Next year the general election in Spain will choose which of the two major political parties will struggle on for another four years; the economy in ruins, the unemployment figures spiralling upwards, confidence in local and national politicians reaching its lowest level since the death of Franco. In fact one could assume that the Spanish people had more confidence in politicians during Franco’s ‘government’ than now, for the simple reason that with Franco you knew exactly where you stood. It was a given that you were not permitted to talk about politics, and anyway could not gather together in a crowd to do so with breaking the law; choices were few or non-existent. This perhaps explains why so many Spaniards, especially in more rural districts, sang rather a lot as they went about their labours.
Unemployment was nil. Bread, potatoes and tomatoes, sugar, water and wine were cheap. Meat was so scarce you forgot what it tastes like. Fish was plentiful because fishermen actually fished. Subsidies for workers who preferred not to work had not been invented. Social security and the beginnings of a national health system had been invented.
Everyone knew frightful atrocities had occurred during the Civil War, and were to carry on occurring for years after the war was over. The reddest left-wingers ensured the continuance of the class struggle. The bluest of the right-wingers abused their position, deluded their family (‘Socialism is the work of the Devil’), and went consistently to Mass. Liberals disliked this. Some newspapers began to develop the notion that we all have a right to our opinion, unless it be Roman Catholic or Conservative, in which case we don’t. But whichever party wins in 2012 it will have one prime piece of legislation to change as soon as possible, if not earlier. It might involve a change of name. Both leading parties might start by making sure they understand the true meaning of ‘supreme’ and ‘constitutional’.
The reason why BILDU, a coalition party in northern party consisting of members of Herribatasuna (ETA), or sympathisers of ETA, now holds power in so many villages, towns and cities in the Basque Country and Navarra is that the Rubalcaba-conducted government of Mr Zapatero dreams of making one last glorious stand against the Right in an attempt to come to peaceful terms with ETA, a terrorist group dedicated to independence for the Basque Country and the conversion of Spain into a Lay Republic. ZP and Rubalcaba believe that true peace with ETA would guarantee a PSOE government virtually for ever, as all Spaniards are desperately tired of the murderous pastime of terrorism, and almost everybody in the nation has lost a loved one in the mayhem of the last thirty-five years.
One certain route was the introduction of members of BILDU into the town halls and communities of the north. But one legal body stood in the way before the municipal elections of 22 May – the Supreme Court. This body of learned jurists voted to exclude members of BILDU from electoral lists, on the grounds of the party’s tangible connection with ETA, and unilateral refusal to condemn the violence.
But what does ‘supreme’ mean? I quote the dictionary: “of highest status or power; of highest quality, importance etc.; greatest in degree; ultimate; the supreme judgment etc.” To judge by these connotations a wise person could not be blamed in assuming that judgment by the Supreme Court in Madrid would indicate the last word. In Spain, however, it is often folly to be wise. The sentence imposed by the Supreme Court prohibiting BILDU from inclusion in the electoral lists was ‘upset’ by the Constitutional Court. Or rather, the Government did not question that the Constitutional Court had the legal power to do the upsetting.
Again we quote a dictionary: “constitutional – of a constitution; authorized by or subject to a constitution”. A nation’s constitution is written by its subjects, or by chosen representatives of its subjects. It is the basis of Law. But application, expediting or analytical questioning of elements in the Constitution must or should be the task of a Court which has been judged supreme. If it is NOT supreme it should be dissolved. If it is supreme it should be obeyed. Here is the fatal flaw in the case of BILDU. A supreme court judged that BILDU’s representatives should not be allowed to stand as candidates in an election which, if they were elected, would give them limited or limitless power over their fellow citizens in a community. But a constitutional court, which should by the nature of its name be inferior, was accepted by the Cabinet as being superior in its nature to a supreme one. Now does this mean that we have two ‘supreme’ courts?
The EU: who’s in charge?
Eurosceptics are out in the streets or Brussels and Strasbourg popping open the champagne. Those few of us who still see the European Union as a Good Thing are trying to dry unstoppable tears. With the signing of the Lisbon Treaty keen europhiles hoped that the way towards federalism was clear, the Union would have a president and a foreign minister, and that Brussels would get an embassy in all the capitals of the world. Selfish old great-grandmothers like Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Spain would breathe a sigh of relief and forget their national history, bury their traditions, worship the Euro (Britain must be spoken to severely about this) and federal Europe would stand up to the USA and China/Japan/India etc., as a kind of Sovereign United State.
What happened? Instead of being a superstate, Europe is a mishmash. The single currency is threatened by debt crises in Greece, Ireland, Portugal and – any second now – Spain. Only tiny Iceland has shown any guts, in the strength of the people’s heart, not the flounderings of its politicians. Formerly open frontiers are being closed in an attempt to keep out crowds of refugees from the Arab Spring Revolution. There is no European Army, so Britain and France are trying to liberate Libya, with constant and molesting interruptions from unwieldy, authoritative, under-armed and over-generalled NATO. Germany only looks East, preferring China and Russia as bedmates.
The Union has a President, one Herman Van Rompuy, an intelligent, cultured and multi-lingual Belgian accustomed to Belgian politics. If you can negotiate equally with Flanders and Wallonia you should be hot stuff, and this should aid you in dealing with Merkel, Berlusconi and Sarkozy, while walking the tightrope holding a muted David Cameron in one hand, and a capering Zapatero in the other. But Van Rompuy is not much of a Charlemagne is he? He is all but invisible. Recently he suggested a quick visit to Berlin to discuss the failing single currency, but Merkel told him not to bother, as she was ‘too busy’.
At Rompuy’s elbow is an English baroness called Catherine Ashton. I do not know why she is a baroness, but assume she has become one, by one means or another. Ashton is the Union’s representative for Foreign Affairs. She only speaks English, which is very ‘English’ of her but perhaps not suitable in the twenty-first century. She is said to be learning French. Mandarin Chinese might be more useful. The French, meanwhile, mutter darkly about Ashton whom they do not admire. She does not believe in racing about the planet’s capitals. She is not an experienced political operator, nor an expert on foreign policy. She got the job because David Miliband turned it down, a decision he probably regrets now that his kid brother runs the Labour Party. Senhor Barroso, President of the European Commission is said to make Ashton’s life difficult.
We must remember that in order to comply with political correctitude, there is a super-expensive Union, Parliament and Commission, financed by European taxpayers. But in European capitals there are precious few real leaders. History has shown that the Union is only strong when leaders of the European Powers are strong. Persons like Mitterand, de Gaulle, Thatcher, Adenauer, and Kohl were leaders full of confidence in their own authority, and therefore could share European power. But who or what are Merkel or Sarkozy? It is said they are too weak at home to hold any authority in the Union. How can they be expected to confront a man so experienced in governance as Putin, or any of the Chinese? In Germany, people are impatient with the notion that their nation should put the interests of Europe first. Why should they? Why should hard-working Germans pay for Irish, Greek, Portuguese or Spanish profligacy? It is this question, multiplied appropriately, that accelerates mounting scepticism of the European Union.