Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia, Spain: 20.6.18

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.

  • More details of the new government's plans/intentions to do something about the mausoleum dedicated to Franco. My suggestion is dynamite.
  • It looks as if the Galician president, Sr Feijoo, has pulled out of the competition for the leadership of the PP party. It could be fear of what'll come out about his links to our narcotráfico but, talking to one of his ex-mistresses last night, I concluded there might be other things as well.
  • The Spanish economy is immersed in a virtuous circle of falling unemployment, recovering salaries, rising consumption, and positive trends in the real estate sector. More here on this. Good news for the middle class and the rich. It remains pretty tough at the bottom of the pile, of course.
  • Here's a surprise, a politician not keeping a promise. But can anyone be at all surprised on this one?
  • This El País article on truly scandalous waste on infrastructure projects certainly isn't a surprise. Tasters: There are four main ways in which public money has been wasted: corruption, underutilized projects, useless projects, and inadequate priority-setting . . . All of it was done without a proper cost/benefit analysis, and often on the basis of estimates of future users or earnings supported by a scenario of economic euphoria that was as evident as it was fleeting. . . . At least a third of Spain's airports are unnecessary. . . . As for seaports, the biggest example of wasteful spending is in the port of A Coruña, in Galicia. Still, a lot of people made a lot of money, courtesy of Brussels' largesse in many cases.
Life in Spain
  • Good news, perhaps. But no salad cream as yet. Nor even standard mayo.
  • Yesterday I read in a book by a (US) camino pilgrim that there's a saying here that: How wonderful it is to do nothing. And rest afterwards. Can't say I've ever heard it. But it's true that I've always found inactivity to be exhausting.
The EU
  • Those cages/pens/warehouses/summer camps for kids . . . President Trump’s team is currently reacting to the stories by alternately denying their veracity and defending their effectiveness, and in the case of Kirstjen Nielsen, the Secretary of homeland security, doing both simultaneously.
  • Fart's latest scurrilous outpourings on his policy raise the question: Can an insane person become more insane over time? It certainly seems so.
  • I like the concept of a matrix of mendacity. See here on this.
  • The quotation above is from this rather illuminating article. We are shocked, but should we be surprised?, asks the author. America is both an ideal and a reality, and sometimes the two gel and sometimes they really don’t. Or, as I've said before - The USA has both the very best and the very worst of everything in the world. Fart, of course, is the dangerous champion of the latter. The pendulum will swing back one day.
The UK
  • Seventeen countries around the world have approved cannabis for medical use. Britain isn't one of these. But guess which country manufactures most cannabis products . . . As one columnist puts it this morning: For politicians to continue to deny epileptic children a medicinal cannabis in which Britain leads the world, while expecting them to ingest highly toxic pharmaceuticals, is obscene. Some readers might recall that, when a government-appointed expert recommended legalisation, he was summarily sacked. For giving the wrong answer to the question the government had posed for him. IGIMSTS.
  • If you can bear it, there's an article below on the current (mad) state of Brexit 'discussions' in the UK. En passant, discutir is 'To argue' in Spanish. Makes sense.
  • Galicia is said to have lost 20% of its middle class homes in the last 20 years. Not sure what this really means.
  • And Pontevedra province - despite the drug business - has the lowest (official) per capita income in our region. Less than half of that of the richest place in Spain, Pozuelo - €11.3k against €23.9k.
  • But Galicians, rich or poor, live longer on average - 83.3 years. Must be the Mediterranean diet . . . .
Finally . . .
  • If, like me, you keep half an ear and eye on the British Yesterday TV channel of a morning, you'll know that the words which will incite you to put your foot through the screen are: Dad, it's June. A close second is: Mum would have loved this. Both ads aim at making older folk feel guilty.
© David Colin Davies, Pontevedra: 20.6.18


The Westminster Brexit pantomime is letting Brussels avoid its own hard choices : Peter Foster

How they must be laughing in the European Commission’s Berlaymont headquarters.

According to the latest slides from the EU, Britain’s continued security co-operation after Brexit will be subject to a “guillotine clause”, shutting down links if the UK leaves the European Court of Human Rights or is condemned by the court for failing to implement its judgments.

Given Theresa May’s history with the ECHR, it is hard to see this as anything other than a rather exquisite trolling of the Prime Minister by a Brussels negotiating machine that now feels it has the UK in a headlock. Mrs May has long attacked the ECHR, which frustrated her attempts as Home Secretary to deport the hate preacher Abu Qatada. In April 2016, Mrs May said Britain should leave an institution that “adds nothing to our prosperity [and] makes us less secure”. So you can imagine how delicious the irony is now, for the likes of Martin Selmayr and Jean-Claude Juncker, that Mrs May has backed Britain into such a corner that she’ll have to accept the ECHR as a condition of securing a key plank of her Brexit strategy.

As Home Secretary, Mrs May fought Tory sovereigntists on her back benches to join schemes like the European Arrest Warrant and the real-time crime-fighting database Schengen Information System (SIS II), but is now in danger of losing access to these assets.

The ECHR isn’t, of course, even part of the EU machinery, which only adds to the indignity. Such is the power of Brussels it can order a departing member to accept membership and pay obeisance to an institution it does not even control. What next?

Recall that this is the same European Commission that circulated an internal report to EU Brexit ambassadors that highlighted UK shortcomings in its handling of SIS II data - as a deliberate warning not to trust the Brits on data-sharing, on security, on human rights.

The UK provided much of the muscle and political impetus for these systems that plenty of Europe, including the German interior minister, does not want to see impaired by Brexit. But the British Government cannot unlock such commonsense because it is too preoccupied fighting with itself.

These things are noteworthy (we could talk about Galileo too) because they speak to the current balance of power in these negotiations as the paralysis and parliamentary squabbling continues in Westminster.

All that remains, in the eyes of some on the European side, is for Mrs May to bang the canvas in submission and accept that Britain will agree to EEA status via a series of humiliations that end in EU membership in all but name, and no seat at the table. In essence, a colony of the EU. The EU side fails to understand the real limits of what Mrs May can sell at home. Forcing complete vassalage on the UK risks playing into the hands of those who would support a truly destructive rupture, which the EU doesn’t want. But such protests just feel like a negotiating ploy to European capitals that are bored by British vacillation and, in the case of Berlin and Paris, are not minded to loosen their choke-hold as they fight their own battles over migration and the eurozone.

The worst part is that if the UK could get its collective act together, there is the potential for a deal that asks very difficult questions of an EU facing crises on multiple fronts, a deal that puts a tempting pragmatism over hardcore principle.

There is a strong rational argument on both sides for staying in the single market for goods (in which the EU runs a surplus with the UK) while diverging on services and coming to an arrangement on free movement. For now this is ruled out as impossible, but privately senior EU officials and diplomats admit that were it to be proposed, the EU27 would have to take it seriously, since it resolves economic issues in the EU’s favour and, for countries on the flanks of the eurozone who are already feeling marginalised, creates a potential template for the future. If the EU were to reject such an offer, it would be a nakedly ideological defence of rules which - as we are seeing on the migration question - are increasingly succumbing to realpolitik.

But for now, the political debate in London makes such considerations moot. Michel Barnier is not wrong when he says the UK must get more ‘realistic’ about Brexit - since only then can the UK force the EU to do the same. The debate in Westminster still doesn’t recognise the real choices that confront the UK: to crash out (at vast cost); to fall into EEA-equivalent (politically unsustainable vassalage) or - if we don’t throw our hands up and remain after all - something in between.

It may already be too late for ‘something in between’, which would throw up complex questions about the boundaries between goods and services, require the UK to make a solid offer on migration and - inevitably - have a discussion about money.

Mrs May is responsible for this mess, to be sure. She played straight into the EU’s binary logic, first by triggering Article 50, which put the UK in a two-year ratchet (“ze clock is ticking”) and then by drawing hard lines over the single market and customs union membership. The result has been a negotiation almost entirely on Europe’s terms, while Westminster debates the pipedream of a Brexit ‘dividend’ and a ‘deep and comprehensive partnership’ that seems to rule out having much to do with the other side.

There is, surely, still a deal to be done. But until realism arrives in Westminster the EU side does not even need to trouble itself with considering what that might actually be. It can simply continue to issue ultimatums and wait for Mrs May to run up the white flag.


Alfred B. Mittington said...

The word you wanted, my dear friend, is Narcotraficantes. Or Narcos. Narcotraficos are the policemen who write fines for drugs-smugglers who run their speedboats too fast in coastal waters.

As for the Valle de los Caidos: I always took the stand that it is better to let sleeping dogs lie, and dead dictators rest in their graves. Even digging up the generalissimo is NOT going to win the Spanish left the Civil War of 1936-1939, much as they keep trying.


Colin Davies said...

No, it was 'narcotráfico.

paideleo said...

A lonxevidade galega non ten que ver cos dieta mediterránea que non existe aquí.
Ten que ver máis co clima ( anque soe incrible ) e a inxesta de peixe ( tame´n os xaponeses viven muitos anos ).