Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain.
Life in Spain:-
- I went to a bank yesterday to pay my latest tax demand disguised as a speeding fine. Needless to say, I had to show my ID card. When I asked - with a smile - what the logic was of being asked to prove who you are when making a payment, the best the employee could come up with was: Every country has its customs. I'll say.
- Another example . . . Everyone in Spain has 2 surnames, one from their father and one from their mother, with the first traditionally preceding the second. But things are changing, in the direction of 'less sexism'. Click here for details.
- A new target for the Revenue departments of the various Spanish police forces?: Fines are now being handed out to cyclists who don’t follow the rules, it's reported.
- Tourism will account for an extra 550,000 jobs this summer, says the trade association, Hosteltur. Nearly all of them very temporary and poorly paid, I suspect.
- Down at the tourism coalface, Barcelona is getting really fed up with its share of visitors to (what is still) Spain. Says the city's mayor: We don’t want to become a cheap souvenir shop. So she has frozen licences for all new hotels and holiday rental apartments. And has fined Airbnb €30,000.
- Looking at protests such as those of the taxi-drivers against Uber, etc., it's hard not to conclude that it's a widespread view in Spain that commerce should be decided by the providers, not the consumers.
As ever, it's decision time for the EU. Click here for an account of the latest developments/statements of intention. And see the end of this post for the views of George Soros on the viability of the EU. There seems to be a consensus – Either it reforms itself hugely or it dies. As is the norm, things seem to be going the way Berlin wants them to. And click here for Don Quijones on the latest state of the Italian banking system. DQ characterises the situation as desperate.
The Spanish and Portuguese presidents have agreed that there really must be a high-speed train line between Galicia and Portugal. Just as their predecessors did back in 2004. God knows when this will actually happen but, meanwhile, the existing line is to be electrified by end 2019. Maybe.
The stock advice for churches in the USA is that you should get a teenager to check your planned signs to avoid hilarious mistakes. I was reminded of this when reading yesterday that there is to be a new award for business-oriented local councils. They are to be given the LABLE of Concello Doing Business. In British English at least, doing one's business - especially if you're a dog - has scatological connotations
- The incomparable Jim Bekker keeps on giving: If Trump is impeached, there will be civil war in the USA and Christians will take part.
Finally . . . There's a famous G B Shaw quote that I came across again this week: I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it. Is this the source of Trump's strength, I found myself wondering?
THE EU ARTICLE
The 'dysfunctional' EU has plunged into existential crisis: George Soros
The European Union's "dysfunctional" institutions and austerity diktats have plunged it into an existential crisis that will require the bloc to reinvent itself to survive, George Soros has warned.
The billionaire investor said the EU had "lost its momentum" as he urged policymakers to abandon hopes of "ever closer union" driven by a top-down approach from Brussels.
He warned that a split among EU countries that began at the start of the financial crisis in 2008 had been exacerbated by "outdated treaties".
This had transformed the eurozone into a series of creditor and debtor nations overseen by inept institutions that had stirred up resentment in the bloc.
"The European Union is now in an existential crisis," Mr Soros told an audience in Brussels. "Most Europeans of my generation were supporters of further integration. Subsequent generations came to regard the EU as an enemy that deprives them of a secure and promising future."
Mr Soros, who became known as the man who broke the Bank of England for his bets against sterling in the early 1990s, also warned Brussels against punishing Britain in forthcoming Brexit negotiations.
He said were likely to take "as long as five years" and that the EU should approach negotiations in a "constructive spirit" and use Brexit to fix its own shortcomings instead of trying to punish the UK.
Just a day after Brussels published a paper mapping out its vision of eurozone integration, Mr Soros warned that the single currency area had become "the exact opposite of what was originally intended".
He said: "The European Union was meant to be a voluntary association of like-minded states that were willing to surrender part of their sovereignty for the common good.
"After the financial crisis of 2008, the eurozone was transformed into a creditor/debtor relationship where the debtor countries couldn’t meet their obligations and the creditor countries dictated the terms that the debtors had to meet.
"By imposing an austerity policy they made it practically impossible for the debtor countries to grow out of their debts. The net result was neither voluntary nor equal."
He said loss of trust in the EU has paved the way for support for anti-European political parties and said the goal of "an ever closer union" had to be abandoned.
"Now we need a collaborative effort that combines the top-down approach of the EU institutions with the bottom-up movements that are necessary to engage the electorate," said Mr Soros.
"Instead of a “multi-speed” Europe we should aim for a “multi-track” Europe that would allow member states a wider variety of choices. This would have a far-reaching beneficial effect."
He urged the bloc to focus on three key areas - dealing with the refugee crisis, Brexit and "the lack of an economic growth strategy".