As the dark storm clouds of Covid 19 continue to rain on the Ibiza 2020 summer parades, chinks of light emerged from Madrid this week, offering hope of a brighter future for its multi billion euro tourist season. Spanish PM, Pedro Sanchez, and his left leaning coalition Government, have come under sustained attack from the far right over Madrid’s handling of the crisis, with VOX leader, Santi Abascal, accusing its Deputy PM, Pablo Ingleas, of using the crisis to spread “hatred and communist sectarianism in a bid to overthrow the Constitution”. He is referring to The Moncloa Pact a groundbreaking piece of legislation that paved the way for Franco’s Spain to transform into a democracy. In particular, Sanchez most likely encouraged by his Catalan and Socialist coalition partners, are looking at tinkering at a highly contentious piece of legislation, Article 155, a kill switch that overrides democracy in all of Spain’s 17 regions .
PP and VOX are using populist tactics to destabilise Sanchez’s shaky coalition, reflecting growing unease in Spain about restriction of civil liberties and the impact of Lockdown on the economy. They threatened to vote down last weeks lockdown extension to May 9, unless Sanchez promised something tangible on the economy. Earlier in the week the PP voted against Spain and the Coronabonds bailout in Brussels, raising eyebrows in the process as the party usually wraps itself in Spanish patriotism. This strange political move, could also be related to the decision by Brussels to harbor their wanted “criminal”, Catalan separatist, Charles Puigdemont, who succeeded in winning a landmark UN Court of Human Rights case in Geneva, a real thorn in the monarchists side. While the VOX leader is doing an excellent job playing the right wing bad cop, PP leader Pablo Casado is reveling in the good cop role.
In an astute piece of political maneuvering, Casado, the leader of the opposition and pro business party the PP, was appointed to head an emergency cross party committee, that would examine the lockdowns impact on the economy and society and report back to Madrid by June 30, with an agreed plan on how to kick start the economy after consulting all stakeholders. Congress will vote on these recommendations by July 6, making them official Government policy and the road map Spain will use to re-open its tourism sector. We are not sure how Madrid plans to return devolved power to each of the 17 regions when the alarm is lifted on May 9, but I would expect the state to retain majority control in Health and Law enforcement, which will not go down well with The Catalans and some other regions. In my opinion, the only reason the present Government has not collapsed, is that nobody wants the Job right now. Unlike Boris Johnson, who disappeared from the public eye and earned sympathy in the process, Sanchez’s ratings have plummeted as he tries to spin five plates, Covid 19, Podemos, The Catalans, Europe and his own party the PSOE who have been critical of some of his decisions, which in today’s environment, is par for the course as Governments struggle to get a grip on the ever changing political landscape.
As I sit here writing this blog, 42 days have passed in Lockdown and there is still another 13 to go. Many of us are at breaking point, especially those living in high rise buildings and apartments with no gardens or terraces and I can assure you, all everybody wants to do is get back to work and enjoy our civil liberties again. The Spanish mindset is al fresco and with Covid 19 busting summer temperatures on our doorstep, Spain is keen to open its tourism sector as soon as possible. The PP party is the patron Saint of businesses in Spain and they will do their utmost to reopen the economy as soon as possible. They are effective networkers and possess the keys to the corridors of power. While they are citing that contagion and isolation issues are valid, they are also suggesting that unemployment will have a more serious effect on the mental health of Spanish people and that message is now resonating with the public who want to get back to work.
The Balearic islands all share dialects of the Catalan language, but they are not directly linked to the Catalans of Catalonia. They do share a lot of mannerisms in food, culture, language, bureaucracy, stubbornness and protocol, especially in health. They ere on the side of caution, so lifting Covid 19 restrictions too early does not sit well with them. As the PSOE control the seat of Government of the Balearic islands in Palma, they have publicly stated that they do not want their region to used as a special “test case” for the tourist economy and reiterated their policy that health was their main priority, a policy they have not wavered from citing the danger of a second wave of the virus hitting their islands. There is no love loss between Ibiza and Palma, the Springfield and Shelbyville of Balearic politics. Palma looks at Ibiza the same way Madrid views Barcelona – troublemakers.
While Sanchez is calling for a National Government, the PP party are lobbying to use Ibiza as a test case to trial out new methods to restart the economy. Ibiza has a powerful PP ally in the Matutes family, who are highly respected in Madrid. Abel Matutes snr, served as Spanish Minister For Foreign Affairs from May 1996 to 2000. During the reign of Franco, Ibiza was permitted lots of liberty compared to the rest of Spain and the island prospered under the direction of the Matutes family who ran banks, ferries and hotels. Many people will testify that Franco had a soft spot for the island and left it in peace, safe in the knowledge that it would look after itself . At one point in the early 70’s Ibiza was the bohemian and liberal center of Spain. The only trouble the island created for Franco, was when the hippies started running around naked on the beaches and roads, something Roman Catholic Spain frowned upon. Cleverly the hippies circumvented this law by wearing the Tanga, a tiny piece of swimwear that did just enough to cover the crotch area, but left nothing to the imagination.
In my opinion, politics will play a big part in how Ibiza responds to Covid 19 this summer. The island has done an excellent job managing the outbreak, as of the 25 of April, there has been a total of 154 cases, 11 fatalities and 82 recoveries. It will be easier for Ibiza to test its 147,000 residents than elsewhere on the mainland, all the graphs are going downward, with a growing optimism that certain businesses will be able to open this season just like Germany, Denmark and the US are doing now. However, there will be a strong lobby in Ibiza to keep the restrictions in situ, protect their low risk profile, and working towards opening the official tourist season again in 2021. So on one side you have the Balearic and Ibiza Government prioritising health, and on the other side the PP party championing the economy. Who will carry the day and will a compromise be found? Ibiza is famous for finding loopholes around the law, and a solution to make things work for all stakeholders. Right now, like the Spanish parliament, the island is divided about its summer season ahead, time I feel, and Pablo Casados report on June 30, will tell us a lot more.
Next time, we discuss the various proposals been put forward by businesses in Ibiza to keep tourism alive this summer, which includes a rumour that one well known Ibiza club could have new owners if the economy fails this season.