Monday, January 11, 2010

Well, Spain’s President, Sr Zapatero, didn’t have to wait long for a clear response to his proposal that EU members be sanctioned for failing to comply with tough economic criteria. In effect, Germany has summarily slapped it down. Which possibly reveals the flaw in the argument of my friend Alfred B. Whittington that it would provide a cloak for introducing harsh measures in Spain while pretending these were an EU imposition. It was never, ever going to fly. So, where next for the man who was so surprised the rest of Europe’s leaders didn’t take well to being lectured on economic stringency by the man who heads the Union’s weakest performing member? And why did he fail to see all this coming? My own guess is it’s because he’s got so used to getting away with murder here in Spain and has begun to believe in his own brilliance. Not to mention infallibility. After all, he’s only 3 points behind in the polls. Must have been a tough week for him, then.

Even before this development, The Economist had pointed out that “Editorials across the EU have mocked the idea of Mr Zapatero advising Europe on economic recovery.” But, as The Economist – like the FT – is a British publication, it must have been tempting to dismiss this as just another example of the centuries-old British contempt for Spain identified by the ABC journalist I cited the other day. Anyway, The Economist does provide an explanation of why, as it puts it, “Mr Zapatero’s government is making such a meal of the fact that Spain took over the six-month rotating presidency of the EU on January 1st.”

One element of this meal-making was an invitation to the Secretary of State for the EU to perform an honorary kick-off yesterday at the match between Real Madrid and Marbella. For which he was roundly booed by the assembled aficionados of both teams. Perhaps this is the beginning of the end of Spain’s love affair with Europe.

A group of my Spanish friends were telling me today just how much food they’d eaten during the heavy round of internal and external entertaining over the Christmas-New Year period. When I suggested the Spanish talked so much so as to avoid eating even more, they had the decency to laugh and point out they’d long ago perfected the ability to do both at the same time. With which I found it hard to disagree. What’s most impressive, of course, is that everyone in the party is both eating and talking simultaneously, simultaneously.

Finally. . . I’d like to pay a heartfelt tribute to the chap who was walking on my right this morning and who, having decided to turn into a shop on my left, started to walk in front of me but then stopped and walked behind me. This is unprecedented and, before I leave here, I will endeavour to get a statue erected to The Unknown Polite Man of Pontevedra. Designs ideas welcome.

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