Tales for Tapas: Because we can
A cheap gig from some veteran rockers, Rajoy riffs on banking union and students stick it to the man in charge of education.
It must be nice to have sold a hundred million records. It no doubt puts a spring in the step and adds zest to the bank account. In the case of one popular American rock group, it makes it possible to throw commerce to the winds and perform for free.
Ticket prices for Bon Jovi’s Madrid concert at the end of June were reduced by more than half when band members waived their own fee out of solidarity with Spanish fans enduring the rigours of austerity. (Among other things, this enables those with a curious cast of mind to calculate through rudimentary arithmetic the hourly rate that middle-aged rock stars customarily command for getting stadiums full of people to sing along rapturously to a medley of familiar and happily hummable hits.)
Bon Jovi’s generosity – certainly commendable but apparently limited to Spain – may cause a bit of envy elsewhere, not least among the tens of thousands of equally hard-pressed Portuguese fans who converge on Lisbon’s Bela Vista Park to see the band just one day before the Madrid event.
Free concerts may be a shot in the arm for philanthropy, but they do set something of a precedent.
Bon Jovi, of course, are in the business of mould breaking. As rock icons they can pretty much make up the rules as they go along, hence the entirely appropriate name for their current world tour – Because We Can.
Being the prime minister of Spain doesn’t offer the philosophical latitude enjoyed by the average pop group, and Mariano Rajoy doubtless rues the day he decided to go into politics rather than pursuing a career in rock ‘n’ roll. This week, though, has not been a bad one for the prime minister.
Tuesday’s employment figures showed that 100,000 new jobs were created in May. The boost is seasonal and most of the jobs are temporary – but even if the figures do not necessarily presage the long-awaited turnaround in unemployment, they are nonetheless encouraging.
The employment data gave Mr Rajoy a modest boost as he took no fewer than seven members of his Cabinet to Brussels on Wednesday for talks with European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and other senior EU officials.
It is a measure of the EU’s significance in domestic policymaking that half the Spanish government decamped to Belgium for the day, and Mr Rajoy believes this significance should be further amplified. In Brussels he called again for faster and deeper banking union to consolidate the relative stability that has tentatively descended on the Eurozone.
Policy decisions have increased exponentially as a result of the crisis, and the Brussels discussions – a prelude to a full meeting of EU heads of government at the end of June – were strategically important because continental policy-making will shortly go into hibernation mode till after next year’s European Parliament elections and the appointment of a new Commission. Decisions that are not taken this summer could be put on ice until 2015.
When there are political differences to be resolved it’s nice to meet and greet people in person.
Or not, depending on your negotiating tactic.
A dozen prize-winners at the annual awards ceremony for exceptional university graduates held in Madrid this week declined to shake hands with Education Secretary José Ignacio Wert when he presented them with their certificates.
In the course of a 30-year career Mr Wert has moved from the left to the right, always happy to articulate the thinking behind his philosophical shifts. He is a politician for whom the word “combative” appears tailor-made. Yet the public snub by gifted students was a stunning rebuke to which even the most forthright minister would have found it hard to respond, testifying to the fact that breaching etiquette can be more effective than building barricades.
Several of the students said they acted on the spur of the moment, seeing an unusual opportunity to make their distaste for current education policies clear. Opportunistic? Possibly. Yet, impulsive gestures can be wise too. Sometimes it’s commendable to act . . . just because we can.
To read more by Anna Maria O’Donovan visit My Spanish Interlude.
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