If I happened to be Swedish and I was watching one of the TV reports these days about those people with tall hoods and all the typical religious celebrations in the streets of Spanish towns, which are so baroque flavoured, as if time had stopped and stood still right there, my first thought would probably be to go there some time and attend some such exotic event as a tourist.
Then perhaps I would have a look at the weekly press only to find out that serious allegations had been made in Andalusia of an outrageous €2 billion fraud committed by regional authorities and derived from recycling courses for unemployed workers; that would remind me of the last EU report on unemployment, published recently, according to which Spain, together with Greece, is not only the country with the highest unemployment rate in Europe but also seven of its regions are among the top ten by unemployment, led only by two regions in Macedonia and by the remote Reunion island in the Indian ocean. Which means that even most of the French overseas colonies have better unemployment rates than they have in Spain.
I would then look at the map, also provided by the EU, and would soon realize that this structural problem is related mainly to the regions in the South, as is also the case in Italy; in the Northern regions unemployment rates are just one third of the highest ones. In Spain, though, the equalizer system of the so called State of Autonomies has reached an outstanding record: even the most developed, economically driven regions —such as Valencia, Aragon, Catalonia and the Balearic Islands— go beyond the ominous red line of a 20% unemployment rate.
There is still more. As a Swede, if I was keeping an eye on both the youth- and long-term unemployment rates, I would see that Ceuta and Melilla (Spanish cities on the Northern African coastline), the Canary Islands and Andalusia are on the front line with rates of over 55%, together with the French overseas colonies of Guadalupe, Martinique and Guyana.
Not knowing of any official explanation for this picture, I would think that all these Spanish territories, parallel to the French ones overseas, must still be colonies of the old Kingdom of Castille that were submitted 500 years ago to the dominant oligarchic class which is now also stopping the most industrious territories within the peninsula from developing any further.
If I went on revising last week's news I would gather information that Spain also leads the ranking of students dropping out of school, just as it leads the ranking of best paid footballers.
Anyway, it has the longest high speed train track and also the highest and most expensive energy costs too. Then, as a Swedie, I would scratch my head in astonishment and would say to myself: why should I contribute at all to that 1.27% of the European GDP to be sent deep down into any dark bottomless pit like Spain? Being a fair Swedish citizen I wouldn’t be happy if I knew I were to keep paying even one cent devoted to maintaining such an immense absurdity called Spain any longer.
But if I were Catalan instead of Swedish, my contribution to the absurdity of Spain would be so great it would reach between 8% and 10% of GDP. Then I would probably begin to wonder if Europe is really able to fully understand that such extractive oligarchic economies —of which Spain is the most prominent— must be profoundly changed and thoroughly reoriented; so if Europe was not to comprehend why a nation like Catalonia —one of the few territories able to react against such absurdity— really needs emancipation, then maybe Europe does not deserve Catalonia’s interest in being an active part; why should Catalonia remain in Europe if it only backs the strong and allows oligarchic minorities to maintain their wealthy lifestyle on the back of the productive hard work of other less eminent people? If I was considering all this as a Catalan, I am not sure I would be dreaming about being Swedish. Maybe being Norwegian would be better.
Josep Huguet Biosca, former Minister of the Government of Catalonia (2004-2010).
President of the Irla Foundation.
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