Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Rain and Sun in Spain

Well, we learnt a long time ago that the rain in Spain falls mainly in the plain.

That's certainly been the case on the central Castillian plan where also Madrid is located this weeekend. But the rain was greeted almost with jubilation, since it brought relief from a long period of draught up on these plains.

Two issues are dominating the politics of Spain at this very time.

The first is the renewed constitutional tension after the ruling majority of Catalonia has presented a proposal for a radically extended autonomy to Madrid. There is talk of moving from a de facto federal state to something that comes close to a de facto confederal state, and then upsetting the big constitutitional deal that resulted in the constitution of 1978.

This issue will not go away lightly. And there are of course similar or more far-reaching proposals debated elsewhere, notable in the Basque provinces. There is no doubt that the state structure of Spain is under a certain stress from these centrifugal tendencies.

And these issues have their emotional connotations as well. To preserve the unity of Spain has always been the most important issue for important political groups. There is a risk of upsetting some of the core post-Franco compromises and deals that paved the way for modern Spain.

The other issue is obviously that of illegal immigration from Africa, recently highlighted by the dramatic pictures from the small enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on the North African coast. Desperate refugees have come from South of the Sahara, and are ready for anything the scale the barriers and get into the paradise that Spain and the European Union is supposed to be.

Spain has absorbed immigration amounting to 1% of its population annually during a number of years. It's big numbers, but these have also been of great importance to the positive development of the economy of Spain during these years. It has certainly been the best performing of the larger economies of the Euro area.

It's been an expansion driven by domestic demand, in which the building sector has been a most important component. In no small way is the connected with the migration of people from the more northern parts of Europe to the sun along the coast of Spain that has required the one new large development after the other. Spain is becoming a Florida in Europe.

But this expansion of the construction sector to meet this growing demand would hardly have been possible without the influx of immigrant labour primarily from North Africa. And its future expansion will in the same way be dependent on this immigration.

So it's to a large extent the combination of the sun inside the European Union and the hope for a better future light among those desperate for a better life in adjcent Africa that has allowed Spain to do as well as it has done.

An interesting aspect of the emerging new European economy.