From the Bright side of the Street.
I want to go back to Spain.
Not literally, but rather to talk about a positive thing that is happening as I write this post. Spain is a country that we all know is facing some tough times. His Royal Highness the Prince of Asturias (Pretty much same as the Prince of Wales over here) is making a speech for the closing Ceremony of the “Prince of Asturias Award Ceremony” in Oviedo, Spain
The awards cover Arts, Social Sciences, Communication and Humanities, International Cooperation, Technical and Scientific Research, Literature, Sport and a final category for Concord (Harmony & agreement).
This year’s laureates include Rafael Moneo (arts), Martha Nussbaum (social sciences), along with the Footballers Iker Casillas and Xavier Hernández. Sir Gregory Winters and Richard Lerner have been nominated for their research into the immune system.
Also nominated is the US Author Philip Roth.
The awards jury stated; ”The narrative work of Philip Roth forms part of the great American novel, in the tradition of Dos Passos, Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Faulkner, Bellow and Malamud. Characters, events and plots form a complex view of contemporary reality torn between reason and feeling, such as the sign of the times and the sense of unease about the present. His literary quality is displayed in his fluid, incisive writing.”
Other nominees this year include the International Red Cross and for Concord, the Spanish Food Bank
There have been some notable personalities to receive the Laureate in years gone by. Award winners have included Leonard Cohen, Haile Gebrselassie, the Spanish Football squad for winning the world cup (fair enough!) and back in 2008 Google won the Laureate for communications and humanities
As I watch the live strea they have some how even managed to get a marching band of Bag Pipes to play as part of the closing ceremony. I never realised that this was something that happened outside Scotland! I now understand the influence has spread to Galicia and Asturias! (or did the Scots get it from them??)
All things considered, this is a world class awards ceremony that demonstrates a country holding its head high, during a time of great stress and financial pressure. The class and culture of Spain can never be taken away and this is a fine example of a proud nation showing the world what it is all about.
To the Dark side of the Road
This next section offers some insight into the polarity of Spain’s current and real predicament. The original ideas came from a Greek blog of Pedro Olalla
Pedro talks about Greece’s debt, and how Germany is being viewed in Europe as the “great rescuer”, at least as far as the City of London and Frankfurt are concerned. The same argument can be applied to Spain and Italy I believe.
Pedro argues that historically the strongest European country (and in turn most successful one) has repeatedly denied payment of their debts.
You can maybe guess which country Pedro suggests is in the frame for this - Germany.
Pedro goes on to mention that the debts in question did not arise from financial speculation. These debts arose out of reparations from the two world wars of the 20th century.
Under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles (1919), Germany was ordered to pay war reparations to the Allies in the amount of 226,000 million gold marks. This was a patently a stupid amount of money to ask for, that no nation could have afforded at the time. Pedro argues the purpose was to punish the “belligerent nation” and curb rapid recovery, that could then be followed by further hostilities.
It did not work out that way.
Between 1924 and 1929, Germany struggled with the insurmountable debt
By the time of the crash in 1929, huge losses for lenders opened the possibility of default. By 1932 the U.S. decided to cancel the war debts to France and Britain, who, in turn as creditors, waived most of the German debt.
In short, by 1932, Germany achieved a net reduction of over 98% of the debts that were imposed at the end of World War I.
When the second war kicked off in 1939, Hitler unilaterally suspended all payments, including this 2%. Debt free and on a mission again as it turned out.
At the conclusion WWII, history repeated itself.
Germany was ordered to pay war reparations, but by the time of the Treaty of London (1953), the U.S. was eager to make the new Germany a big player in NATO. Consequently payments were to be delayed until much later on, in fact until 1990.
The US managed to “convince” twenty countries, including Greece & Spain, to allow a remission “de facto” for Germany of all debts arising from the Great War.
Pedro believes this was an extraordinary preferential treatment, and favorable foreign policy for the losing country to recover from all pre-war debts since 1881.
In 1990, when the unification of Germany came about it led to a revision of the terms of the Treaty of London. The resumption of payments of compensation were frozen by the sitting government. Once again most of that “old debt” just went away. At the time nations such as Greece and Spain accepted the position. The truth is there was not much choice in the matter.
You can sort of understand why Pedro along with the people of Greece and Spain feel there is a false moral lesson going on here.
The “miracle” of the German economy has a lot to do with determination, organisation and hard work. It can also be argued that it is in part based on a leg up of unpaid debts.
Pedro goes on to make a number of other arguments as to why the German industrial economy is so strong.
It is a fact that both Spain and Greece have made some bad economic decisions in the years up to the current recession. I think they would be the first to admit it.
I also think we owe it to Spain and the other Mediterranean nations to look behind the face of the current position. Having read Pedro’s thoughts, I believe we may have a case of blinkered vision by other nations who ignore their own recent history, before making a judgement on others.
Pedro finishes with a question
“Who owes whom?”
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