Spain and Senegal Enter Migration Deal

Migration from poorer areas to richer areas can either be managed or un-managed. After years of the latter, it looks like Spain and Senegal are going to try the former.

The deal would discourage illegal migration and give Spain the opportunity to recruit a significant number of workers, Mr Moratinos said.

More than half of the 26,000 migrants who have reached the Spanish Canary Islands this year come from Senegal.

[Spanish Foreign Minister] Moratinos also signed a co-operation deal that will give Senegal up to 15m euros (£10.3m) of Spanish aid annually over five years.

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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The Catalan Statute

Well here in sunny Catalonia we don’t have a fooball team of our own right now, so maybe that’s why we chose this precise moment to hold a referendum about our future.

Now the first thing to get straight is that despite all the direst predictions, Spain is still here the morning after the big vote, and in one piece, I just touched the floor to prove it. Indeed 11 footballers (some of them Catalan) will also come to earth on German turf tonight just to graphically illustrate the point. So it does seem that some of the concerns raised in the coments to this post were well wide of the mark.

Some issues do, however, remain.
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Oh We Are The Champions

Yes we are really, aren’t we. Especially if we are called Arcelor, or Danone, or Endesa, or Eni, or Enel, or Banca Antonveneta or Pekao. And what these champions have in common, and it is this which sets them so much apart from their footballing equivalents, is not the ability to win anything, but rather their capacity to lose, especially in a take-over battle from a foreign pretender. And just for this very reason it is, it seems, ok for you to include the referee in your line-up. Indeed such is the sporting prowess of these ‘champions’ that it is deemed that what they are most in need of is not the cold harsh wind of competition, but rather protection, and indeed protectionism, anything rather than face outright competition from would-be global rivals. A rare breed of champions these.

I think before I go further, I would like to draw attention to one idea which holds us all together here at Afoe:

Purity of race does not exist. Europe is a continent of energetic mongrels. – H.A.L. Fisher
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Spain Is Now Over The Radar

It all started with the Catalan Statute, then there was this piece, then Wolfgang Munchau joined in. Today comes the news that:

The European Union’s top competition regulator will this week issue formal antitrust charges against Telefónica, alleging that the Spanish telecommunications group has abused its dominant position in the fast-growing market for broadband services.

And there is the situation with the takeover bid from the German group Eon for the Spanish utility company Endesa (full copy here):

ImageEon, Germany’s biggest power group, on Tuesday launched a €29bn cash offer for Spain’s Endesa, raising prospects of renewed consolidation in Europe’s energy sector.

If Eon succeeds it would be the word’s largest utility deal, valuing Endesa at €55bn, including debt and minority interests. It would create the world’s biggest utility with 50m customers across 30 countries in Europe and the Americas.

But the move, which trumps a rival bid from Gas Natural, threatened to disrupt Spanish efforts to create a national champion in the power sector and presented a challenge to Brussels just days after it announced an antitrust crackdown in the energy sector.

The curtain is about to be drawn like never before on Spain’s inner ‘boudoir’. Let’s just hope that everything which is to be found there makes for suitable public viewing.

Hot Labour Anyone?

This post has one sovereign virtue: apart from in the current sentence it will not refer, either directly or indirectly, to the Catalan Statute. The topic it does deal with however is probably equally vital for the future of Spain. The issue is Spain’s housing boom, and the role of immigration in fuelling it. Two facts above all others stand out: Spain is currently ‘enjoying’ the longest and deepest housing boom (in the current round) among all the world’s developed economies (see this useful article from the Economist, or this one from Business Week), and Spain is also enjoying sustained rates of immigration which – at around 2% of the population per annum, may well be the most intense ever experienced in a developed economy. For purposes of comparison I could point out that Spain’s net migration rate of 17.6 per thousand in 2003 contrasts sharply with that recorded for the old European Union 15 for the same year – 5.4 per thousand – and is even well above the level recorded by Germany in the early 1990s – a maximum of 9.6 per thousand in 1992 – or by France in the early 1970s. So there is a housing boom, and there is immigration, the question is, what is the connection?
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Troglodytes Making Waves

A couple of weeks ago I posted here about how a senior officer in the Spanish army – Lt. Gen. Jose Mena Aguado – had been placed under house arrest for insinuating that the Spanish military might have a responsibility to intervene in defence of the Spanish Constitution if the new Catalan Statute of Autonomy went forward in its present form. Well yesterday news of this seems to have reached the New York Times. Describing the officers in question as troglodytes, the NYT has especially harsh words for the opposition Partido Popular, whose leaders, it should be remembered, described Aguado’s statement as ‘logical’ in the context of what was being proposed:

The response of the center-left government of Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero has been appropriately firm, including the dismissal and arrest of one of the culprits, a senior army general. Regrettably, the center-right Popular Party, the main opposition group, seems more interested in making excuses for the officers than in defending the democratic order in which it has a vital stake.

“Spanish society, Spanish politicians and, for the most part, Spanish military officers have come a long way from that (the Franco) era, moderating their views and deepening their commitment to democratic give-and-take. But the Popular Party has had a hard time getting over its electoral defeat nearly two years ago, days after the terrorist bombings of commuter trains in Madrid. It has never really accepted the democratic legitimacy of that vote. It is time for the Popular Party to move ahead. Spanish democracy needs and deserves vigorous bipartisan support.”

The NYT does arrive rather late on the scene. The Economist had this piece on the 12th January, and the FT this one on the 10th January. Meanwhile, the New York Times story is itself making waves here. The Basque news agency EITB24 covers it here. And all of which on the day in which the Partido Popular has begun collecting signatures for a referendum (in defence of the constitution and) against the the new Statute, a referendum which would itself be, well, guess what, unconstitutional, and on which Josep Piqué, leader of the PP in Catalonia, had to be given a three hour talking-to to convince him not to resign from the party, since, again guess what, he thinks the latest version of the text isn’t at all bad!

Spain’s Immigration

As Spanish commenter Pepe would probably say, ‘hot labour’ is moving into Spain at a nifty clip: 2% of the total population per annum. In 2004 the number increased by 700,000. Last year, although we don’t have the numbers yet there was probably the same number or more. Here is a story from El Pais which was linked-to in the IHT based on this press release (in Spanish). Note that these numbers are for 1 January 2005, we still have to add 2006.

The number of immigrants in Spain rose last year to the equivalent of 8.5 percent of the total population as of January 1, 2005, according to figures released on Tuesday by the National Statistics Institute (INE). Of the total 44.1 million people registered as residents, 3.7 million were non-Spanish. The total population rose 2.1 percent from the year-earlier figure, while the number of immigrants rose 23 percent from the figures released on January 1, 2004.

The regions that registered the largest rise in population were Catalonia, Andalusia, Madrid and Valencia, largely due to immigration. Only in the North African enclave of Melilla did the population decrease, the INE said.

The largest immigrant group hails from Ecuador with 475,698 residents, followed by Morocco with 420,556, Colombia with 248,894, Romania with 207,960 and Britain with 174,810.

For towns with more than 10,000 inhabitants, Rojales in Alicante boasts the largest percentage of foreign-born residents. Of the total population of 13,807, 65.3 percent are immigrants, the INE said. Rojales, about 35 kilometers from Alicante, is a popular spot for British citizens to buy vacation and retirement homes.

In November, the Center for Sociological Research (CIS) released a survey showing that three out of every five Spaniards responded that there are too many immigrants in Spain. Immigration also was shown to be the second-most important problem for Spaniards (40 percent) after unemployment (54.1 percent) and ahead of terrorism (25.3 percent).

Nevertheless, the same survey showed that nearly 61 percent of Spaniards feel immigrants should have the right to vote in local elections, while 53.4 percent would extend that right to national elections.

Words Said In More Than Jest

This news is surely not as grave as it seems, but the placing under house arrest of the commander of the Spanish Land Forces is hardly to be taken as a trifle. In a move which is reminiscent of the environment surrounding the military coup of 1981., the decision of Defence Minister José Bono to place Lt. Gen. Jose Mena Aguado under house arrest and relieve him of his duties may seem to be a strong one (Aguado was to have resigned in only a few months), as there is really surely no imminent danger of a military coup. It does however reveal just how sensitive the issue is in a country which has seen both civil war and attempted Coup d’Etat. The military is definitely not a welcome participant in the political process here.

What exactly did Aguado do? Well essentially he chose the opportunity of an occassion which is something like army day’ to cite in a speech a clause in the Spanish constitution that calls on the armed forces to intervene if needed to guarantee the unity, independence and sovereignty of Spain, using the example of the proposed reform to the Catalan Statute of Autonomy as an explicit case in point. He did not specify how he thought the armed forces should intervene.

So the rapid response of Bono is both welcome, and unsurprising, what is more surprising – or given recent events, perhaps it isn’t – is the reaction of the opposition Partido Popular:

Only the right wing Popular Party, the most vociferous opponent of the Catalan charter, pulled back from condemning the officer, saying his comments were the logical result of the uncertainty triggered by the charter debate.

So those who claim to be the staunchest defenders of the Spanish constitution turn out to be the most blasé when someone rattles some sabres which might actually threaten its integrity.

Sparkling Spain

Spain’s economy is of course booming, (as it has been for the last ten years). The inflation rate is booming too. Some even go so far as to suggest that Spain should now become a member fo the G8. Spanish people are of course buying a lot more houses, indeed more housing units were built in Spain last year than in Germany, France and Italy combined, and since, as Brad Delong pointed out yesterday, as long as interest rates stay low, the housing sector can keep booming, and since in the short term interest rates in Spain will stay low, then the boom looks set to continue. Plenty of reasons then, at least for now, to break open the bubbly.

Which is what, of course, a lot of people having been doing. In Spain by bubbly people normally mean Cava, a Catalan beveridge which is really remarkably similar to French Champagne. This year, however, things may be a little different, at least in some parts of Spain, since in addition to having a smokeless celebration, many will also be having a cava-free one.

So what is this all about? Well funnily enough rather than being about Eve (whether New Year’s or Xmas), this topic is in fact much more about José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero (the Spanish Prime Minister/President).
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