Wednesday, March 04, 2009

My plans to join the EU gravy train don’t seem to have taken stock of the fact that Brussels is primarily a sink-hole for failed domestic politicians. These folk may have proved wanting back home but they still have an edge on me. This realisation has been prompted by the announcement that the ex-president of the PSOE and the Xunta here in Galicia will probably be a candidate in the European elections later this year. This will apparently be his reward for giving us an object lesson in how not to manage a coalition. If he does make it to Brussels, it’s unlikely he’ll be as criticised there for his extraordinarily expensive car and office furniture as he was here.

Meanwhile, in the Galician Nationalist Party - the BNG – wheels are now swiftly turning in the direction of dumping the president who has ‘ignobly’ declined to resign. As its title of El Bloque [The Block] implies, this a group of more than 10 parties, I think, all of which are pretty left-of-centre. One of them – Esquerda Nacionalista – has called for him to go and this can surely now only be a matter of time.

If my grasp of Galician politics is tenuous, it’s non-existent when it comes to the Basque Country, where there are even more parties of varying size and nature. But, however large or small, they’re all important now because of the absence of an absolute majority in favour of any of them. For more insights into the situation there and into the various permutations, I refer you to this piece by David Jackson, who appears to know his onions.

Regular readers will know that I’m schizophrenic about the EU. I have always believed it would one day collapse under the weight of its own internal contradictions but, as someone with all his assets in Spain, I’m not happy about the possibility of the break-up of the eurozone and the possible devaluation of the Spanish currency. So I sit on the fence. But not those long-time eurosceptics Ambrose Evans-Pritchard and Simon Heffer, who now appear to be hovering like schadenfreudistic vultures over events on the Continent. In a piece dated 23 Feb., Ambrose kicked off with - “The ultra-Europeans have overplayed their hand. We can now glimpse a chain of events that will halt, and reverse, this extremist push towards an Über-state that almost no one wants.” Then later added - “As the Bundesbank warned long ago, EMU will eventually buckle under strain over time without the cement of political union. This means a de facto EU treasury, a unified wage system, and the plausible prospect of a debt and pensions pool. None of this exists. Nor will it.” And he ended with - “The ideologues ignored the warning. Indeed, they saw EMU as the great catalyst, forcing the pace of Europe's integration. This fuite en avant has proved a grave miscalculation. It forgot about the voters. The elites will now have to face the great euro storm of 2008 to 2009 with the limited tools they have, bridging the economic chasm between north and south as best they can. Good luck. Viel Glück.” Not content with this, he returned to the fray yesterday with a piece which starts - “Architects of EMU were well aware that a one-size-fits-all monetary policy for vastly disparate nations would create serious tensions over time. They gambled that this would work to their advantage. The EU would be forced to create new machinery to safeguard its investment in the euro. It would be a ‘beneficial crisis’, bringing about the great leap forward to full union. We are about to find out if they were right.” Which might just count as back-tracking, possibly stimulated by news of a possible eurozone rescue. Meanwhile, though, Simon Heffer has weighed in with his view that, as predicted by the great economist Milton Friedman, the writing is on the wall for the EU, as idealism clashes headlong with reality. As for me, I really don’t know whether EU-ism is mortally wounded or not. But I suspect that, if it does die, it will be because – like communism and pure socialism before it – it runs against the grain of human nature. At least as it is in the 21st century. It cannot function on a basis of democracy and it may not prove possible to impose it top down. However many times people are told it’s in their economic interests for this to happen.

To lighten up this post – and in the hope that you won’t have seen it yet – I bring you the news that Spain’s President Zapatero yesterday took a leaf out of George Bush’s book and told his visiting Russian counterpart that investment was being made in tourism so that many Spaniards could go to Russia to “ stimulate, favour and fuck.” Apparently, he meant to say apoyar but came out with follar – a word I, coincidentally, gave the etymology of a couple of weeks ago.

Then there was a conversation overheard at a party by Euro-deputy David Hannan . .
3 year old daughter: Mummy. Can I go to the toilet?
Pija mother: Yes, darling. But we don’t say ´toilet’. We say ‘bathroom’ or ‘lavatory’
Daughter, with an exasperated sigh: Can’t say toilet, can’t say fuck!

Though she’d probably get away with it here. Everyone else does.

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