The Spanish government is finally coming clean about the state of the economic wasteland facing the country. Against the backcloth of commentary and developments elsewhere – such as the downgrading of the country’s credit rating - it could hardly do otherwise. Perhaps it’ll now move on to serious solutions – whatever these might be in a country grown rich and complacent on the back of an economic motor – construction – that has quite simply vanished. The initial step in this direction seems to be the Economics minister distancing himself from the President’s fairyland suggestion that all Spain’s regions would be receiving more money under his new financing scheme. Thus confirming the recently-expressed pessimism of readers of the Voz de Galicia that this would never actually happen in their region at least.
There’s a photo of the last get-together of the presidents of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions in today’s El Pais. Only one of these is a woman, which is an interesting contrast with the more-than-50% female national cabinet. It rather raises the question of where real power lies in this de facto federal state. Which could well get even harder to govern than usual in the difficult two to five years ahead.
Reader Moscow confirms that he views the EU as a solution to Spain’s woes and a spur to essential structural reform. So it seems apt for me to make a few quotations from the chapter headed The Discovery of Europe that I read this morning in the book I recently cited – The Disinherited, by Henry Kamen. . . .
- By the end of the 16th century many elite Spaniards, weary of the economic disaster, political collapse and intellectual isolation of their country, were pinning their hopes on a new and promising horizon, namely Europe.
- Many generations later, the writer José Ortega y Gasset, who liked succinct phrases, coined one that stated: ‘Spain is the problem and Europe is the solution.’ It was a fantasy vision that political leaders would persist in nurturing from the 17th century until today.
- The essentially love-hate relationship with the rest of the continent had its origins many generations before but began in earnest only in December 1700, when the crown passed [from the Hapsburgs to the Bourbons].
- Spain entered upon a political system that split the country down the middle, intensified internal conflicts, made exile into a permanent reality of cultural life and converted half of the political elite into opponents of the monarchy.
Having seen the issue of Europe do much the same to the UK in the last 20 years, I'll be an interested observer of what the next decade brings to Spain. I guess the question is - Once the measures that Moscow and I agree are necessary start to bite, will the relationship turn from the greatest love the EU has ever known – and which it handsomely paid for – to one of unremitting hate?
Or will the 'temporary' departure of Greece, Italy or Ireland from the eurozone offer a too-tempting escape route from harsh realties born of the collapse of castles made from sand?
Vamos a ver, I guess.