29 October 2021: Job vacancies in Galicia; Drug smuggling in Galicia; The ‘metaverse’; & Other stuff.

Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops
Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable
– Christopher Howse: ‘A Pilgrim in Spain’

Covid  

A cheap oral antidepressant – fluvoxamine, known to reduce inflammation – could save the lives of Covid patients and reduce hospital admissions by up to 91%

No room for Continental complacency? In much of Western Europe, where cases are rising, it’s a little too early to tell whether hospitalizations will trend steeply higher. For now, hospitalizations are lagging new infections. More here.

Cosas de España/Galiza 

And more here on Renfe’s plans for fast trains from London to Paris and beyond. Possibly even to Vigo, en route to Oporto. But, if so, I doubt I’ll live to see or take it.

There are said to be more than 15,000 jobs going begging in Galicia, a poorish region of high unemployment. In construction, transport, hospitality, and ‘industry’. Beats me.

Interesting Voz de Galicia headline: Estuaries are small for Generation 4.0 of Galician drug dealers. They travel, form international relationships at the highest level and dominate technology.  This is the new generation operating in the ‘white business’. Not sure what all that means and can’t read it as it’s behind a  paywall. And they don’t have the VdG in cafés here in Madrid. Despite the much higher coffee prices. On reflection, I suspect it means they’re no longer just local boys smuggling cigarettes and killing no one. Or having strange road accidents. But that’s been true for years now.

María’s Dawn: Making Xmas meaningful.

The UK & France

See the article below on the current dreadful relations between these fading powers.

The USA

Not just n the UK, then. And nowt to do with Brexit . . .  Apple and Amazon have both  warned of continuing disruption to their supply chains.

Social Media/The Way of the World 

The metaverse:-

1. A virtual-reality space in which users can interact with a computer-generated environment and other users.

2. Wiki: A speculative future iteration of the Internet, made up of persistent, shared, 3D virtual spaces linked into a perceived virtual universe.

3. Wiki again: In a broader sense, the metaverse may not only refer to virtual worlds, but to the Internet as a whole, including the entire spectrum of augmented reality.

I trust that’s clear . . .

Its relevance: Facebook is reported today to have changed its name to Meta. Could well be true. Lots and lots of PR problems recently.

Spanish 

Cerrar: Usually to close but sometimes to conclude an an Agreement/contract. Or to put an end to some nefarious activity, such as cocaine or heroin smuggling into parts of Galicia that aren’t as poor as other parts. Or lots of other things. See the RAE’s 36 definitions here.

Finally  . . . 

Kids again . . . A little boy was lost at the YMCA and found himself in the women’s changing room. When he was spotted there were loud shrieks with ladies grabbing towels and running for cover. The little boy watched in amazement and then asked, “What’s the matter? Haven’t you seen a little boy before?”.

This blog can be seen on Twitter here.

and on the Facebook group page – Thoughts from Galicia.  

Note: If you’ve landed here looking for info on Galicia or Pontevedra, try here

THE ARTICLE

Anglo-French relations are poisoned until Macron is ousted from the Élysée: Tensions between Johnson and the French president are unlikely to calm until one of them is out of a job: Ben Wrigh, The Telegraph

While most of the rest of the European Union appears happy enough to let the UK get on with Brexit, Anglo-French relations keep plumbing fresh lows. On Wednesday, the French authorities detained a British fishing boat off Le Havre as Paris vowed to block British trawlers from its ports in retaliation for the UK’s refusal to grant more access to its coastal waters for French fishermen.

It’s only one boat. But tensions between London and Paris keep erupting over a host of different issues: fishing – of course – but also migration from Calais, sausage deliveries to Northern Ireland, Covid travel restrictions, vaccine efficacy, power supplies and the sale of nuclear submarines to Australia. 

Officials on both sides of the Channel appear to agree on one thing only: the difficulty of recalling a time in their working lives when the relationship was in a worse state. The entente, such as it is, gets more strained and less cordiale by the day.

The latest flare up occurred on the same day as the Budget in the UK. Perhaps that’s just a coincidence. But it’s uncanny how tensions tend to spike at key political moments. As voters across the UK were preparing to go to the polls in May, including for the key by-election in Hartlepool, Boris Johnson was deploying Royal Navy gunboats to protect Jersey from threats of a blockade by French fishermen.

This somewhat suggests that the real problem is not so much between France and the UK as it is between two politicians – Emmanuel Macron and Johnson – who take turns knocking lumps out of each other for the benefit of their respective domestic audiences. 

On this basis, relations are unlikely to thaw until after next year’s French elections, and arguably not until at least one of the two premiers has been deposed (which, on current polling, is more likely to be the Frenchman than the Brit).

But that theory might understate the depth of the discord. The rankle is, of course, partly driven by Brexit. A Prime Minister who personifies the UK’s departure from the EU is the perfect foil and foe for a French President who was elected on a promise to strengthen the bloc – and vice versa. 

The irony is that Johnson is often described as having almost Gaullist tendencies, combining both nationalism and economic interventionism, in marked contrast to the traditional Anglo-Saxon model of free-market capitalism espoused by Margaret Thatcher.

As is so often the case, it is the similarities more than differences that can drive the bigger wedge between rivals. The UK and France are really the only two non-superpowers in the world that can be said to have “full spectrum power”: strong militaries, nuclear capabilities, diplomatic reach, intelligence networks and a seat at the UN Security Council.

And the insults France and the UK hurl at each other like quarrelling siblings often highlight their own insecurities. Both are former imperial powers that struggle to balance a sense of exceptionalism with nagging fears of decline. Both are trying to navigate shifting global alliances in the hope of arresting a potential slide into irrelevance.

The French assume the UK’s hope of achieving greatness outside the EU is doomed to failure; the British counter that there’s a contradiction in attempting to assert sui generis by pooling sovereignty. The truth is, both paths have their perils.

France had fully convinced itself that the UK would sink beneath the waves following Brexit. No wonder it was so furious when Johnson almost immediately resurfaced on the deck of a nuclear powered submarine heading Down Under as part of the new security pact between the UK, the US and Australia in the Asia-Pacific, in what’s seen as an effort to counter the potential threat of China.

This was a triple bodyblow for France. It resulted in its own “contract of the century” to build nuclear subs for the Aussies worth £48bn effectively being torn up by Canberra. But it also dimmed French hopes that the UK, with its exemplary armed forces and world class intelligence services, will remain a key player in European security.

It also highlighted the extent to which the countries don’t see eye-to-eye on the main security question of the day: China. The UK – along with the US and Australia – leans towards confronting Beijing and arresting its influence; France and the EU appear to favour engagement.

There’s a good chance that, with the benefit of hindsight, the Aukus pact may end up dealing a worse blow to Anglo-French relations than Brexit. Security is the area in which the two countries should be most closely aligned. 

It is true the enthusiasm for joint development of defence equipment has faded over the past decade. But Johnson was right to say “there are no two sets of armed forces that are more capable of integration”.

With the backing of France, Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, recently made a bid for greater collaboration on defence and security between the UK and the EU. Brussels’ more conciliatory stance on Irish-border customs controls was widely interpreted as a first step towards realising this ambition.

However, it’s hard to see how an independent European military force wouldn’t end up undermining Nato, which has long been considered the UK’s main defensive bulwark.

The more the US sharpens its focus on Asia, the faster the EU’s push for strategic autonomy will accelerate. This will leave the UK with one foot in Nato, the other in Europe and a tricky decision over which way to jump.

There’s an unfortunate Catch-22 at play here. Macron is pushing security – the area in which the UK has most to offer the EU and the means by which the diplomatic rifts caused by Brexit could best be healed – to the top of the agenda in Brussels. 

But the longer the French President is around, the more likely it is that the UK will, when the time comes to decide, jump the other way.