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Madrid view: Calling Merkel’s bluff

Pure coincidence, or reflection of the world we live in: Spain’s most recent electoral turnabouts, that of 2004 and that of the other day, have gone hand in hand with events (the Atocha bombing, the aggravation of the euro crisis) that dramatically show the impossibility of separating national issues from international ones. Today, as in 2004, the challenges to our security (physical or economic) loom both inside and outside our borders.

To restore Spain’s international credibility and her position in the front rank of Europe, we need to get back on the path of growth, creation of quality employment, besides improvement of our productivity. In short, we have to mend our former ways. But the truth is that the sacrifices deriving from budget cutbacks and structural reforms may prove useless, if they are not accompanied by far-reaching decisions in the EU. Spain is now completing the

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Divided and irrelevant

Eleven in favour, 11 abstentions and five against, is the result of the diplomatic work done by the 27 EU governments to coordinate their positions on the admission of Palestine to Unesco.

The two EU members with permanent seats on the Security Council voted differently (the UK abstained, France was in favour), while Germany voted against. Italy followed the UK, while Spain went with France, so not even the so-called big five agreed. Nor were the countries of the Mediterranean coast. The German no was followed by Czechs, Dutch, Lithuanians and Swedes; the French yes by Austrians, Belgians, Cypriots, Finns, Greeks, Irish, Luxembourgeois, Maltese, Slovenes and Spaniards; the British abstention by Bulgarians, Danish, Estonians, Hungarians, Italians, Lithuanians, Poles, Portuguese, Romanians and Slovaks. All this ridicule for nothing, for the general vote went heavily in favour of

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Madrid view: right hand of the left

Most of the discussions (lamentations, rather) about the future of the left are suggested in the pathetic pun of our title. For some, the problem is that the left is not very dexterous — that is, that it is ham-fisted when it comes to convincing its potential voters it has the solution to their problems. This line of thought starts from the assumption that the left is not only in the right (morally, or historically, or whatever) but that there exists a majority of voters potentially disposed to vote for a modern left, though faithful to their longtime principles.

For those who think this way, the possibility that voters may not back the left is a problem of the first order, but can be blamed on endogenous factors (communication strategies, quality of leadership, electoral systems) or on exogenous factors. These include (think of the US) the fact that economic power supports

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Madrid view: the Chinese don’t play chess

In his recent, monumental book ¨On China,¨ which consists of 608 pages, Henry Kissinger, offers us the key to understanding the strategic thinking of the Chinese. To do so makes it unnecessary for one to learn Mandarin or to read the 608 pages. Thanks to Doctor Kissinger, understanding the complexities of the Chinese mindset is now available to the whole world.

The secret, informs Kissinger, is in the Chinese board game ¨Go,¨ also called ¨weiqi¨ in Chinese and ¨igo¨ in Japanese, a game with more than 2,600 years of history. The game is of a devilish complexity which consists of 180 identical tokens that move along 361 squares (details here). Of course, there is also an online version.

The West’s strategic thinking, says Kissinger, is dominated by chess, where the goal is to obtain control of the center of the chess board and from there attack with all might the opponent’s King

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Madrid View: the EEAS, Bismarck and sausages

I went to Brussels for a two day visit to get some insights about how EU foreign policy and the EEAS are doing. The expectation was that I would get bad weather but a brighter and more optimist look than the one we get at the capitals. To my surprise, I got tanned after having lunch under the sun in a restaurant garden at Archimedes, but really depressed about the EEAS. Here is a snapshot of the gossip I collected:

Foreign Ministers do not have a fluid relation with Ashton, and only a few have her mobile number. Ashton irritates Defence Ministers by making them wait for 45 minutes so she can properly attend to the press. People in the Council lament that the EEAS has become a sort of Commission B, rigid, bureaucratic and unattractive and that people are leaving it. People in the Commission complain about the Council trying to override them. In turn, people say that the Commission

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