A Face That Launched A Thousand Ships

An unlikely Helen, Spain’s deputy prime minister, Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, that’s for sure. Yet outside a few thousand years difference in timing the two seem to have been cut out for one and the same the same historical role: urging the boats to go back. Indeed the only thing which really separates them might be the magnitude of the problem to hand, since Coalición Canaria president Paulino Rivero suggested this weekend that what might be involved were not a mere 1,000 ships, but anything between 10,000 and 15,000 currently being built along the Mauritanian and Senegalese coastlines.

Joking aside this post is about tragedy, a human tragedy. According to the NGOs who are involved some 3,000 people have already died in attempting to make the hazardous crossing, a crossing which was actually completed over this weekend by a record 1,200 people in 36 hours.

As well as tragedy the post is also about folly, the folly of those economists who think low fertility isn’t an important economic issue. This opinion was recently expressed by respected US economist Greg Mankiw, (on his blog) who described the very idea that it might be as ‘wrong headed’ and, to boot, suggested that a poll of the world’s top ten economists would draw a blank on names who thought that low fertility was among Europe’s major economic problems. I am sure Mankiw is right about the poll, and this is why I use the expression ‘folly’. So what do I mean?
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Morocco’s Offshoring Advantage

Following up on my Euromed post on Afoe, I see McKinsey have a report of Morocco’s potential as a services outsource base for the Spanish speaking and Francophone parts of the EU (registration required, but easy and worthwhile IMHO):

Morocco’s appeal includes wages for white-collar workers that are half those in France, a relatively high proportion of university graduates, and many citizens who speak French, the second language in the central region of the country. Furthermore, the cost and quality of its already respectable telecommunications infrastructure are set to improve further with the expected entry of Spain’s Telefónica as a second fixed-line operator. The country’s nascent offshoring sector, with an estimated current turnover of €85 million, includes some 50 mostly small providers that will employ a total of about 10,000 people by the end of 2005. Still, Morocco has captured almost half of the fledgling market for call centers serving French-speaking companies. In addition, Telefónica has established a captive call center in northern Morocco, where Spanish is the second language.

The Outermost Regions

In the comments to a recent post, the question arose of the “natural boundaries” of the EU. Apropos of that, let us briefly consider those parts of the EU that are outside of Europe. Sometimes very far outside.

The EU has a formal name for these territories: they are “the Outermost Regions of Europe”. Officially, there are six of them: Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, Réunion, the Azores, the Canaries and Madeira. Four French overseas possessions, two Spanish and one Portuguese archipelago.

I say “officially”, because there are a number of territories that aren’t covered under this. The Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in Africa aren’t, presumably because they’re considered part of metropolitan Spain. The Falkland Islands aren’t, because that would be very upsetting to Argentina. And French Polynesia isn’t, because French Polynesia is very confusing. (This is a territory where everyone has double citizenship — French and French Polynesian — and that’s the least complicated thing about it.)

Then there’s Greenland, which is part of Denmark, except not exactly; the Turks and Caicos Islands, whose citizens are British citizens, and so EU citizens, but who can’t vote in EU elections; the Netherlands Antilles… oh, the list goes on.

But let’s keep it simple, and just look at the bits that are absolutely, positively part of the EU: the seven official “outermost regions”, plus Ceuta and Melilla.
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Interpreting Spain’s Election Results

By now virtually everyone must know the results of the Spanish elections. I suppose the real questions people are asking involve how to interpret them. I would advise against jumping to hasty conclusions here. I picked up one comment on Crooked Timber to the effect that:

“anybody who decided to vote Socialist after the bombings presumably expected that the Socialists would reverse the government?s Iraq policy and do less in the war on terror than the government was likely to do.?

I think this view is a mistake, and doesn’t reveal much understanding about the dynamic of Spainsh politics over the last decade.
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