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Tales for Tapas: On the move

Continental shifts, Eurovision diplomacy and well-heeled lawyers.



Montserrat Caballé: Armenian master-classes.

Germany’s employment minister, Ursula von der Leyen, was in Madrid this week to meet her Spanish counterpart, Fatima Báñez. The two ministers unveiled a scheme that could see as many as 5,000 young Spanish workers annually filling apprenticeships in Germany.

Not a magic bullet for the problem of mass unemployment, but a positive gesture no doubt from Europe’s prosperous north.

Meanwhile, Public Works Minister Ana Pastor was in Brazil, where she suggested the Brazilian economy might benefit from the expertise of Spanish engineers unable to find work at home. Spain is Brazil’s largest investor after the US, and Spanish exports to the country were worth €2.82 billion in 2012, a figure that may rise above €3 billion in 2013. Logical in its way, perhaps to propose adding engineers to the transatlantic traffic.

Also travelling this week was Defence Minister Pedro de Morenés, who was in Baku for talks with his Azeri counterpart, Safar Abyez. The two ministers “stressed the importance of signing an agreement on military cooperation between Azerbaijan and Spain.”

Prompting some observers to ask: why? Spain and Azerbaijan are not connected in any obvious way.

It may or may not be worth mentioning that Montserrat Caballé visited Azerbaijan in 2004. As it happens, Ms Caballé, who has just turned 80, is scheduled to give master-classes next month in Armenia, Azerbaijan’s next-door neighbour.

International exchange appears to be resilient despite the crisis.

La la la

The Spanish Defence Minister’s visit to Baku was somewhat overshadowed by the Azeri Foreign Minister’s visit to Moscow, where his meeting with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, was bizarrely dominated not by pressing geopolitical issues but by the vexed question of why Azerbaijan awarded no points to Russia at the Eurovision song contest in Malmo.

Russia had given 10 points to Azerbaijan and in the world of international diplomacy this sort of quid, apparently, is reckoned to merit a corresponding quo. Mr Lavrov made no secret of his and his government’s Eurovision dismay. “We will coordinate our joint actions so that this outrageous act is not left without a response,” he warned.

Eurovision upsets, of course, are not new. In 1968, the odds-on favourite, Cliff Richard, was pipped at the post by Spanish songstress, Massiel, with her eminently hummable entry, La la la (hard to find a better title for a Euro song). The one-point final-round victory for Spain caused consternation in the UK, and last week, a full 45 years after the event, the BBC was still talking about it.

Disappointment on Saturday evening for El Sueño de Morfeo, who finished second from the bottom, receiving a total of just six points from Albania and two points from Italy. In the odd worldview of the Russian Foreign Ministry this should no doubt have elicited indignation towards countries that received eight and 10 and 12 points from Spain and didn’t reciprocate. To her great credit, however, lead singer Raquel del Rosario was philosophical, insisting that taking part in the contest was reward enough.

Lucrative litigation

In the midst of economic hardship and Eurovision setbacks there are still some things that Spain does better (or, at least, more profitably) than anyone else.

Litigation is one of them.

The British weekly magazine The Lawyer unveiled its annual list of the 100 highest-earning law firms in Europe this week and top of the table is the Madrid-based corporate law practice, Garrigues, with revenue just shy of €320 million last year.

Although its profits remain robust, Garrigues has experienced a marginal drop in domestic earnings due to the prevailing economic unpleasantness. More than a quarter of its clients are located in North and South America and it has steadily expanded its Latin America operations over the last decade (blazing a trail perhaps for Spanish engineers in years to come).

The crisis, then, has prompted a boom in mobility – among Spanish young people, ministers, engineers, and lawyers. Opera singers have always been peripatetic. Soccer coaches too have been on the move this week, but that’s a whole other story.

To read more by Anna Maria O’Donovan visit My Spanish Interlude.


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Published: May 24 2013
Category: Iberoblog, Featured, Spain News
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
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