25 December 2011

Merry Christmas!

Lego Christmas tree, St. Pancras International Rail Station, London, 2011

20 December 2011

A hidden conservative agenda?

Spanish Popular Party got an absolute majority in the last general elections and will be in power very soon. Mr Rajoy made a statement the same night of the elections and told those who didn’t vote for him not to be concerned. Most of us knew what he was talking about. Some of the social advances made by the previous progressive government are thought to be at risk under a conservative rule and fears are not just imaginary.

Regarding an issue that especially concerns me: same sex marriage, the conservative party appealed against it in the Constitutional Court back in 2005. One of the peculiarities of the Spanish system is that of extremely slow judicial procedures. Still at the end of 2011, the Court hasn't said whether gay marriage is constitutional or not. One of the reasons might be the diversity of the judiciary, given by seven years of minority governments. That didn’t allow the socialists to have a clear majority in this institutions, which was good in terms of democratic guarantees.

However, this new majority will allow the conservative party to appoint most of the judges in the Constitutional Court. To those unfamiliar with this system, those judges are elected mainly by the Congress of the Deputies, the Senate and the General Council of the Judicial Power (elected itself by the government and the legislative power), all of them, institutions under a clear influence of the Popular Party after the elections. And the appeal against same-sex marriage, of course, haven’t been withdrawn nor the conservatives wanted to appoint the judges before the elections. The process was blocked intently, although this institution was supposed to be renewed months ago, so they could sit whoever they wanted after winning a comfortable majority. All of this is a very representative attitude of the Spanish political parties.

The elected prime minister has already said in several occasions that he won’t remove this bill, although, of course, he will respect whatever the Constitutional Court says about it. A very democratic attitude if you don’t take into account that he’ll be sure about the result before the vote in the Court takes place. That’s why I still wonder why he doesn't remove the appeal so he is sure that same-sex marriage will persist in Spanish legislation. If he really wants his non-electors to feel comfortable, he could stop giving the impression that there’s a hidden conservative agenda to change essential bills through the back door, that is, manipulating a Court from within.

14 December 2011


The European Union was built as an inclusive institutional framework able to integrate as many European countries as possible, especially the big belligerent in WWII and therefore set up a system to balance the power in Europe and avoid another major conflict. For decades, the idea of a consensus was strong enough to keep European countries together despite their differences because we knew that we were to win more within the Union than separately.

The crisis has led to major changes though. From widening the monetary instruments and the action of the ECB to an extent never imaginable to bailouts of member states, the Europe we knew has been changing quicker than ever, struggling to follow the pace of the financial markets… and now that consensus is broken. Many might not have realised the importance of the British veto but it opens a new scenario in European politics that get us closer to the imbalances of power that destabilised the continent so much.

But what might have been the problem this time? From my perspective: the insatiable willingness of power and influence of the French President. It was this time when it was easier to break that consensus, precisely when more inflexible France (and Germany) showed themselves. But I don’t blame the German position for this result. My assumption is that they only did so to reach an agreement with France and being sure that they could enforce more automatic mechanisms to impose fiscal discipline. They’ve been submissive to France, as usual. And this time France has played dirty.

Sarkozy wanted to secure himself a stronger position within Europe and to do so he needed Great Britain (and if possible, other non-euro countries) out. He knew that David Cameron was to struggle in case he wanted to pass a new treaty in Parliament and in a referendum as well as he was aware that he could not come back to Britain without a guarantee for the City. Sarkozy did not want an agreement, he wanted a breach in the EU and that’s why he put David Cameron in the position of vetoing the treaty. Of course David Cameron was in a weak position and, apparently, didn’t do much to build alliances in Europe to protect his interest in getting a guarantee for Great Britain. And Sarkozy made the most of it with his inflexibility.

In the past months, an intense debate on the Europe to come has been taking place. Germany backs a more inclusive Europe with independent institutions and discipline. Sarkozy wants a smaller Europe, deeper integrated, with a stronger role for national leaders, amongst whom he would have a stronger position. These two Europes at the same time are impossible. One model must prevail. And the last summit only headed towards Sarkozy’s model, apparently more democratic but with more risks. One of those, the new brand polarization of Europe just started to show its ugly face. And for those like me with a strong European sentiment and an admiration for some national systems like the British, there couldn’t be a worst scenario.

Der Spiegel International, December 12th

The Economist, December 9th

06 December 2011

XXXVth Anniversary of the Spanish Constitution

Just thirty five years ago, the Spanish people voted to pass the new brand Constitution. After almost forty years of dreadful dictatorship and a previous horrendous civil war, Spain could achieve under difficult circumstances the aim of a representative democracy. This was not cost-free. Justice had to be put apart, many francoist repressors, among them quite suspects of war crimes, never were to be sat before a court. Despite that pact of amnesty, the new regime brought many laudable benefits: human rights, elections, economic development and the EU membership.

This Constitution was much better than the dream of many. In a Spain where police could enter your house without a judicial authorisation and imprison you for being a left winger or simply homosexual, being a modern democratic European country was unthinkable. The Constitution was a key piece in the transition to democracy, among other things, a gateway to modernity. However, thirty five years later, the weight of its immutability is starting to be too heavy. Structural reforms cannot be undertaken because the procedure set up in the own Constitution is too rigid to benefit anyone but those who doesn't want any change.

There is still some room for hope though as some small political parties have been demanding increasingly such reforms. The topic is not new any more. However, under the current economical crisis and with the well-stablished alternation in government of the two main parties, any change soon is very unlikely. To what extent the current tensions are sustainable without a reform is unknown. This is a classical paradox in political science. A system apparently designed to foster stability can precisely drive the opposite as lack of reform leads to unsustainable situations.

03 December 2011


Friedrich Nietzsche
Alianza Editorial.
178 páginas.

El crepúsculo de los ídolos es el ocaso de una forma de ver la filosofía, el fin del idealismo y, con él, de toda la transvaloración moral. Sin adentrarse profundamente en el aspecto moral, que tratará más detalladamente en su “Genealogía de la moral”, Nietzsche analiza los errores de los filósofos (Sócrates y Platón principalmente) y el carácter intrínsecamente antivital de su creación del mundo “verdadero” frente al mundo “aparente”, creación que responde a un recelo, a un ánimo de venganza propio de la moral de esclavos que se propaga no sólo a través de la filosofía sino también de la religión cristiana y de otros movimientos contemporáneos. El ensayo, de gran fuerza expresiva, termina con unas líneas de boca de Zaratustra: son las palabras del martillo. Sobre las viejas tablas de la ley, nada más lejos del nihilismo, Nietzsche pondrá una nueva tabla. ¡Qué la descubra el lector!