Spain is the third largest country in Europe, located in southwestern Europe with a population of roughly 46 million people.1 Famous for its sunny beaches perennially popular with northern Europeans, it is also rich in cultural and economic resources. After transitioning to democracy after Franco’s death in 1975, Spain modernized its economy and joined the European Union in 1986.2 The country enjoyed further international prestige hosting the 1992 Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona.
However, modern España struggles with a myriad of problems, none more noticeable than the recent global recession that began in 2007. As of April 2011, Spain has an unemployment rate of 21.3 percent, the highest in the Eurozone. The rate for young people is thought to be as high as 40 percent.3
Due to its long coastline and proximity to Africa, Spain is also a popular destination for illegal immigrants and human trafficking. Domestic violence against women is another social problem the government is struggling to reverse.
The government has heavily invested in renewable energy. In 2000, less than five percent of Spain’s energy came from wind or solar sources; in 2010, almost 20 percent of its energy came from these sources.4 Growth has slowed since 2008 due to the economic and debt crises.
As Greece faces a second wave of economic crisis and bailouts, there is serious concern that a contagion effect will extend to Spain as well as to Italy and Portugal.
…As a result of the Greek crisis, the markets are suffering a severe lack of confidence in other “vulnerable economies”. This was best seen earlier this week when Spain was forced to pay higher interest rates in order to raise billions of euros on Tuesday, causing the stock markets to tremble.
Whilst some blamed speculators, most agree the roots of the problem lie in Greece. Until a long-term solution to Greece’s debt problem can be found, other countries that use the euro would be affected.
Spreading to Spain?
So will the debit crisis in Greece hit Spain? To gauge opinion, SUR in English spoke to three independent experts.
Raoul Ruparel, an Economic Analyst at Open Europe, a Brussels and London-based independent think-tank, believes that there is a very real risk. He says: “Despite the Spanish economy being large and diverse, as well as the Spanish Government pushing through some necessary reforms, there is a perfect storm scenario which could push Spain to the centre of the debt crisis.
“Domestic problems, such as the uncertainty about the banks’ exposure to the bust real estate sector and the extent of regional government debt, combined with wider fears throughout the eurozone, could send the Spanish cost of borrowing into a self-fulfilling increase and make the Spanish debt burden harder to sustain.”
Prior, Geoprge “Will debt crisis hit Spain?” Sur. July 26, 2011.
Spaniards are upset over Spain’s downward spiral. The 15-M Movement, consisting of dissatisfied youth and unemployed Spaniards who blame their country’s economic problems on a corrupt political system.
The word spread fast around the social networks on the web. A lobby group that called itself ‘Democracia Real Ya’ (Real Democracy Now) was calling on everyone who is dissatisfied with the current system and crisis situation to take to the streets and protest on Sunday May 15th. Around 50,000 people took note, according to experts, and flocked to Madrid’s Puerta del Sol, as well as central areas in other cities, including Malaga. The scene has repeated itself every day since then with protesters ‘camping out’, despite prohibitions by electoral boards in some cities.
In what has now become known as the 15-M movement, mainly university students and unemployed young people, but also workers, parents and pensioners have got together to express their general discontent and indignation.
Their peaceful protests are aimed at Spain’s two-party system which they claim “attacks the minorities” and is at the service of the banks which are responsible for the crisis and profiting from it and at political corruption in general.
Protesters stress that theirs is a peaceful and non-political movement and that they will continue their ‘sit-ins’ after Sunday’s election.
“Protesters take to the streets to show discontent”. Sur. May 20, 2011.
While thousands of Spaniards protest in the streets over Spain’s economic and political woes, Spain’s risk premium is dangerously high. The International Monetary Fund has suggested that it might have to cut its budget to avoid a bailout.
The escalation of the Spanish and Italian risk premiums (Spain’s hit a high of 407 basis points on Wednesday before stabilizing at 380) has placed both countries in a situation of emergency. The political alarm set off by the financial markets’ scourging led to consultations between Prime Minister Zapatero and the opposition parties to consider possible responses to the deterioration of Spanish solvency and to dispel fears about a possible bailout of Spain, which Brussels denied. The markets’ chastisement of the Spanish and Italian debt endangers the survival of the euro zone, which is practically without a roof, as it does not yet possess the political mechanisms necessary to control speculation against the national debt.
The diagnosis is there, but the EU has yet to resolve the underlying problem of the Greek crisis, or to offer an image of centralized economic control. Meanwhile, Spain and Italy are still trapped in the quagmire that results from a drastic plan of fiscal adjustment: the deeper the cutbacks, the sharper the drop in growth expectations. Investors consider that without growth, there can be only slender return on financing received. So the cost of financing increases, which in turn further restricts the already shrunken economic activity. And so on, until bailout is inevitable.
The government’s room for action is narrow. If the risk premium does not descend, the growing cost of servicing the debt will devour any margin for public political action. ….Recovery is already hard with a debt differential greater than 100 basis points, but at 400 it is impossible to climb out of stagnation and significantly reduce unemployment. An orthodox response (suggested by the IMF) would be to show to the EU and the markets an additional budget cut, around 2 percent of GDP. But such a move would have effects on growth equivalent to the strangling effect produced by soaring financial costs, pushing recovery further forward into the future.
“The Euro Boat springs serious leaks.” El Pais. August 3, 2011.
Twenty years ago, immigrants represented one percent of Spain’s population. In 2010, that number was twelve percent, translating into more than five million non-Spaniards.5 In the last decade strong construction and agricultural industries employed millions of immigrants, but recent economic slowdown has resulted in Spain increasing restrictions on foreigners wishing to enter the country.
The European Commission on Thursday decided to make an exception to its full free movement rules among member states and allow Spain to temporarily restrict Romanian workers from seeking jobs in the country.
“This decision has been taken because of the very specific employment situation in Spain,” EU Employment Commissioner Laszlo Andor said in a statement. “The Commission understands why, at this particular juncture – because of the dramatic employment situation and the very complex financial environment – the Spanish authorities wish to step back from full free movement.”
Under the agreement, Spain can keep Romanians from entering the country until December 31, 2012 and must inform the EC about the progress in imposing such restrictions. The new rules would only affect Romanians coming to Spain to look for jobs without having prior contracts. It will not affect those living in Spain who are registered with and paying into the social security system. The Labor Ministry explained it would also not affect Romanians who just want to visit Spain – only those who come to seek employment.
Saiz, Eva. “EC allows Spain to curb Romanian’s access to jobs”. El Pais. August 12, 2011.
In 2009, the Institute for Advanced Social Studies (IESA) and Spanish Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) published a study analyzing the effects of the fast paced immigration on native Spaniards in created a multi-ethnic society in a relatively short time span.
Since the early 1990′s, Spain has received very substantial flows of immigration. These flows are characterised by the great diversity of the immigrants’ origin, the massive trend and the novelty of the phenomenon. In sum, that means that Spanish society has become in the space of a very few years a multi-ethnical society. This paper explores the social image of foreign migrants in Spain based on the outcome of a national survey produced in December 2005 by the Institute for Advanced Social Studies (IESA) of the Spanish Council for Scientific Research and commissioned by the Secretary of Immigration and Emigration of the Ministry of Labour and Social Issues. In accordance with the theories of the “new racism” that suggest that opinions and attitudes against immigration represent a new form of the expression of racism and xenophobia, this paper wants to contribute to the debate about the nature and the factors that determine prejudice, discrimination and segregation in the context of the rising success of populist political parties in Europe. The data of the survey throws light upon two main dimensions which explain the perception of the immigrants in the case of Spain: the socio-economic and the cultural one. According to the public perception of immigrants, three main trends can be identified amongst the majority population: the utilitarian, the differencialist and the pluralist. The utilitarian type reflects an instrumental and economic conception of migration. Immigrants are perceived mainly as a work force necessary for the growth of the Spanish economy.
On the other hand, for the differencialist type cultural, religious and ideological differences amongst immigrants and the national population represent the main factors that conforms the negative perception of immigrants. For the pluralist group, generally prevails a tolerant perception of the immigrants. Each of these “ideal types” can be associated with a specific socio-demographic profile. Moreover, as the analysis shows, each profile takes different positions on the following issues: rights concessions to immigrants, immigration policy and social distance to immigrants.
Desrues, Thierry; Yruela, Miguel Perez; Molina, Oscar. Public Opinion About Immigration in Spain: Utilitarian, Cultural, and Pluralistic Trends. 2009.
Spanish public opinion grows increasingly divided over whether prostitution should remain legalized or be banned. It is currently legal to sell yourself, but human rights activists say most prostitutes in Spain are foreign born and forced into the practice.
Opponents to banning say it would hurt women who voluntarily engage in prostitution.
Over the years, society has changed its attitude toward prostitution. In postwar Spain,
for example, selling sexual services to fill one’s stomach was seen as natural. A few decades later, it was scrutinized through a moral lens, making it a sin and a vice. Despite prohibitions, however, the mini-skirts and plunging blouses didn’t disappear. During the 1980s, prostitution and drugs went hand-in-hand. But one thing has remained constant: the buying and selling of sex has always been tied to a dire economic situation which is now known, all over the world, as the feminization of poverty.
Until recently, politicians adopted one of two stances on prostitution: it should be prohibited, or legalized. But a new phenomenon — immigration — has complicated the debate. According to statistics the government recognizes as accurate, 90 percent of sex workers are foreigners and 80 percent of the total are victims of trafficking. In other words, they did not choose to sell their bodies to make ends meet; these are women, controlled by mafias, who never had the luxury of choosing.
Those who agree with this analysis call it 21st-century slavery and denounce a situation that employs the use of torture, abductions, isolation and systematic rape to break the will of women who have immigrated; tricked into believing a different job was waiting for them abroad. This is the Spanish government’s stance, and it is busy finalizing a plan that involves 11 different ministries.
Some left-leaning organizations and political parties, however, cite virtually opposite numbers. 80 percent of prostitutes, they say, sell their bodies voluntarily, and that those who are forced to do so are in the minority. One organization that defends this version, Hetaira, feels that there is a lot of work to be done in both cases, but they are convinced that the wrong approach is being taken. These are the so-called regulationists. They argue that voluntary prostitutes should be protected by the Workers’ Statute, “because those workers may choose their profession, but not the conditions in which they work, nor the hours, nor the salary they make, nor the sexual services that they must offer,” says Hetaira spokeswoman Cristina Garaizabal.
“Prostitution without slavery? Human trafficking debate divides in Spain.” Barcelona Reporter.
Domestic violence has become a serious social issue in Spain: Between 2001 and 2007, more than 400 women were killed by their partner.6 To combat these grim facts, President Jose Zapatero passed a Law on Gender Equality in 2005 to create courts and other services to combat the problem. Activists say justice is slow for victims because courts struggle to handle demand and sentences for the accused fail to sufficiently protect women.7 This article suggests that increases in divorce and domestic violence are due to a societal shift in gender equality and a larger foreign born population.
Spain now has one of the highest rates of divorce in Europe with 1 in 2.3 marriages ending in divorce. This equates to a marital break-up every 3.7 minutes. To make matters worse, Spain has a shocking domestic violence problem, which yet again came to a head when four women were killed by their partners on ‘Black Tuesday’ (26th February 2008). This brought to 17, the number of women murdered by their partners by the end of February 2008 setting that year firmly on target to exceed the horrors of previous years. Clearly, seismic changes are dangerously vibrating through Spanish society.
In fact, it is not surprising that tremendous pressures have been placed upon the old-fashioned, family values normally associated with Spain. Suppressed by the long, deeply conservative dictatorship of Franco (1939 – 1975), Spain remained in a time-lock throughout the heady decades of North European liberalism between the 1960s and 1980s. Flower power, the Pill, mobility of population and the sexual and social revolution of the First World largely bypassed Spain. Indeed, until 1981 it was not even possible to get divorced legally
Suddenly, in 1978, Spain established a secular constitution on lines similar to the rest of democratic northern Europe. This propelled the country into new uncertainties as previously unconscionable freedom and liberality were allowed. This was enhanced by unimaginable wealth as the country dramatically accelerated from its position as thirteenth biggest economy in the world in 1973 to its present position as eighth. All of a sudden, it was possible to get divorced, homosexuality was tolerated, incomes rose, personal expenditure increased and the equality of women became, at least in theory, acceptable.
However, these changes have produced considerable social friction. Deep down, much of Spain is still a conservative, patriarchal society with close-knit and often immobile communities. It has, therefore, come as a shock for the Spanish male, in particular, to find that not only does his wife or partner have to work, due to rising living costs, but that she expects equality as well. For the first time in Spanish history, women have real independence. Or at least the illusion of it. They are as well educated as men, earn their own incomes and can divorce as they see fit.
Snelling, Nick. “On the Rocks-Divorce and Domestic Violence in Spain”. CultureSpain.com. 2011.
In January 2011 Spain enacted a stricter anti-smoking law banning smoking in enclose public areas, including bars. The Associated Press interviews locals for their opinion in this video.
The government is starting to require cigarette packages to include pictures of tumors caused by smoking. Health officials say the pictures have led to a decrease in tobacco use in many countries, while critics say they are too graphic and are disrespectful.
An eaten-away jaw, rotting lungs, a throat tumor and open-heart surgery. These are just a few of the photographs to be found on around 40 percent of cigarette packets. In a bid to further heighten smokers’ awareness of the danger their habit poses to them, the World Health Organization has forced tobacco companies to publish 14 different graphic images of illnesses associated with smoking on packets. But the shock tactics have prompted complaints questioning whether there is any need to be so explicit in proving something that we all know already: that smoking is bad for your health.
Toward the end of May, a reader from the Galician port city of Vigo wrote to EL PAÍS to express her anger at the use of the images. “They are a flagrant act of aggression against the sensibilities of the person who comes into contact with them. Aside from the unnecessarily graphic depictions, they are an insult to the intelligence of all of us, and to smokers in particular. Smoking may kill, and is not good for the health, but there is no way that this fact gives anybody, neither our mentors nor governmental gurus, the right to underestimate our intelligence and to treat us as though we were soft in the head.”
Response to the campaign runs from one extreme to another: health experts say it is the best way to address the problem, while experts in mass media say that the “ends justify the means” approach to getting the just-under-a-third of the population who smokes to stop just doesn’t work. “It is worth asking whether the state has the right to behave in this way,” says Xavier Oliver, an advertising expert, and teacher at the IESE business school. He argues that the images go too far. “They have crossed the line here in terms of decency and respect, especially regarding cancer sufferers. They may seem to have an impact, but this is not a serious approach to communication. Make people think, but don’t treat them as if they were brainless.”
LaFuente, Javier. “Shock tactics: The government’s latest weapon in the fight against smoking is the inclusion of images of tumors on cigarette packets. Critics argue they show a lack of respect”. El Pais. August 9, 2011.
Spain is at the forefront of renewable energy: 16 percent of its energy comes from wind power alone.8 Gestamp Renewables is a Spanish company that has invested in renewable energy in several countries. They are one of several energy companies building wind turbines in Puerto Rico, which is just trying to overcome its dependence on imported oil.
Denmark-based Vestas has received an order for a total of 23.4 megawatt (MW) consisting of 13 units of the V100-1.8 MW platform for the Punta Lima project being developed by Gestamp Wind, the wind energy division of Spain-based Gestamp Renewables, specialized in the development, construction and operation of wind farms in the world’s leading wind energy markets.
Go Green Puerto Rico and Gestamp reached a deal in January for the Spanish multinational to invest between $75 million and $80 million in the Naguabo project.
The Vestas order comprises supply, delivery, installation, transportation and commissioning of the wind turbines, a supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system, as well as a five-year service and availability agreement.
Delivery of the turbines is expected to start before the end of 2011 and the project is expected to be completed by the first half of 2012.
“We are pleased to award this project to Vestas, the world leader in wind technology and a trustworthy global partner with strong local presence, Gestamp Wind North America CEO Javier Mateache said. “We are confident that the V100-1.8 MW turbine suits perfectly well the wind conditions in Puerto Rico and therefore the turbines will deliver as agreed, helping us maximizing the energy output and consequently capitalizing on our return on the investment.”
Mead, Kevin. “Wind Farm Taking Shape in Naguabo.” Caribbean Business. July 9, 2011.
1 “Spain.” CIA The World Factbook. July 5, 2011.
3 Wools, Daniel. “Spain’s Unemployment Rate Hits New Eurozone Record of 21.3 Percent.” Huffington Post. April 29, 2011.
4 Hunt, Tam. “Spain and Portugal Lead the Way to Renewable Energy Transformation.” Renewable Energy World. February 7, 2011
5 Worden, Tom. “Spain sees sixfold increase in immigrants over decade.” The Guardian. February 8, 2010.
6 “Towards a Future without Fundamentalisms: New Report Analyzes Religious Fundamentalist Strategies and Feminist Responses.” Womensphere. January 12, 2011.
8 Roberts, Martin. “Spain wind power growth slows on subsidy doubts: AEE” Reuters. January 20, 2011.