Saturday, July 29, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 29.7.17

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:-
  • Here's Spain's most spectacular beach. In Galicia, naturally.
  • I have to admit I find this difficult to believe but it's reported that Spain's much-put-upon grandparents are revolting. And are calling for government measures to ensure that childcare responsibilities stop falling primarily upon them. By which I doubt they mean forcing the parents to do more of it. My guess is that the demand is for more government-funded creches and kindergartens. Absent these, 25% of Spanish grandparents – it's claimed - spend at least 7 hours a day looking after the offspring of their own loins.
  • In her wonderful book Watching the English, Kate Fox makes this comment about the use of humour in a business setting, something which the Germans are said not to do at all. The interesting aspect is, of course, the reference to the Spanish:-

The French have always taken a more-than-averagely self-interested approach to the EU, seeing it as something they created primarily for their own benefit. At the end of this post is an article which demonstrates this once again, via a recent protectionist measure and via a unilateral step as regards the critical issue of free movement of workers/people. 

My first house in the UK was sold to me as a 999 year 'leasehold' property with a very small annual 'ground rent'. The 'freehold' was retained by the developers, who were the real owners. Click here for Don Quijone's exposition on how this has in the UK been taken to staggering levels of greed. All too often, he says, the new “owners” are not informed by the builder that they will soon be contractually bound to pay annual rents, often well into four figures. I would have thought that using a lawyer – virtually always done in the UK – would avoid this shock. If not, you can always sue your lawyer . . .

For Spanish speakers, here's details of a Galician film (Trote) which might be of interest. And here, for my galegofarlante reader(s), is a bit more in Galician. Nowt on IMDB.

Finally . . .  Someone once said – alluding to the irrational and subjective nature of aesthetic appreciation – : A fashion starts off as hideous, then successively ridiculous, amusing and charming. Finally, it's recognised as beautiful. Seems about right to me, when I see the reaction to the suggestion that examples of '1950s brutal' buildings should be torn down.

Today's cartoon:-


Macron seizes French shipyards to block Italian take-over

French President Emmanuel Macron has temporarily nationalised France’s biggest shipyards to prevent an Italian takeover, ripping up a prior agreement in a protectionist move that has infuriated Rome and startled EU capitals. The government blocked the sale of STX France to the Italian group Fincantieri in order to “defend the strategic interests of France”, using a ‘pre-emption’ right to buy all shares. The aim is to safeguard 7,000 jobs in the Atlantic port of Saint-Nazaire and ensure that the French state has a controlling influence over military infrastructure for building warships and aircraft carriers. It is the first big industrial decision since Mr Macron took office in May and raises questions about his free market principles and pro-European rhetoric. During the election campaign he struck up a very different tone. “Protectionism is warfare, it’s a lie,” he said.

The reaction in Italy has been consternation. The financial daily Il Sole said Mr Macron’s actions were simply staggering. “The more the weeks pass, the more that Macronism shows an old face, that of an unchanging France that has dirigiste, statist, protectionist, and sovereignist instincts – ‘European’ only on alternate days, when it suits the alchemy of power,” it said.

The exact motive for the intervention is unclear. STX France was previously owned by the distressed Korean group STX and is already in foreign hands.  There have been concerns in Paris that Fincantieri’s close relationship with Chinese could make it a stalking horse for Beijing. “It is a temporary decision to give us more time for a better deal. It is not desirable that the naval yards of Saint-Nazaire should remain under the control of the state,” said Bruno Le Maire, the economy minister.

It is a twisted story for great shipyards that built the Queen Mary II and Harmony of the Sea, the world’s biggest cruise ship. Business is flourishing. The problem is that creditors of Korea’s STX demanded sale of the French unit to meet debts.

Mr Macron bowed to pressure from protectionist voices and demanded changes in the deal to give the French state a 50pc holding and a de facto veto. This comes close to flouting EU single market law on takeovers, though there can be exceptions on national security grounds.

Carlo Pier Padoan, Italy’s finance minister, said he would listen politely to the French side but insisted that it remains unacceptable to prevent an Italian company taking majority control of a French company.

Mr Macron has a history of such reflexes. As economy minister he was quick to oppose the sale of the online video service Dailymotion to the Hong Kong Group Hutchinson, insisting that the French group Vivendi buy it instead. “Macron is a Jacobin: he is convinced that the state can and should do whatever it wants,” said one official, talking to Le Monde.

What is peculiar about this incident is that it clashes so blatantly with Mr Macron’s ‘Europeanist’ language. In a different way it also clashes with his advocacy of a “Buy European Act” for public tendering, the mirror image of Donald Trump’s ‘Buy American’ policy.

It is increasingly difficult to fathom the real intentions of the new French president. What is clear that his media image as the poster boy of liberal globalisation is overblown. This ambivalence has always been evident. “We shouldn’t be a completely open continent: protectionism should not be confused with necessary protectionism,” he said with Jesuitical casuistry during the campaign.

The shipyard move came as Mr Macron took unilateral action in the EU refugee crisis, launching a scheme to build screening centers for refugees in Libya to stop them trying to cross the Mediterranean. He vowed to do it “with the EU or without it”. This touched on a highly sensitive area of foreign policy and was done without prior coordination of EU allies. Italian diplomats said they were brushed aside. Corrriere della Sera said with tart understatement that Italy’s premier Paulo Gentiloni was “perplexed”.

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