Sunday, 5 October 2008

Spain and the European Union

Well we arrived back from our holiday in the Sierra Nevada mountains and flew into a windswept and very wet East Midlands Airport yesterday evening. It is at that precise time that you appreciate your daughter arriving with the 'taxi' to whisk you home. Twenty four hours later the house has now warmed up but I digress.

We stayed with an old mate from my army days and his wife who have a rented apartment in a beautiful little village called Yegen which is I suppose about as high as Ben Nevis if not a little higher. The views are stunning and the weather was fantastic so you might gather that we had a great week.

The roads are challenging to say the least but according to my pal they have nearly all been improved in the last three years. The surfaces put our roads to shame and even though the hairpin bends take a little getting used to the drops have been well protected. Occasionally one can see the old derelict roads zigzagging to and fro and quite clearly travel in the Sierra Nevada has advanced into the twenty first century.

They are even carving modern motorways through the mountains and as the traffic flow is quite minimal by our standards they are beautiful highways to drive along. I wondered who was paying for this impressive array of road links.

"You are" said my pal. "Well not you personally but all this is being done with the help of European money."

This got me thinking because I cannot remember anything in Britain that is being funded by European money. I know of politicians who receive European money (lots of it) but when has the public actually benefitted from European money? If someone can enlighten me I would be happy to listen.

All I can ever remember us getting back from Europe are regulations. You know farming being harrassed about quotas, fishermen being almost wiped out by over regulation to such an extent that wonderful specimens which would grace any table are being thrown back and left to rot! The whole union is a monolithic, undemocratic, unregulated mess run by a bunch of people that we should be very wary of. It appears to me that honesty has never been their priority.

"So", I asked my mate, "What happens when they are told to produce things like straight bananas?" "They just ignore it", came back the reply. "They take the best bits and ignore the rest."

There it is then! That is what we should be doing...but...aah... I have forgotten. Spain isn't being governed by NoLab who have created so many regional governing bodies. Their role is simply to ensure that we peasants follow every piffling regulation to the letter. We have lost our national identity, our national characteristics and in my opinion we have also lost our guts.

3 comments:

Slartibartfas said...

I don't know if you read this response. But you mentioned the neat infrastructure in Spain.

The EU certainly has helped Spain a lot in having that great infrastructure it has today, but not for free. EU subsidies often are only a help, the member state has to put honest effort (=money) into the projects as well.

There are various subsidies in the EU, but the UK profits from many of them. Of course not as much as eg Spain, but lets be honest, something would go wrong if it would be the other way round because Spain is still less wealthy than the UK.

Programs the UK infrastructure profits as well is for example the trans European networks program that aims at interweaving the European infrastructure. (the top 30 TEN projects: http://ec.europa.eu/ten/transport/priority_projects_minisite/map_en.htm)

Then there are structural fonds, aimed at poorer regions, also those who belong to wealthier countries, even though poorer countries logically have more of them. In the UK Cornwall and large parts of Wales are "objective 1" regiois, ie they have the highest priority together with many (but not all) Spanish regions. Large parts of Britain especially towards the north belong to objective 2 or 3 and also receive funds for structural development. (more infos here: http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/atlas/factsheets/pdf/fact_eu25_en.pdf)

I could go on but that should already show a bit.

PS: I had been to Spain recently and I had the impression that they are very correct when it comes to not discriminating EU citizens in regards to entrance fees etc.

bryboy said...

Tks for your interest. I suppose that I am inherently opposed to any group who cannot accept that people like the Irish don't want what they have to offer. That apart I am grateful to you for expanding my knowledge on the workings of the EU. Your response explains why we in the English urban areas cannot see any advantage in being part of the EU.

Slartibartfas said...

You are welcome.

I think financial crises like the one we face currently show that the EU would need reform to be able to act united when it needs to do so, as the markets were pretty disappointed by the lack of unity.

Probably you won't see so much of the subsidies in urban areas like London for example, even though in the city where I live, Vienna, which is not poor either, a few urban projects were supported by the EU as well. Some rather bad quarters have really profited from that effort.

If you have insight into academic life you will also see that the EU plays also an important role in supporting research projects, which is a great thing as fostering transnational research is very important nowadays. Not to forget the European students exchange program, that has helped already over 1 mio students so far.

I know Britons are often very skeptical when it comes to the EU, but I think one has to be aware of the good things as well, its not all bad.