially in the Basque country and Catalunia – to fly the Spanish flag and the recent burning of pictures of the king in Catalunia. But these are, in reality, pin pricks and the really interesting development has come from the president of the Basque Country. As part of his permanent game of chess with Madrid, he’s announced a series of [possibly legal] steps which will culminate in an [illegal] referendum on Basque independence. So, exciting times. And we wait to see how much of a political price Zapatero pays in next March’s general elections, not least because the new left-of-centre- but-not-soft-on-nationalists party mentioned yesterday is likely to take votes from his PSOE socialist party.

I read two reports about Spanish banks yesterday. The first – from The Economist – said they’d traditionally attracted the country’s best brains and had recently achieved impressive results, both domestically and internationally. The second – from the BBC – said that Banco Santander’s UK subsidiary, the Abbey National, was in trouble for deliberately decelerating the transfers of clients who’d decided to move elsewhere. This decision - described as ‘bonkers’ by the industry’s own trade association - was attributed to the parent company in Spain. I can’t say whether this is true or not but I can say it’s consistent with the traditional way the clever clogs who run the banks here treat customers. In my case, this included a huge charge simply to transfer my funds to another bank. So, I wasn’t too surprised to read that the real expertise of Spanish banks lies in their IT-based capability to profile their locked-in clients and market a wide range of services to them.

Here’s a huge surprise – The youth of Pontevedra, having been asked whether they’d like to inconvenience themselves by moving their botell√≥n to the fairground on the edge of town, replied they’d much rather stay where they were and to continue inconveniencing all the residents of the old quarter by destroying their chances of sleep on Friday and Saturday nights. Next step?

Talking of local matters, I should follow up yesterday’s comment on random testing for drunk driving by reporting that Spanish friends last night assured me – with a hint of regret – that this was now much more extensive than before near places of nocturnal entertainment.

And still on matters Galician – The Bank of Spain says that civil servants here earn on average 65% more than people in the private sector. This is 21 points above the national difference. I knew Pontevedra was a relatively prosperous place, full of well-paid funcionarios, but I had no idea this was a region-wide phenomenon. Of course, it has to be stressed the statistic may reflect a low average in Galicia’s private sector, as well as a high average among the bureaucrats.

And the last bit of local news – Galicia now has its first manufacturer of solar panels. In Cambados, to be exact. Let’s hope it does a better job than the Murcian company which was last week reported to have installed a community’s panels not only in the wrong place but also upside down.

Finally, here’s something amusing from fellow blogger, Trevor ap Simon. I always enjoy his posts, though I have to admit I don’t always fully understand them. This time, though, I know exactly what he means. And, if you’ve been following the recent comments to my blog, so will you. In which case, you have my sympathy.


Anonymous said...

All Ibarretxe will, and probably hopes to achieve is to highlight the extent to which the Spanish State is undemocratic (why would a referendum on independence be legal in Quebec or Scotland, but not in the Basque country?).

What's far more concerning than any perceived weakness on nationalism by the PSOE, is the heavy-handed approach by the Spanish authorities to protect the image of the monarchy (e.g. raiding magazine publishers, withdrawing magazines from newsstands, arresting people for burning photos of the King etc) -- it's all a bit too reminiscent of the period leading up to the Civil War.

In such an environment it's not such a stretch to imagine tanks being deployed into the Basque country to remove ballot boxes for a democratic but illegal referendum -- after all, the Spanish constitution (which by the way was rejected by the majority of Basques) states the role of the Military as being to protect the constitution, and any moves to fragment Spain, and as the King rather than the PM is the chief of the Armed Forces, there would be little the government could do.

Anonymous said...

By the way, I would like to suggest an appropriate photo to grace the walls at the offices of your Anglo-Galician Association (Asociacion anglogalaica) -- of course, this would look better with the addition of a red star to Liz's sash, and should be hung alongside a portrait of our King Breogan.


Anonymous said...

Full link is:


Anonymous said...

Sorry, this doesn't work. Try the third image from the bottom:


Anonymous said...

Aggghh! The link is too long. Try the following (split into three) and paste one bit of the link at the time into address bar:




The Singing Organ-Grinder said...

Always wondered what she looked like.

Interesting to hear that people were arrested for burning photos of the king during the republic.

Colin Davies said...


Thanks for this. I finally got it the picture.

Personally, I think the king should stay out of politics, as Lizzie has done for more than 50 years. But I can understand his temptation to get involved. There must be genuine fear in some parts that Spain really will break up into something less than a de jure federal state. It already is de facto, I suspect.

As for AGA, actually, I was thinking of putting a large picture of our illustrious founder on the wall. And writing a hymn. And designing a flag. But only after the total of members sails past 10. Only 5 to go . . .

As regards referendums/a, I guess it depends on what a country's Constitution says, even if a majority of a member region/nation rejects it. Not having a written Constitution, almost anything goes in the UK, especially after Tony Blair has shown how easy it is to ignore the 'conventions' that were considered sacrosanct when I studied law a few decades ago. I can't say what the Canadian situation is.

Personally, I find it hard to envisage tanks in Bilbao but who really knows? It would seem stupid to me to make a military conflict out of the situation and, if I were Basque, I would be counting on this to move forward bit by bit. Just like the president, in fact. It must be my Basque blood from 15,000 years ago.

Anonymous said...

Your comments about the Abbey National were,in my case, only too true.Twice last year instead of reinvesting the proceeds of matured bonds I decided to have them transferred to my Bank account. In the first case there was quite a delay but in the second every obstacle seemed to be put in my way until eventually I threatened legal action[and it was no idle threat] to the Customer Services-some service-and then miraculously all difficulties were solved and a cheque sent to me that day. Of course, as I was living in Spain and would have to send the cheque back to my bank in the UK it meant that Abbey would have the use of my money for at least a further two to three weeks-nice little earner for them.