We are a long way from recovery and not far from the European elections. Will the voters want to demand a different set of solutions? A Green and sustainable economic model?
I had forgotten just how attractive Madrid could be. Perhaps it does not have the elegance of Paris, nor the grandeur of its boulevards - but even on a grey and windy March day, Madrid has something of the same period feel.
I am here with Monica Frassoni and Jacqueline Cremers to meet Equo, the new Spanish Green party. We will be back in May for our upcoming Spring Council meeting, but this visit is to check over locations and to talk to civil society organisations, journalists and other commentators about the political landscape, and the prospects for the Green movement here.
Equo has applied to become a member of the EGP and it is our normal practice to undertake what we call a fact-finding mission. The news is good, as far as the potential Green vote is concerned. There is definitely an electoral space we can occupy, but the system is heavily skewed towards a two-party system and it will be a fight for the Green voice to be heard.
The current Partido Popular (People’s Party) government is turning back the clock on social and environmental rights under the guise of dealing with the economic crisis. Although civil society can bring a million protesters on to the streets, the right wing government, aided by a compliant mainstream press, does not respond to their outcries. An indicator of the depth of the crisis is the fact that there is one NGO dedicated solely to helping people who have been evicted from their homes through inability to pay their rents or repay their bank loans.
In central Madrid there are, at first, few outward signs of this misery. It is not Athens and there is no rotting rubbish lying uncollected. But when you look more closely in the side streets, you see the shuttered shops and the graffiti. One give-away indicator is that even in Plaza Mayor, the centrepiece of Madrid, the upper floors of the grand buildings are full of notices advertising apartments to let.
In between meetings, we are trying to keep track of what has been happening in Cyprus. The bail-out there seems, at last, to have been agreed upon without penalising the smaller depositors. But the insensitivities of the troika are almost unbelievable and the consequences have not yet manifested themselves.
The latest news was about the chair of the Eurozone frantically trying to take his foot out of his mouth after having stated that the Cyprus “model” of confiscating bank deposits could be applied elsewhere. Panic in the markets, Euro exchange rates once more heading south, Spanish and Italian banks fearing a flight of their capital accounts to safer (northern) havens and a general feeling that our lords and masters have handled this latest round of the Euro-crisis with staggering incompetence.
We are a long way from recovery and not far from the European elections. Will the voters want to demand a different set of solutions? A Green and sustainable economic model? Place your bets, ladies and gentlemen.