Trans-Iberian

Trans-Iberian

Covering everything from the major news of the week and burning social issues, to expat living and la vida local, EL PAÍS’ team of English-language bloggers offers its opinions, observations and analysis on Spain and beyond.

Authors (Bloggers)

Chris Finnigan is a freelance journalist based in Barcelona. He writes for Barcelona Metropolitan and is a book reviewer and reader for The Barcelona Review. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics. You can find him on twitter @chrisjfinnigan

Ben Cardew is a freelance journalist, translator and teacher, now resident in Barcelona after growing up gracefully in Scotland via Norwich. He writes for The Guardian, the NME and The Quietus, among others, on everything from music to digital media. You can find him on Twitter @bencardew

Fiona Flores Watson is a freelance journalist, guide and translator who has lived in Seville since 2003, and has been a writer and editor for more than 20 years. She writes for the Guardian, Telegraph and Sunday Times Travel Magazine. Originally from Essex, Fiona is also Consulting Editor of Andalucia.com and has her own blog, Scribbler in Seville. She has been contributing to Trans-Iberian since 2014 and tweets at @Seville_Writer

Jeff Brodsky is a freelance writer. He arrived in Barcelona in 2013 via an admittedly indirect route, living in Chicago, Arizona, Seville, Amsterdam, North Carolina and Madrid. Despite not having stepped foot in Seville for over five years, he still speaks Spanish with an Andalusian accent. Jeff’s writing has been published in newspapers and magazines in America and Europe.

Koren Helbig is an Australian freelance journalist and blogger enjoying a life of near-eternal sunshine in Alicante. She writes for publications in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, focusing on stories exploring smart and positive approaches to social issues. She hangs out on Twitter at @KorenHelbig and keeps a selection of her favourite stories at korenhelbig.com.

Julie Pybus lives in a small off-grid house on a hillside in Catalunya. She usually focuses on helping charities and social enterprises with their publications and websites, but has also written for The Guardian, Country Living and The Observer. Julie launched and runs a hyperlocal website which endeavors to increase understanding between the different nationalities in her area perelloplus.com. @JuliePybus

Paul Louis Archer is a freelance photographer, multimedia storyteller and artist educator. A cross-disciplinary worker, who endeavors to encompass the mediums of photography, audio design and writing. Born in Hertfordshire of an English father and Spanish mother. Based in the United Kingdom. @PaulLouisArcher

Vicki McLeod is a freelance writer and photographer. She has lived in Mallorca since 2004. Vicki writes about her beloved island for The Majorca Daily Bulletin, the only daily English language paper in Spain; produces regular columns for the Euro Weekly News, and articles for Spain-Holiday.com. Vicki runs PR strategies for several businesses in Mallorca and London as well as working on her own blogs and projects. She and her husband, Oliver Neilson, supply photo and text content for private clients via @phoenixmediamlr. She tweets at @mcleod_vicki.

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne and based in Barcelona, Alx Phillips writes about contemporary art, dance and theatre in a way that human beings can understand. For more previews, reviews, interviews and extras, check: www.lookingfordrama.com.

“Well, I did my first degree in Audiovisual Communication, so I guess I kind of coached myself not to have a strong accent,” Rocío explains when asked as to why she only speak with the softest of Andalusian twangs, “then afterwards I did a post-graduate teaching certificate, and then my Masters in European Studies.” It takes a moment to register; yet the sad truth is that hers is an all too common story.

“I was unemployed in Spain for two years, which is just too long,” says the 28-year-old originally from Seville, “I wasn’t just looking for jobs in my city, I was applying for jobs all over Spain, Madrid, Valencia, Barcelona, but I was barely even offered an interview. I went eight months without even receiving one phone call in relation to all my applications, and after that I decided that I had to leave.” The pain is etched all over her face. 

Of de emp
As the job queues increase in Spain, so do the numbers of those leaving the country (Photo: EFE via El País)

Indeed, the number of people leaving Spain is increasing dramatically. The Insituto Nacional de Estadística recently released figures showing that over 40,000 left the country in the first six months of 2012; a 44-percent increase on that time in 2011. Many of them are seeking pastures new in the United Kingdom, where the Spanish population has increased by a third in the last five years, and the volume of National Insurance Number applications received by the Department for Work and Pensions by Spaniards over the last 12 months was second only to those made by Pakistani’s as the highest number of foreign national requests.

“It was a difficult decision to leave, of course it was,” she adds. “I have my friends, my family, and my boyfriend. He’s lucky. He works in an industry that hasn’t really been affected by the crisis, and hasn’t come to England with me. But sometimes you to make decisions and sacrifices for yourself, for your career, for your life. Two years of being unemployed is just demoralizing, I really wondered at times ‘Rocío, what are you doing with your life?’ So, I came here to improve my English, and I’m looking for a job as a waitress, barmaid, housekeeping…anything really, and then in the future we’ll see if I’m able to go back to Spain or if I will stay here and get my English to a level where I can work in marketing or communications … Who knows what the future will bring.”

This uncertainty is a reality now facing many, as those young and old are finding it ever-harder to find a job in a country where 52.3% of 16-24 year-olds are unemployed, and overall unemployment has risen to over one-in-four people.

Her friend Ferran joins us. He is 22 and graduated with a degree in Human Resources Management last June. “There’s just no opportunities for young people,” he says explaining the decision to swap his native Barcelona for Leeds in September. “I mean, you can work as a becario (intern) but you get paid next to nothing, and in a big city it doesn’t even cover the rent. I’m earning more as a barman here than I would be back home interning in a big company. Here I can improve my English, earn some money and then start looking for a more permanent job. I want to stay here for a long time.” I try to put myself in his shoes. We’re the same age, have similar interests, and although I have lived abroad for a period before, it was always going to be a temporary measure as part of my degree before I returned to the security of Blighty.

They both scoff when I suggest that Britain too has high levels of unemployment, “For you maybe seven or eight percent [unemployment level] is high, we have twenty five percent, and it’s worse for younger people like me,” Ferran retorts. By this time I have realized it is impossible to even contemplate being in the same, or a similar situation to what is being called la generación perdida (or, lost generation) by some people in Spain. These are highly educated, skilled people moving out of necessity.

Portobello in London is an area that has traditionally had a small, sociable Spanish community. There are a couple of Spanish delicatessens, selling chorizo, vino and more. There is the Spanish School Instituto Vicente Cañada Blanch, from which a stone’s throw away is La Bodega tapas bar. Proprietor Antonio Carrera has been in England for 45 years and used to struggle to find Spanish-speaking staff; not anymore. “I probably get around 25-30 CV’s a week minimum, and at least half of them are normally from Spaniards,” he tells me, with a tone of sorrow that reflects the gravity of the situation his homeland now finds itself in. “I only have room for about 10 staff, and yet I keep getting these applications from people with degrees, and masters in difficult subjects looking for what they can get – waiter, chef, washing dishes, even cleaning the restaurant. They are just forced to do anything to be able to go on with their lives, and it really is sad.”

La bodega
Antonio Carrera's 'La Bodega' Tapas Bar in London (Photo Ewan-M via flickr)

Back in Leeds the sentiment is shared, “It’s tough for Spain because there is a whole generation of people without work, and they are leaving,” Ferran explains. “I came here with my best friend, and we both have friends who have gone to Germany, France, and other cities in the UK like London and Dublin. We’re trying to be as English as we can; we pay our taxes, and do our shopping in the supermarket, even if the food is not the best,” he laughs. “And don’t even get me started on the weather,” as we jovially look out of the window into the thick, grey clouds, something which in retrospect is a seemingly pertinent metaphor for the economic situation these two young professionals have left behind in Spain.

 Suddenly the laughter stops. “But you can’t blame us, right?” Ferran says solemnly, “there’s just no future for us in Spain at all.”  

 

 

What Cameron should say about Brexit

Por: | 17 de enero de 2013

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I might not agree with David Cameron when he makes his long-awaited speech in the Netherlands on Friday. But he will at least be firing a starting pistol for an open debate about the future of Britain’s role in the European Union. Goaded by our predominantly rightwing media, Britain’s main political parties have traditionally been timid when it comes to defending membership of the bloc. Instead, both the Conservatives and Labour have long engaged in a disingenuous contest: who can be seen to sigh the deepest about the tiresome obligations rubber-stamped in Brussels, while never actually mouthing the dread word on the bottom line. Now that word exists: Brexit.

Whatever the terms and time frame for a referendum outlined by the prime minister, there will now be a dividing line about which political forces and, eventually, all UK citizens, will have to position themselves. Are we in or are we out? As a Brit who is physically out in the EU, I know on which side my bread/pan/pain/panne (you get the idea) is buttered (or oiled?). I want my compatriots to see the benefits of continued, and committed, EU membership; I await anxiously for champions to emerge. It may be a long and frustrating wait. Thursday’s news that Labour leader Ed Miliband is refusing to say whether he would support a referendum on taking powers back from Brussels is disheartening, to say the least. We do still have Nick Clegg and his much-Googled Spanish wife Miriam González. The deputy PM is eager to put some distance between his party and Cameron´s euro-skeptic-ridden Tories on this one, but what may help to push up the Liberal Democrat vote back toward 20 percent will not suffice to win the day in a nationwide referendum.

To whom is Cameron addressing Friday’s long-awaited declaration? Mainly, to the euro-skeptic element in his party, many of whom are seeing their majorities whittled away by the rise of the anti-immigration, anti-Brussels (and absurdly named) UKIP. The story of a British PM turning cold on Europe after his first years in power is hardly a new one, however, albeit this time in the face of US pressure to not rock the European boat.   

As a Briton who is reaping the EU’s rewards, as opposed to compatriots who think that Brussels is sucking away the UK’s lifeblood, this is what I would like to hear my prime minister say on a winter’s day in the Netherlands:

Britain can play a leading EU role. In fact, it already has. Cameron should quote José Ignacio Torreblanca from EL PAÍS last month: “Since the 1980s, thanks to the vision of Britain, which supported the use of the qualified majority (as opposed to unanimity) for questions related to the internal market, we have advanced rapidly along the path of creation of markets, inward and outward, while keeping a tight budgetary leash on certain areas such as agricultural policy, which had previously burgeoned out of hand to absorb more than half the EU budget.”

Turning our back on Europe would have a terrible cultural and social cost. Erasmus scholarships, exchange courses, easy-to-arrange retirement in the sun, cross-border relationships, professional opportunities in open markets… is it all so bad?  

Britain is no longer a world power. Europe could be much more of one with the help of genuine British engagement. Obama knows this, and it is time that Middle England knew this too. 

So will I be able to live out my dual existence to the end of my days as a British citizen paying my taxes in Spain? Can I realistically cherish the idea that my children could study at a UK university? I hope the day never comes when I have to choose between my home countries, but I relish the prospect of Britain having its say. I will be among that electorate, posting my ballot - in favor of Brit-in!

El País

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