John Carlin is a Brit who writes an excellent football column in Sunday’s El País. His theme today was that - regardless of results - the manager of Real Madrid can do no right and his opposite number at Barcelona can do no wrong. I mention this here because of Carlin’s nice comment that “Spain defines itself by its antagonisms, its fractures and its tensions.” This he puts this down to 500 years of Catholicism, which have left Spaniards, he claims, believing only in black or white. Leaving grey for foreigners. I don’t suppose 700 prior years of Islam helped much in this regard. As I regularly say, whatever the causes, it’s a fissiparous place. Only united, says Carlin, in its dislike of the Real Madrid manager - the 'special one', Sr. Mourinho.
I guess it had to happen 1: Someone has been killed when following the instructions of his GPS, by driving into a reservoir where the road had once been. It happened down near Badjoz and you can read more here.
I guess it had to happen 2: A visitor from Madrid has been fined 200 euros for parking his car where there was a weekend restriction in the space across the river allotted to the kids for their weekend binge drinking (El botellódromo). His defence was that the sign was in Gallego and that he didn’t understand what Agás meant. Which is ‘Only’. Hardly surprising, as it bears no resemblance to the Spanish word.
Talking of rules . . . You might be as surprised as I was to hear that France never incorporated the relevant EU directive on expulsion of EU citizens into its national law. But this isn’t that unusual in France. Nor, indeed, throughout the EU. As someone wrote today, “There seems to be only one country which rigorously enforces EU law to the letter: the UK.” For this reason, what happened in France could never have happened in Britain. The courts there would have intervened and stopped it immediately. It’s still possible that the EU will take action against France later but “even if it does, the French government will probably just ignore it. They have done so in the past: witness the failed attempts by the European Court to force the French government to stop handing out 'illegal' subsidies to French companies.” Here, of course, we have two of the reasons why the EU is so unpopular in the UK. This sort of self-interested game-playing by other members offends two mainstays of British society – respect for the Rule of Law and the belief in fair play. To prosper in Europe Britain should, of course, forego its principles and play the game as well as everyone else. But this never going to happen, I fear.
And talking of fair play . . . There’s been a lot of comment here recently on how few Spanish taxpayers declare an income above 120,000 euros a year. And about the arrangement (El SICAV) which gives exceptionally beneficial tax treatment to the ultra wealthy in respect of their investments. During the boom years, the (socialist) government of President Zapatero had better things to do than tackle this huge-scale tax evasion/avoidance, when things were arguably more propitious than they are now. But at least something (retrospective!) has now been announced about the SICAV schemes. Almost certainly too little and too late. Meanwhile, the regional governments have taken it upon themselves to increases those taxes they control, leading to the sort of tax ‘postcode lottery’ (as it’s called in the UK) that already exists in respect of healthcare.
Finally . . . It looks like the solution of one or more members defaulting on its debt and/or leaving the EU is once again considered to be back in the realms of possibility. As a columnist on Britain’s (left wing) Guardian put it yesterday:- “The eurozone has become a trap for peripheral countries. They are crushed by debt, unable to compete against the core, saddled with austerity and facing long-term stagnation. Defaulting and reconsidering membership of the euro are no longer unthinkable. But for this to work the political power of the alliance of bankers and lenders has to be broken. There must be social change in favour of the working people who protested this week and who are the source of future prosperity. Then economic policy might be designed to deliver growth and jobs.” For us, of course, the question is - If Greece, Portugal or Ireland do indeed go, will Spain be dragged along with them? Interesting times.
Footnote: As I write this, Real Madrid are racing to an overwhelming victory, against the Galician team Deportivo de La Coruña, as it happens. So, will Sr Mourinho still be the Devil tomorrow, I wonder?
Tailnote for new readers: My elder daughter has now net-published six chapters of a novel which is “A fast-paced political thriller but, above all, a personal tale of pride and paranoia.” Set in a fictionalised Cuba, it’s being e-published at the rate of at least a couple of chapters a week. If this entices you, click here.