Friday, June 30, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 30 June 2017

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain. 

If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here.

Life in Spain:-
  • No country in the EU is more positive about 'the project' than Spain. Read the article at the end of this post if you want to get some idea of why. Not new but accurate.
  • If you already are or plan to be self-employed in Spain (autonomo/a), this will be useful to you.
  • Here and here is some info - almost certainly wrong - about the number of British retirees living in Spain. Or, rather, those who've admitted it to the Spanish authorities.
  • Here's some info on Spain's vast black economy. It's not just politicians who are corrupt.
  • As regards the latter: ‘Las Cloacas del Interior: Bad practice and corruption in the Ministry of Interior'. This film reveals a network of interests and corruption that goes beyond the persecution of political enemies - a pattern of favouritism and corruption involving police, judges, prosecutors and entrepreneurs: a structure within the state that offers its services to the most powerful. The documentary also reviews bad practices in the Ministry of Interior since the beginning of the transition’. Felipe González is said to have once stated that "The Rule of Law must also be defended in the sewers". As they always do, a German visitor last night admitted he had no idea of the levels of corruption in Spain nor of the (very belated, post-crisis) concern about it among Spaniards. I stressed we're all grateful here for his tax euros.
Here's more on the current attempts by the Spanish Left to patch things up so that it represents a real threat to the utterly corrupt PP government. Which reminds me . . . El Páis used to be considered - like The  Guardian in the UK - the voice of the Left. It now seems to be right of Tony Blair, if not Theresa May, and is hyper-critical of the leader of the PSOE party, as well as of the further-left Podemos party. One consequence of this is that the latter has banned it from its press conferences.

Failed banks have been very differently treated in Spain and Italy in the last week or so. If you want to try to make some sense of this, read this article by Don Quijones. Circumstances change principles, as we cynical lawyers say. In brief, it seems that, if there's a bank strong enough to take over the patient, (some)bondholders and shareholders will get screwed. If not, the taxpayers will get (illegally) screwed. I guess that makes sense. To politicians worried about their future at least.

Nutters Corner:- Linda Harvey, an anti-gay activist: Teaching tolerance for LGBTQ people is akin to the grooming a pedophile does before molesting a child. Christians should copyright the rainbow because those damn LGBTQ people have raped it. The sweet rainbow image has been violated, raped by the deluded and fraudulent, and it now serves too often as a garish signpost for slavery to grave homosexual sin. What a wonderful, tolerant Christian! I can just imagine Jesus using that language . .

To cheer you up after that vitriol, here's something on Gwyneth Paltrow and her Goop.

Finally 1 . . . . I've identified here (many thanks, Maria) that the cutoff date for making payments direct to the Tax Office is now 26 June, not the 30th as in previous years. I tried on the 27th and succeeded, via my bank, on the 28th. I now wait to see if I will be fined. Which wouldn't surprise me in the least. BTW . . . If you read all the stuff on this page, you'll understand why I said this year was more complex than previously. Surely they aren't trying to generate late-payment fines from those who leave it until the last day and then can't declare in time. Which reminds me . . .  I requested a letter from the Hacienda a week ago giving me my access reference number. It's yet to arrive . . . . So, maybe they are.

Finally 2 . . . I did some painting yesterday and put the paint rags into the wash last night with my shirts, etc. Seems to have been a big mistake . . .

Today's cartoon:-


Spain: reasons behind the prolonged absence of anti-European and xenophobic views:  Salvador Llaudes.  

These are difficult times for the European Union. For the first time, a member state (the UK) has decided to abandon the project. In parallel, notwithstanding recent electoral setbacks, Eurosceptic voices remain prominent across the continent. Despite this, Spain is still a bastion of support for the integration process. Data from a new survey demonstrates this: 44% of Spaniards are convinced that the EU should have more competencies and finally become a United States of Europe, the highest of any country in the survey.

Traditionally, there have been no major Eurosceptic parties in the Spanish parliament. Even after the huge impact of the economic crisis and austerity measures, anti-European sentiment is still largely unacceptable in the politics of the country. The advantages associated with the European project are one of the most important reasons driving Spanish support for the EU. Compared to the other western European samples in the survey, a higher percentage of Spaniards believe they have benefited from being part of the EU (45% agree, against 25% who think the opposite). This attachment to the European project prevents political parties developing policies that are hostile towards the EU since there is little public appetite for these, as has been seen in recent elections in both 2015 and 2016.

The benefit of EU integration for Spain is, undoubtedly, material (it has been a net receiver of European funds for so many years). These funds have been instrumental in the modernization of the country and in providing new opportunities across society. But Spaniards also identify as especially successful EU policies some of the immaterial aspects of EU membership, such as the freedom to live and work elsewhere in the EU or the elimination of borders between member states. Decades of international isolation under a dictatorship help explain this: Spaniards know they are better off when they open themselves to the world.

Forty years of Franco’s regime explain many other aspects of the Spanish position towards the EU. For Spaniards, Europe means openness but also democracy, the rule of law and social progress. Despite the severe economic crisis, this is not so quickly forgotten, not least given a comparatively weak national identity and heavy reserves of scepticism towards Spanish politicians and institutions. The existent aversion to authoritarianism helps explain the practical inexistence of extreme right parties in Spain and the strong performance of the country in many social indicators, including tolerance towards homosexuals (71% of the Spanish people agree with same-sex marriage, with only 12% against) or acceptance of immigrants.

Spaniards are used to meeting foreigners in their daily life (Spain is the third most visited country in the world, with around 60 million annual arrivals) and they are aware of the huge economic benefits of tourism. More think that immigration has been good for the country than not (the only nationals in the survey, together with Britons, who think this way). Moreover, Spain is the only country in the sample that feels more positive than negative about accepting refugees (26% in favour, 25% against) and economic migrants (25% in favour, 22% against). There is another important factor that explains Spanish positive views towards migration: Spain itself has traditionally been a country of emigration, both to the rest of Europe and Latin America. This trend has reappeared as many people (especially young people) have left the country since 2008 following the economic crisis.

Some analysts have claimed that the positive attitude towards foreigners in Spain was not genuine but rather a consequence of the comparatively small amount [number!] of immigrants living in Spain, and/or the good economic situation of the country. The data prove them wrong. Since the turn of the century, several million people have moved to Spain, growing the number of immigrants by more than 10% in only a few years. The economic argument is also not very solid – there was no significant increase in negative attitudes towards foreigners when the economic crisis hit and unemployment levels reached historic highs.

Still, it is true that integration of foreigners has been facilitated by the fact that many share Spanish as their native tongue (those coming from Latin America) or are very fast at learning it (as is the case of Romanians, the largest foreign community in Spain). The integration of the second (and successive) generation of immigrants in both the public and private spheres will be a key question for the future.

The recent crisis has been a litmus test of Spain’s Europeanism. There has been neither a surge of Euroscepticism nor of anti-immigration sentiment in the country, although it is true that the so-called ‘naïf Europeanism’ which used to exist in the country (with no criticism of any decision taken in Brussels, no matter how good or bad it was for Spain) is no longer there either.  The European Union is seen as a project of not only economic benefits, but also of values, which Spaniards are willing to share with other countries aiming to join the EU (only 21% are against enlargement).

This vision stands with the fact that Spaniards believe that many existing problems require European solutions. For migration, 82% support a common policy (according to data from the autumn 2016 Eurobarometer), 83% support a common approach for security and defence, while 70% support the common currency as a solution to some economic issues. Equally importantly, immigration is not considered a problem, openness and tolerance are widespread (the EU and globalization are seen as synonyms of these), and there is an important aversion to authoritarianism. Finally, the electoral system has helped to weed out more illiberal political parties.

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