Thursday, March 19, 2020

Thoughts from Jávea, Valencia, Spain: 19.3.20

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain [A terrible book, by the way. Don't be tempted to buy it, unless you're a very religious Protestant.]

The Coronavirus
  • A good global overview from CNN, though possibly already out of date.
  • The Covid-19 pandemic is not only having a health impact, but also massive economic effect, changing the world in a way that, even a few months ago, we could not have predicted. 
  • Meanwhile, it's an ill wind . . . The Olive Press gives us the businesses which are benefitting from events. Logical but revealing:-
- Supermarkets
- Makers of toilet rolls, face masks and hand sanitisers
- Pornhub
- Sex toy companies
- Online dating sites
- Netflix and other digital subscription services
- Amazon
- Food takeaway agencies
- Digital connection services such as Whatsapp and Skype
- Online gaming companies
- Apocalypse and doomsday media, and of course
- Divorce lawyers
 Life in the Time of Something Like Cholera
  • A friend has told me the police are patrolling the streets of Vigo bearing sub-machine guns. But not, apparently, in operations against our numerous narcotráficantes.
  • Talking of Galicia, here's a link to María's chronicle of daily life in her village.
Spanish Politics
  • The ex-king may well escape any scrutiny in Spain itself. Not terribly surprising in a country of vast corruption in the higher echelons of society. And in all the political parties, with the possible exception of Podemos.
The EU
  • More apocalyptic comments:-
  1. In a few days, the Europe of open borders has become history. . . The idea of European solidarity, and of a borderless Europe where citizens are free to travel and work, seems very far away.  . .  What we are witnessing is the clash of the claims of human nature and of ideology.  . . . When a crisis comes, be it a war in which the survival of the nation is at stake or an epidemic where the health and survival of our people is at stake, we take care of our own first. . . This is human nature. This is the way the world works. Read the article here.
  2. The global trading environment is changing, possibly irrevocably, which has huge implications for the EU's Single Market. . .  The EU itself will doubtless change as a result of this epidemic, as will its ambitions. 
  3. The Continent's response to coronavirus proves that European 'solidarity' has always been a sham: See the article below, which jives with my own long-standing view that the EU is a wonderful ideal but not a true practical proposition. At least not done at such speed and in the way it has been done.
  • With the effect of Covid-19 on the UK GDP being estimated in the order of 15%, the government will have far more pressing things to do than pursue the Brexit agenda. This has slipped way down the order of priorities. 
  • This made me laugh: Times headline: Americans are being taught how to use roundabouts properly. Not just here, then,
  • To help relieve your boredom, here's the latest bulletin on Russia's constant disinformation initiatives, albeit mostly in relation to the bloody virus.
Shysters Corner 
  1. The egregious Paula White.
  2. Kenneth Copeland:
  • Phrases/words of the day:- 
  1. Tos persistente/constante: Persistent cough.
  2. Tos sea: Hacking cough
  3. Suicidio: Suicide
  4. Parejacidio: Partnercide.  Not yet in any dictionary.
Finally . . . 
  • To lift everyone's spirits:-

Finally, finally . . . 

The Continent's response to coronavirus proves that European 'solidarity' has always been a sham: Con Coughlin, the Times

True to form, the European Union’s unconvincing response to the coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated that, when it comes to dealing with a crisis of truly global proportions, Brussels is little more than a liability, especially when it comes to protecting the interests of its member states.

As the first country to feel the full force of the coronavirus outbreak in Europe, Italy had every right to expect its EU partners to do everything in their power to ease the crisis. It was to this end that Rome made the relatively modest request for other member states to provide it with vital medical supplies, from face masks to breathing equipment. But instead of coming to Italy’s aid, the response from other EU countries was to do nothing, leaving it to China to provide the much-needed equipment.

Moreover, far from inspiring a desperately-needed show of EU solidarity, the coronavirus has resulted in the vast majority of EU states seeking to protect their own interests, with Germany at one point even refusing to allow the export of face masks to Italy.

Consequently, while the EU has prevaricated over how best to respond to the crisis, Europe has been brought to a virtual standstill as a succession of member states have implemented their own unilateral measures, such as closing their borders, as they seek to protect their citizens from suffering a similar fate to those of Italy.

By the time European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced on Monday that the EU was imposing its own 30-day ban on travel to the European Union and Schengen zone, it was already a fait accompli so far as most of Europe was concerned. The vast majority of EU states had already closed their borders, rather than waiting for the cumbersome Brussels bureaucracy to ride to their rescue.

It might even be argued that the EU’s tardy response is one of the reasons why Europe, not Asia, has now become the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic.

Another lamentable consequence of the EU’s inability to provide effective leadership in a crisis is that it has led to member states indulging in blatant breaches of some of the EU’s guiding principles. The decision by France and Germany, for instance, to restrict the export of medical supplies to their European neighbours is a clear violation of the European single market, while the ban imposed by Austria and the Czech Republic on all travellers from Italy breaches the principle of free movement.

The EU’s inability to devise an effective response to the coronavirus outbreak is not the first time Brussels has been found wanting in terms of safeguarding the interests of its members.

The bailout package the EU forced on Greece in 2010 during the eurozone crisis has consigned the country to decades of austerity, an arrangement that Yanis Varoufakis, the former Greek finance minister, recently likened to the country being placed in a debtors’ prison.

It has been a similar story with the migrant crisis in southern Europe, where the EU struggled to find an effective response to the estimated 1.7 million refugees seeking shelter and refuge. About the only meaningful contribution from Brussels was to offer the Turks a six billion euro bribe to prevent the migrants from leaving Turkey. As for those that managed to make the treacherous Mediterranean crossing, they have been abandoned in makeshift camps on Greek islands such as Lesbos, where their presence, together with the legions of aid workers looking after them, has exacerbated tensions with the local inhabitants to the extent that the migrant camps are being subjected to regular attacks by vigilante groups.

The EU’s sclerotic response to the coronavirus threat, together with its failure to tackle challenges ranging from Greece’ bailout to the migrant crisis, certainly raises some awkward questions about the EU’s viability in its current form.

Following Brexit, the instinct of committed Europhiles such as President Emmanuel Macron of France has been to call for even closer political and economic union, with the ultimate aim of creating a European superstate.

Yet the prospects of this happening appear remote indeed if, when confronted with an existential challenge like coronavirus, the default position of EU member states is to jealously protect their interests at the expense of their European neighbours, destroying key pillars of the European project, such as the free movement of people and unrestricted trade, in the process.

Such behaviour not only exposes the concept of European solidarity as a complete sham; it suggests that the EU will struggle to present a united front when it comes to dealing with future challenges, such its post-Brexit trading relationship with the UK.

To date, EU negotiators have assumed they can play hardball with Britain because they rely on the backing of the other 27 member states. But this pretence of unity can no longer be taken for granted after the deep divisions the coronavirus crisis has exposed in the EU’s ranks.


Eamon said...

For something different. Happy Father's day Colin!

Colin Davies said...

Thanks, Eamon. But where???

Eamon said...

Here in Spain. March 19th is the feastday of St. Joseph so dedicated to fathers. I forgot to wish you a Happy ST. Patrick's Day as you are now considered Irish.

Robert said...

Colin Davies said...

Thanks, Robert. That's Brexit off for a while then . . .