Lo que piensa The Economist sobre la presidencia española de la UE

No hay que creer todo lo que uno lee, pero tampoco creer que todos se equivocan.



Old Spanish practices

Spain now leads the European Union, but not by example

Jan 7th 2010 | From The Economist print edition

by Peter Schrank

IN FEBRUARY 2005 Charlemagne spent a morning pestering voters in
Barcelona for their views ahead of Spain’s referendum on the European
Union’s planned Constitutional Treaty. It proved a tricky few hours.
Voter after voter appeared baffled that their Yes might even be in
doubt. “Pues hombre, cómo no?” replied one pensioner—or,
roughly, “Of course I will vote Yes.” After further prodding, the
pensioner offered an explanation. “We have to support Europe, because it
means progress.”

Later that year, the constitution was killed off by No votes in
France and the Netherlands, following heated referendum debates. (Reborn
as the Lisbon treaty, a near-identical collection of rule changes, it
came into force in December 2009.) But Spain’s referendum was never in
doubt. The prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, toured the
country talking about the tens of billions of euros in subsidies poured
into Spain since joining the EU in 1986. Four out of every ten
kilometres of Spain’s highway network were built with European money, Mr
Zapatero told rallies: now, it was time to vote Yes “in gratitude”.

It was not just the money. Arguments for or against European
integration are often expressed in terms of objective economics, or
rational interests. But one of Europe’s little secrets is that
Euroscepticism and Europhilia are not really determined by the head, but
by the heart (and life-story). Who you are, and where you are from,
matters more than any theory. For Britons, joining Europe in 1973 was
overwhelmingly an act of economic pragmatism. For Spaniards old enough
to remember Franco, joining the European Union felt like the capstone on
a long process of liberation. Spaniards talk about “Europe” as bound up
emotionally with the coming of democracy, with the release from
isolation in a conservative, rural Iberian peninsula, even—in
Barcelona—with the scrapping of Franco-era rules repressing the Catalan
language. The phrase “European constitution” had positive overtones,
thanks to Spanish reverence for their first post-Fascist constitution,
drawn up in 1978 and still celebrated in an annual holiday.

All of this Euro-enthusiasm helps explain why Mr Zapatero’s
government is making such a meal of the fact that Spain took over the
six-month rotating presidency of the EU on January 1st. Five days in, a
series of former Euro-bigwigs, among them the ex-president of the
European Commission, Jacques Delors, arrived in Madrid to discuss
Spain’s biggest ambition for its turn chairing ministerial meetings: the
launch of a “2020 strategy” for Europe. This is a ten-year plan for
boosting competitiveness and growth to help pay for Europe’s generous
welfare systems. It follows another ten-year plan, the old “Lisbon
strategy”, which failed wretchedly in its aim of making the EU “the
world’s most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy” by 2010.

Alas, the reaction has been unenthusiastic. Spanish unemployment is
heading close to 20% (double the average among euro-zone countries),
following the popping of a housing bubble of monstrous proportions. It
is worsened by a two-tier labour market in which a hard core of
permanent workers is almost impossible to sack, shovelling the pain onto
those on temporary contracts, all too often meaning the young and
immigrants. Editorials across the EU have mocked the idea of Mr Zapatero
advising Europe on economic recovery.

Outsiders’ hostility has other causes, too. Among these is belated
shock that rotating six-month presidencies still exist. The Lisbon
treaty creates a new standing president to chair meetings of national
governments in the European Council, and a foreign-policy chief to chair
meetings of foreign ministers. Brussels fizzes with rumours that the
new council president, Herman Van Rompuy, who started work on January
4th, will be locked in a fight for airtime with Mr Zapatero. There is
much sniffiness about Spain’s insistence on hosting an EU-US summit in
Madrid this May, so that Mr Zapatero can welcome Barack Obama to Spanish
soil, though—some say—Mr Van Rompuy should by rights host the summit in
Brussels. Some of this is just snippiness from bored Eurocrats. But
some of the hostility matters.

The refrain in Spain

In important ways, Spain symbolises, on a national scale, broader
European trends. Its booming economy was hailed, for years, by those who
(rightly) supported a model of EU enlargement based on competition, the
removal of trade barriers, and catch-up growth. When Spain joined the
block, it was a poor, rural, rather protectionist place. Long before the
Polish plumber became a bogeyman, neighbours like France fretted about
competition from cheap Spanish tomatoes and bricklayers. The deal, in
effect, was for Spain to lift trade barriers and accept competition
within the newly created single market in exchange for cash to
modernise. For more than two decades, the results looked like a win for
both sides. Spain modernised beyond recognition, and two-way trade with
the rest of Europe boomed. Like it or not, Spain’s economic agonies are a
blow to that convergence model.

Next, Spain’s rigid, overpriced labour market will be a test case for
the euro zone, and whether countries that use the euro have the
political will to regain competitiveness by lowering labour costs, now
they cannot devalue their own currencies.

Finally, Spain offers warnings about being a midsized power, in an
age increasingly dominated by emerging giants. Spain fought like fury to
be invited to recent G20 summits. Mr Zapatero succeeded only in
amplifying the sense that there were too many Europeans sitting at the
table. The European Union, a bunch of midsized powers with lots of ideas
about how the world should run its affairs—notably over climate change
and financial regulation—should ponder Spain’s lesson. If you want your
advice to be heeded, you need something credible to say.»


También es interesante el artículo que habla sobre los toros…y los relaciona con el separatismo y lo bien que vendría para la «moderación separatista» -he entendido yo-, y para la gobernabilidad de España, el que CIU ganase las próximas elecciones catalanas.

Se titula el artículo que recomiendo:


«The future of Catalonia

Of bulls and ballots

Catalonia is set to have a big role in Spain’s politics

Jan 7th 2010 | BARCELONA | From The Economist
print edition»


Buen provecho al que le interese leerlo.



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