Over the past few weeks I’ve had the chance to speak to Spaniards of different origins and social classes concerning their views on Spain’s recent economic and social travails. Among the genteel middle class there’s an overwhelming ennui, a distinct jadedness. Spain has long been a poor country with higher-than-average unemployment. Much of this is the result of Spain having one of the highest numbers of unskilled workers in Western Europe. Even before the economic collapse of 2008 nearly 10pc were officially unemployed. More interestingly, perhaps, is their view of the EU and Northern European policies. They embrace the EU with little challenge simply because they know nothing or hear nothing else. The media establishment are entirely pro-EU and with the exception of Podemos, so are all major political parties. There’s hardly any discussion on the matter and many have come to attribute far too much of Spain’s post-Franco economic development to the EU.
That Spain was growing rapidly in Franco’s final years due to reforms that the hated Caudillo put in place is ignored out of social and historical expedience. Franco was much like Portugal’s Salazar. He had his place and much of what he did was necessary. Were he to have stepped down after a decade or so in power, after the country had stabilised and the economy returned to something approaching normal he would have likely been remembered more favourably. However, by clinging onto power for decades until nature took its course he became a figure of popular contempt. Yet, there is a growing sense that Germany and its northern allies are incredibly self-serving and hypocritical. Spain has done what was demanded of it. Spain committed itself to the “European Project” fully, but others, many have complained, only when it suits them. One woman complained about a recent holiday she took with her two young sons to Germany. She is well-educated and skilled with a good job in Madrid. Yet, many in Germany, she said, treated her like a gypsy and acted as if she was there for charity. She’s in no great hurry to return to said country. There’s still much desire to “make it work”, but even among the remaining affluent there is a growing sense of disgust.
The tone is very different among poorer Spaniards. Although Spaniards in general have no more confidence in the quality of their politicians than they do in the reliability of a Trabant, those who have been hit hardest often speak bitterly. Some have said that their politicians don’t give a toss about Spain or Spaniards, only about Brussels and Berlin. One woman said that she will leave Spain late this year because she can’t take it anymore. She works her hands to the bone but is struggling to survive. She has a university education but finding employment beyond menial labour is a struggle for many, especially younger Spaniards. She will move with her fiancé to his native Bolivia. She can buy a house for the money she will get for selling her SEAT saloon and her income as a teacher, a position has already been secured, will provide her with a better quality of life than she could hope to have in Madrid. She’s given up on her homeland. Many Spaniards have given up on Spain. They are still proud of Spain, but there’s little hope that things will get better unless something changes in Madrid. Spain deserves a lot more than this.
12 thoughts on “Iberia Frustrated”
Spain is being strangled by the €uro and loss of sovereignty. Franco must be turning in his grave.
The peseta is not mourned in Spain. It was an incredibly weak, inflation-prone currency that no one really took seriously. The euro is broadly seen as an improvement, hence Spaniards’ willingness to tolerate economic torture far more than one would expect. At the same time, there is a growing consternation at their helplessness. Spain isn’t a joke, it isn’t a nothing country. Like Italy, it has its inefficiencies and endemic corruption but it also has high-quality industries and an exceptionally talented population. One of the main attractions of Podemos is that it openly called for Spain to have more control over its own affairs.
But the benefit of the peseta was that the Spanish government could set interest rates to suit the Spanish economy or devalue if necessary.
It’s better to have your own currency even if you run it badly, rather than let someone else screw it up.
Just asking myself: is there anything the EU hasn’t screwed up?
Sheona and Jazz: oh, I agree with you fully. The peseta was by no means the German mark or even the French franc, but it reflected the actual strength of the Spanish economy. There has been really no debate about this in Spain. “EU good, full stop” is the overwhelming mentality of the media and political establishment. Even Cameron is seen as a dangerous man for making begging for a couple crumbs from Brussels. There are signs that this consensus is starting to crack a little, however so there is hope.
Janus: the list for which you ask is too short to provide!
Janus, I think the answer was provided by Piaf – “Non, rien de rien” – and unfortunately the europrats are stupid enough to add “je ne regrette rien”.
….and Chris Rea’s Road to Hell!
And typically, the EUroprats have come up with an idea following yesterday’s atrocities in Brussels: let’s have a meeting. Er, excuse me?
Sheona and Janus: at the same time voters are beginning to realise that no matter what they do, the EU will ignore them while expecting them to suffer in silence. Elections in Spain, Ireland and if polls are indication in Italy show that voters will no longer suffer the status quo.
Jazz, you are happily invited to visit Francos grave in the valley of the fallen, as the Government has opened it up to the public after the ‘lefties’ had lost the election and you can pay your tribute in person to a great leader who held his country in order. Nevertheless I prefer to spend my time speaking to lovely catalonians and other spanish people on the beach in the meantime. Everybody has only one choice how to best spend their time I suppose.
FoE: Franco had his place. Spain had only two options: the Communists or the Fascists. Had the Communists won, Spain would have been under their heel for far longer and it would have been far, far more damaged than it was under Franco. That said, Franco was a brutal, violent and vicious dictator who lived in a land of fantasy and attempted to recreate a Spain that never existed — he was an Iberian Mussolini and little more. Spain is a very different country now — in many ways for the better, in some ways for the worse. I despise the beach, but I much prefer walking down old streets in Castile following different ambulatories of thought — more and more frequently in Spanish.