The European debt crisis and our year in Spain

Will our plans be scuppered by the European debt crisis?

As we excitedly approach the countdown zone for our year in Spain, we have become attuned to everything “Spain”.  Each day we lurch from bad news to worse news regarding the state of affairs in Spain and Europe as a whole, and we constantly discuss what would be the turn of events that would force us to reconsider our plans.

Recently we have read about severe austerity measures, a downward spiralling economy, national strikes, massive bank bailouts, cuts to essential services, riots and protests; yet despite the upheaval, we still cling to the hope that we can make our selfish dream come true.  At what cost we are not sure.

Here is a summary of some of the bewildering events recently facing Spanish people:

Riots and street fights across rural Spain and Madrid

This week there were riots and street battles between miners and police in Leon and now Madrid due to austerity measures.

Coal miners arrive near Spain Industry Ministry after marching up Madrid’s main north-south avenue on Wednesday July 11, 2012.                     (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

Riot police fired rubber bullets at Spanish coal miners protesting in the streets of Madrid over subsidy cuts they fear will jeopardize their meager livelihood. The miners’ march into the capital was the culmination for some of a nearly three-week trek from the regions where they eke out a living.

Euro zone massive bailout of Spanish Banks

Also this week, as Spain’s banking system was on the brink of collapse, the Eurozone agreed to a mind boggling 100 billion Euro rescue package and an 18 month deadline to clean up the Spanish Banking Sector. And what if Spain is unable to meet the deadline? I guess we will find out as we will be half-way through our year in Spain at that time.

Minority shareholders protesting against the abuses of banks are reflected on the headquarters of Spain’s lender bank Bankia in Madrid June 23, 2012. REUTERS/Andrea Comas

Spain is still struggling to meet euro zone financial targets, and the Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy this week introduced a new package of tough austerity measures including a rise in the sales tax, reversing his previous stance.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announces a new package of cuts

Cuts to Education leads to teacher strikes & impoverished system

In May teachers went on strike and parents and pupils protest the 20% cut in education funding nationally which will see larger class sizes and teachers working more hours for the same pay.

Teachers strike protesting major education cuts

National General Strike brings Spain to a halt

In March there was a national general strike that effectively shut down the country.The strike was organised to protest the Government’s austerity measures which are required for Spain to meet its EU debt repayments yet cuts are leading to a downward spiral of the economy.

Protest in Barcelona during the general national strike 29 March 2012

All of this reading is devastating in a way that is hard to fully comprehend from a distance in Australia so we still think we will be fine and continue to plan our adventure. Then last week I read this headline:

Debt crisis: Finland warns of euro exit rather than pay debts of others

I suppose you are wondering what this has to do with anything. Actually the connection is is that my husband and children are Finnish citizens with Finnish passports so if Finland were to leave not only the Euro currency zone but perhaps also the EU, we would not be able to spend a year in Spain and instead would spend it in….FINLAND.  Maybe that won’t be so bad except that we all want to learn Spanish not Finnish.

I know it is extremely unlikely that Finland would leave the EU however, with these incredibly volatile times in Europe, anything seems possible.

Finnish Finance Minister Jutta Urpilainen announces Finland would rather withdraw from the EU than pay down the debts of Spain and Italy

Meanwhile, while still on the subject of Finland: the Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen, issued a warning this week in relation to the Spanish bailout negotiations saying that the euro’s predicament was as perilous as at any time in the past two years.

The one and only positive factor for us in the current situation in Europe (and sadly it is borne of the misery of others doing it tough in Europe), is the high value of the Australian dollar that makes it somewhat affordable for us to live in Europe for the first time in my life.

Oi vey, que sera sera, what will be will be, and all the other philosophical expressions of surrender to the unknown….we four are but small bit players in this global melodrama.

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3 thoughts on “The European debt crisis and our year in Spain

  1. Although I agree that the situation in Europe is very complex right now, I also try to maintain a criticism of the international media industry, which tends to overreact to facts to make them ‘marketable’. The media coverage on the European financial and economic crisis reminds me of an old quote from a 007 movie: “There’s no news like bad news”.

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