Sometime during the (phoney) boom years, I commented to a Spanish friend that Spain's new roads and motorways were quite magnificent. Just wait, he said, until they start to deteriorate and we'll see whether the money is there to repair them. This article suggests his pessimism was well founded. Sadly.
The ex Chancellor of the British Exchequer, Nigel Lawson, champions the growing view that Safely removed from effective democratic accountability, the EU has become a bureaucratic monstrosity. This imposes substantial economic costs on all member states. These are perhaps greatest in the case of the UK, not principally because our own dear bureaucracy is inclined to goldplate the regulations that emanate from Brussels, but more because we have a tradition of precision in law-making and respect for the law that is less pronounced in much, if not most, of the rest of Europe. That is not going to change, nor should it. Rather Mr Lawson feels Britain should manage an amicable – well, as amicable as possible – exit from the EU.
As to where the EU is right now, here's the view of the Berlin correspondent of the "Daily Telegraph": As the quarrelling voices in the eurozone grow louder, Germany once again finds itself at the centre of conflict. From Italy, where voters have resoundingly rejected austerity measures, to Greece and Cyprus, where Angela Merkel has been caricatured as a Nazi, to Paris, where members of François Hollande’s party accuse the German chancellor of “selfish intransigence”, the project intended to bring Europe together has been stirring up animosity. Germany wants a more powerful Europe to have the last word on national budgets. But other countries are giving this short shrift. In the showdown over austerity, it is Germany that has blinked first. Berlin, which has overseen Europe’s austerity policy since the start of the debt crisis, is now indicating that it is relaxed about eurozone countries failing to hit their deficit-cutting targets. In the case of France – Germany’s key partner in Europe – Mrs Merkel is now offering an alternative prescription: economic reforms that will reduce labour costs in the long term. But the pain has only been deferred. Germany has made no secret of its view that the French workforce, in particular, is far too cosseted. . . The forthcoming [German] election campaign, then, will be rather unusual. For the first time, there are loud voices from both Left and Right calling for an end to the euro. . . [Germany's] policies during the debt crisis are fuelling a revival of nationalism elsewhere in Europe – and within Germany itself, from taxpayers alarmed at the mounting costs of rescuing the euro. As a result, a country desperate to keep Europe together, in order to escape the ghosts of its own history, is now risking the prospect of a European departure from the global stage.
It seems situation in Syria is even worse than I cited yesterday. There are fears that the internecine Sunni-Shia war could yet engulf Iraq, where the Shiites, despite being in the majority, have long had to play second fiddle to the Sunnis. As someone has asked – Could Syria, Iran and sectarian fury destroy a hard-won peace? - Allah forfend. Surely He can knock a few heads together, if He wants to. We must assume that He doesn't.
Finally . . . Like me, you might not know what an evil digital camera is. Having just googled it, I can tell you it's an 'electronic viewfinder with interchangeable lens'. Or EVIL.