Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 21.3.17

In one of those questionable surveys, Spain has been adjudged to rank as only the 34th country in the world as regards 'happiness'. The latter is measured using GDP per capita, life expectancy, social support (as measured by having someone to count on in times of trouble), trust (as measured by a perceived absence of corruption in government and business), perceived freedom to make life decisions, and generosity (as measured by recent donations). Astonishingly, the UK came in at 19th. And the USA at 14th. You'll surely be able to guess where No. 1 is. As ever.

Spain is famous for the longevity of its people, attributed to the Mediterranean diet. And perhaps lower levels of stress. So, it comes as at least a surprise - but possibly a shock - to read that a quarter of the population is obese. But at least we know what the main causes are - white bread and the malign influence of US culture.

Changing spain?:
  1. A major Spanish company – and a state-owned one at that – has been fined for abusing its dominant position.
  2. Spanish banks have had some constraints forced on them as regards home repossessions.
  3. Not before time, new rules have been established for unbuilt properties down south.
  4. The authorities in the nearby resort of Sanxenxo/Sanjenjo - The Marbella of Galicia - have announced they'll be introducing an ordinance designed to reduce noise levels in summer.
Back to my application of a 25% reduction in my electricity bill. I do hope that the folk in the HQ of GasNaturalFenosa can read Gallego. For my certificado de empadramiento is only in this language - in contrast to the 2010 version, which was only in Spanish. The text, in fact, is so short it would be easy to have it in both languages on an A4 sheet. But this is obviously too simple. I guess it makes sense to someone. To the Galician nationalists, at least. Incidentally, the Voz de Galicia yesterday reported that our electricity bills rose 22% last winter. My low-use discount will help to compensate for that.

In 1990 the British Secretary of State for Industry – Nicholas Ridley – was fired by Maggie Thatcher for saying that the EU was a German racket to take over Europe. When one looks at these statistics of electorate support for Social Democratic parties in Europe over the past 5 years or so, one can certainly see evidence of something:-
Spain: Down from 44 to 23%
Greece: Down from 44 to 6%
Holland: Down from 25 to 6%
France: Down from 52 to 13%
Germany: Up from 26 to 31%
Voters in Germany certainly seem to be happier with the status quo than elsewhere. And are said to be about to replace Mrs. Merkel by someone universally seen as an EU fanatic. Possibly just a convenience.

Which reminds me . . . Is it fanciful to see the core countries of the EU accepting a 2-speed institution as an admission of defeat for their grand project? Well, I think so anyway. On this subject, there's a short article at the end of this post from one of my favourite columnists.

The governing PP party is having a conference down in Andalucia. Their slogan is We Believe in Andalucia. I don't know why political parties bother with these things. Why not Simply Better. Which is all they're trying to tell us. By the way, the PP has never governed Andalucia since the inception of democracy in 1978. Which is odd as there's a real affinity - the region is universally seen as the most corrupt in Spain. Even by the purblind EU Commission.

Finally . . . I had the bizarre experience of the postman yesterday quoting the first 3 numbers of my NIE yesterday, when I stumbled over it. Is there an easy explanation for this? Do all foreigners have 356 as their first 3 numbers? The letter was from the Tax Office, of course. Telling me - for the second time - that they rejected my appeal in respect of an 'overcharge'. I can only surmise that the chap I spoke to personally did something alongside the computer's standard rejection of all appeals. But the computer was quicker.

Today's cartoon:-


Europe has forgotten what it means for a nation to govern itself. Article 50 will remind them. Janet Daley, Daily Telegraph

So it begins. This is either going to be the most tedious two years of argy-bargy, mind-numbing detail, procrastination, futile grandstanding, and empty threats ending with something that looks remarkably like the present arrangements... or it isn’t.

What could and should happen is that the UK creates not just a stunning precedent in the modern European era of a country leaving what was supposed to be an everlasting relationship, but an entirely new model of the nation state fit for the 21st century.

Europe has almost forgotten – sometimes with good historical reasons – what pride in nationality might mean, and how democratically responsive governments in touch with their populations might have something valuable to offer the world. Ironically, the idea of the self-governing state directly answerable to its own people was lost in the terrible shame of the twentieth century’s nationalist crimes. But the EU now finds itself harbouring a return to just the kind of populist nativism which it was designed to prevent. Will this generation of British politicians have the vision and the strength of character to re-invent nationhood? Who knows?

Until this moment, I suspect that at least some of the EU establishment doubted that Theresa May would go through with it. Presumably this is why Donald Tusk has to be given forty-eight hours to make a formal response to the announcement of the actual date: he and his colleagues must be allowed to come to terms with the reality that some political leaders mean what they say. Yes, this is really happening. 

March 29th will be the first day of the rest of our lives.



Eamon said...

Colin perhaps your NIE which serves as identity number and tax number is similar to the Spanish DNI because you had one of those identity cards. My NIE begins X708...... and I never had one of those id cards.

Colin Davies said...

Yes, my NIE is what the Hacienda use. But, just to confuse matters, I have a NIF, which I got before I became resident. Sometimes I have to produce both.

I didn't give in my NIE card when we were given only an A4 sheet, now very tattered. I use it for everything and only a notario has declined to accept it, as you'd expect. It expired almost 6 years ago but no one checks that.

Sierra said...

Am I right in interpreting the conditions for the 25% discount only apply to people receiving the basic DWP pension; i.e., anybody receiving a private/works pension in addition wouldn't qualify?

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