Monthly Archives: March 2009

Ya Empezamos! Caja Castilla La Mancha ‘bailed out’

The Spanish government has moved to ‘bail out’ the first banking institution to fail in Spain during the current financial crisis.

In Spain, we have banks ‘bancos de credito’ and building societies ‘cajas de ahorros’, with the building societies being the most common place for Spaniards to keep their money. There are tons of building societies here, and the Caja Castilla La Mancha (CCM) isn’t the largest by a long way (I believe that this honour falls to La Caixa d’Estalvis i Pensions de Barcelona, ‘La Caixa’). In fact, CCM is apparently the newest of Spain’s building societies. All the same, news of troubles at CCM suggests that the building society system here, much touted as being safer than those in other European countries, isn’t quite as cast-iron as we’d been led to believe.

I bank with La Caixa (well, I have my salary paid there: I don’t get involved in anything more complex than having a credit card), and I will be damned annoyed if it appears that the Barcelona bank is in trouble too. The amount they charge me for basic services….

Let’s hope that this so-called bail out means that normal customers don’t end up losing any of their cash. But shouldn’t we be pushing for a full nationalisation of the banks? I feel a poll coming on.

European parliament votes against choice of language in schools

Despite being generally divided on the issue of multilingualism, the parliament apparently approved a PSOE-CiU-ICV-PNV-EA amendment that removed references to parents’ rights to choose the language in which their children are taught. Protecting the range of languages in some countries (like Spain) was described as ‘essential’.

So that’s the end of that debate, I imagine.

The Kosovo problem

It’s a lovely sunny day here in Cerdanyola del Vallès, so I’ll probably spend it doing some of my favourite things: installing Ubuntu ‘Jaunty’ Alpha 6 on my netbook, playing Empire Total War, writing performance reviews for my team at work… and reading about how Zapatero’s suffering with the ‘Kosovo problem’.

The problem, in case you didn’t know, is fairly simple: Spain refuses to recognise Kosovo as an independent state because this would signify acceptance that small nations may break away from supra-national states like Serbia or… Spain. You see where this is going, don’t you? Because of this tricky diplomatic choice, Spain has now announced that it will withdraw its armed forces from the NATO peacekeeping force which polices Kosovo. This has upset the United States, and effectively dissolves any credit Zapatero may have had with the new regime in Washington DC. The American response was an expression of “deep disappointment”, according to El País, with State Department spokesman Robert Wood saying that the US “neither understands nor agrees with” Spain’s move. Zapatero claims that Spain’s NATO allies were aware of the planned exit, but other sources suggest that all this came as something of a surprise.

So basically, Spain pulls out of the Balkan state in an attempt to prevent the ‘Balkanisation’ of Spain.

Personally, I’m not really that fussed about Spain losing some grace in Washington DC, or with NATO: neither the US government nor their SEO agency in Europe operate with anything like the moral clarity that I’d like to see. But many Spaniards do worry about these things… indeed, some bloggers used to spend nearly all their time monitoring Zapatero’s approval ratings in the Bush administration (a bit of a waste of time, that). The Partido ‘Popular’ have been quick to label this as ‘another disaster’ for the Socialist government, though typically they offer no alternative solution.

And that’s because the solution to the problem, for all the PP’s crowing, would be unthinkable for any Spanish government. The solution is simple: recognise Kosovo. It’ll have to happen eventually anyway, so why not get it done now and avoid all this hassle? To me, Zapatero seems to have reacted to the PP’s rhetoric about a ‘Balkanisation’ that almost certainly won’t happen. The reason it won’t happen is that there just isn’t enough public support for independence in the two most troublesome ‘nations’ within Spain: the Basque Country and Catalonia.

If referenda were held in 2012 in the Basque Country and Catalonia, I’m pretty sure that the Basques would vote in favour of staying part of Spain, and so would the Catalans (although the Catalan result would probably be closer). What Zapatero risks with this childish insistence on failing to recognise Kosovo’s independence is that people will start to take the concept of Spain’s constituent nations breaking away, seriously. The bolder (though obviously slightly more risky) move would be to recognise Kosovo and then say “referendum on Catalan independence? BRING IT ON!”.

That the Spanish state is so afraid of a referendum threatens to make it a self-fulfilling prophecy.

LiC cites the ABC, demonstrates shaky grasp of everything

Another faintly ridiculous article from the LiC blog here, claiming that Carod Rovira is determined to destroy the Spanish language. The reason behind this claim is that the Generalitat have apparently invested €1m in helping the Ecuadorian government protect its indigenous languages and to promote bilingualism. You can find more information about this program from the dineib agency of the Ecuadorian education ministry.

In the comments on the blog (my tip is don’t bother leaving a comment: he’ll likely delete you or change your words), Mathew points out that this move has nothing to do with Carod Rovira or the president’s department of the Generalitat, providing the link I used earlier to dineib. Jeff/Steve/whoever it is that runs LiC’s response was priceless:

My dear Mathew, I do love your sense of humour. Far from being utterly ridiculous, the article was a direct translation from the noted newspaper ABC, I don’t know if you read the news in Spanish by the way.

Now, for those of you who are as yet unblessed by contact with the ABC newspaper, this would be something like a British blogger saying “Not my words, Mathew. The words of the Daily Express!”. OK so it’s not a perfect comparison (the ABC is far stuffier and more traditional than the Express) – but the point (that citing it as a reliable source on any story, let alone one concerning the Catalan government which it is duty bound to despise, is ridiculous and shows a complete lack of understanding of the subject), stands. And never mind the fact that the article was ‘a direct translation’ without citation.

He goes on:

Yours is a typical example comment from a “wannabee [sic] radical Catalan” and most people with a “sufficient level of intellectual cohesion in English” would poo poo your delirious ideals.You’ve spent far too long in this region my friend.

Now this is a particularly interesting method of attack coming from someone who has frequently used the riposte “Come back when you’ve lived here for ten years, then we’ll see” as his stock response to logical argument and accurate criticism. Incidentally, this “wannabee radical Catalan” line is eerily close to the email another commentator received from said ‘admin’ which included the memorable line “What are you? Some little Catalan loser who leaves snide remarks like Tom and Rab over people’s blogs because you can’t face the truth.” and went on to call him a “silly cunt”.

Add all this to the roll of honours LiC has already claimed (stating that the nivell C certificate is ‘the same’ as forced tattooing in Nazi death camps; deleting comments which attempted to correct him; posting fake comments; trolling this site; nicking content), and we can see that not only is LiC not a blog worth following, it’s not even worth criticising.

At least Iberian Notes had a brain. All LiC has is a bit of SEO, some clumsy, amateurish SEM and a dearth of decent content.

thebadPoll: Catalan referendum on independence

Last weekend, thousands of Catalans demonstrated in Brussels, demanding the right to hold a referendum to determine whether Catalonia should be independent of Spain. Holding such a referendum would currently be illegal under Spain’s constitution.

I imagine that practically everyone who took part in the protest actually supports independence. But this poll addresses the aim of the Plataforma pel Dret de Decidir (Platform for the Right to Decide), namely: should Catalonia be allowed to hold a referendum on independence? (N.B. the question is not “independence, yes or no?” but “referendum, yes or no?”).


Should Catalonia be allowed to hold a referendum on independence?

  • Yes (92.0%, 48 Votes)
  • No (6.0%, 3 Votes)
  • Don’t know/Find it difficult to form opinions (2.0%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 52

thebadPoll: problems with language

This is a bit of an old chestnut. There are a lot of stories around about people having trouble with Catalan speakers (generally in Barcelona), refusing to serve people in Spanish or being rude or unfriendly because of the victim’s lack of ability with Catalan.

Now, this isn’t a poll about whether you agree with the Generalitat’s language policies or not… maybe I’ll do that next. The question is simple: Have you ever had problems with Catalan speakers refusing to serve you in Spanish?

As usual, you can answer to the right >>

…but if you want to expand on your answer, just leave a comment.