When an organisation with 2,000 years of success decides to launch a PR campaign, you know it’s got a few problems. The Catholic Church here is Spain is about to remind us what it is and what it does. Mind you, the reason is purely financial; it wants a larger number of Spanish taxpayers to tick the box on their annual return which determines how much the Church gets from the state. Spaniards [and foreigners!] have been doing this for 30 years now but next year is the first time this will actually mean anything. In a nutshell, the state has decided to stop giving the Church an annual lump sum simply increased by the inflation rate and to let the [increasingly irreligious] populace decide how much the subvention is to be. Not before time.
Up in Belgium, the record for being ungoverned has now been broken and it’s said the continued absence of a Prime Minister is beginning to cause concern. For one thing, if the political crisis isn’t resolved by December 13, there’ll be no one available to sign the EU’s shining new Lisbon Treaty. Somehow, though, I’m sure the EU Commission will find a way to plough on regardless of such a nicety. It always does.
Having bought several products festooned with Fair Trade tags or labels in the UK last month, I wondered how long it would take for this to be commonplace here in Spain. I still don’t know the answer to this but, walking through a galería last night, I noticed workmen fitting out a place called Tienda de comercio justo, or Fair Trade Shop. I’ll be interested to see how successful it is. Incidentally, shop-fitting seems to be one of the things done very efficiently in Spain. But they certainly do get enough practice at it, at least here in Pontevedra. Cynical Spanish friends insist it’s got something to do with the laundering of drug profits but I’ve no idea whether this is true or not.
The Professor of Irish History at Oxford University has just published a book entitled “Luck and the Irish”, which deals with the 20 year success of “the Celtic Tiger’. Talking on the BBC last week, he addressed the question of how much Ireland owed this growth to membership of the EU. He said opinion was decided on the impact of the massive subventions but stressed that the low EU interest rates had been instrumental in attracting vitally important US investment. “However”, he added, “the greatest stroke of luck the Irish have had is that ‘800 years of suppression’ has left them with the English language”. Food for thought, perhaps, for those Galicians who see Celtic Ireland as their model for an independent Celtic Galicia in which everyone is obliged to have Gallego as their first language. The Irish Nationalists did, of course, try this with Gaelic when they came to power but abandoned it quite early on. The Professor, by the way, is Irish, not English. George Santayana, of course, was neither but he knew a thing or two about history. And, ironically, he was born in Spain.