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.
Continue reading

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
Continue reading

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).
Continue reading

Spain: Is An End To Eta Imminent?

“The insurgents in Iraq are very violent, but you defeat them not just through military effort,” Ms. Rice told reporters traveling with her on Sunday. “You defeat them by having a political alternative that is strong.” Now, she added, Iraqi leaders are “going to have to intensify their efforts to demonstrate that in fact the political process is the answer for the Iraqi people.”

These words from US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, which are extremely welcome as the daily death toll in Iraq only continues to emphasise the need to break the spiral, also has a resonance somewhere nearer home: in Spain, where tomorrow the Spanish parliament are to debate a motion which may be a major step in bring the epoch of ETA inspired violence to an end.

But not everyone is happy.
Continue reading

Spanish Troops With A UN/NATO Mandate?

I haven’t much to say about this that I haven’t already said, but the idea of Spain forming part of a NATO contingent which is under a UN mandate would seem to me to represent real progress.

“Yes there is some doubt about the Spanish contingent but otherwise the Iraq force is there,” said one. “It will just be a question of changing their badges and flags to ‘NATO’.”
Continue reading

Six Moroccans Identified in Madrid Bombing

Well, little by little the details are getting clearer. According to the Spanish daily El Pais the police now know the identity of six Moroccans who are thought to have participated in Thursday’s bombing.

According to the newspaper one of those responsible is Jamal Zougan from Tangiers who has been identified from photographs by two passengers from one of the bombed trains. These passengers have also identified two more people who accompanied Zougan that day. These latter two are thought by police to have been combatants in Chechenia and Bosnia. Zougan also shared a flat at one time with Abdelaziz Benyaich who is under preventive detention in Spain for his presumed association with the bombing of a Spanish cultural centre in Casablanca last year.

Oh, what a tangled web they weave!
Continue reading

Fair and Balanced?

Two versions of the Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero story, Fox and Bloomberg, choose for yourselves.

BTW: anyone out there help me: what is the Blair/Labour Government official position right now on the UN and troop withdrawal? Just to put this in some sort of perspective.
Continue reading