englishman abroad, travel

Back from Cadiz

Well, I’m back again.

Just like on the previous project meeting trip to Bordeaux, I couldn’t speak the language in Cadiz. Thankfully my Boss, Peter, is fluent in Spanish and therefore we did pretty well. Cadiz is a beautifully well-preserved city, and the old town is a maze of winding alleys broken up by incongruous plazas and squares. The streets are mostly narrow and winding, with tall buildings everywhere — a rat warren for extremely privileged rats. You’ll be heading down a series of vertical channels, the slender, high-walled streets forming tall, upended rectangular spaces, and come suddenly out into an unexpected plaza, the rectangle, sideways and wide, vision horizontal once more.

The place is filled with historic buildings which, back in Oldenburg or other cities like it in Germany, would be a museum in their own right. In Cadiz, these buildings are so frequent as to be almost unremarkable. The buildings are so tall because Cadiz is a port city, the tall buildings dotted with watchtowers used by old merchant families to control trade routes to and from the new world. And yet, the buildings are not tall. The Tavira tower is the tallest tower in Cadiz, and that’s a mere 45 metres. Going to Cadiz is like going back in time.

This is where we had our latest partner meeting for the TRAILs project. The first work packet (or Output 1) has been finished, and Output 2 is well underway. Output1 was Jade University’s, mine and Peter’s responsibility, and the provisional findings were presented to partners. Output 2 and 3 (Cadiz University and Poznan University, respectively) were also updated and introduced.

Aside from the meetings and work, there were excellent dinners. There were museums and forts and history and things to do. There were even oranges growing on trees with fragrant blossoms. There was even sunshine. To top it all, I saw my first opera at the “Gran Teatro Falla”, it was Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. It was fantastic.

Cadiz is a wonderful place, and I thoroughly recommend it as a holiday destination. I’ll certainly go back in my leisure time.

Just before Cadiz, Peter and I were in Hamburg for the kick-off meeting of another project. This project involves a company and the funding is a bit different, so I can’t say too much about it. Suffice it to say that I’ve got quite a lot more travel coming up in the coming years: Cyprus, Finland, Poland, Italy, Croatia and possibly some others, too. All of this travel is part of my work; all of it connected to the EU and the Schengen area.

It would be impossible to continue in my job if I hadn’t become German just in time…

statue

englishman abroad, politics

Catalan vs Scottish vs UK independence

With the recent (illegal) vote in Catalonia about whether it should be an independent country, we finally have a meaningful independence vote which has taken place outside of Britain. 

First there was the Scottish Independence referendum of 2014, in which Scotland voted to remain part of the UK, then there was the EU referendum of 2016 in which the UK voted to leave the EU, and now we have had the Catalan Independence referendum of 2017: 

Do you want Catalonia to become an independent state in the form of a republic? 

Unlike the others, this vote was ruled as illegal from the start. The Spanish constitution states that Spain is indivisible and that’s it’s impossible to secede from the country.

That alone sounds like an extremely valid reason to have a vote on the subject. If you aren’t allowed to leave, there should absolutely be a vote on leaving. 

Say what you want about the Scottish referendum, the UK government didn’t tell Scotland that it simply couldn’t leave, case closed. Rather it said “Scotland, you’re already an independent country. By all means, vote” 

Should Scotland be an independent country? 

‘No’ – was Scotland’s answer. Scotland wanted to remain an interdependent country as part of the UK. Sensible choice, especially as joining the EU was never on the table in the first place – Spain would have vetoed such a breakaway state’s membership to discourage Catalonian independence. It’s also especially sensible as all successful countries are interdependent these days. Look at North Korea: no foreign governments lobbying their people’s assembly. No pesky transnational organisations like the UN (or EU) are listened to in North Korea. North Korea has absolute control over its own oil and gas. North Korea has little to do with its neighbours, even with China. Not exactly heaven on earth, is it? 

Finally, we come to Brexit. The question was much wordier: 

Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union? 

No pretence of whether or not the UK was an independent country was present in the question itself, that came from the TV debates instead. This was a straightforward question of political union. Therein lies the problem: how can you expect people to vote on such a complicated issue when few of us could really articulate what the European Union is? Ideas like ‘independence’ are easy to understand, but ‘remain or leave a complicated political union that you know nothing about’ is choice that should never have been given without adequate and impartial education on the subject. I remember learning about Pythagoras at school, Shakespeare, The Great Fire of London, plate tectonics, what different religions believe about the afterlife… but politics? Civics? How the world around us actually works? Taxes? Finance? The economy? Important things that an adult should know? 

Should education make independent people? 

That’s a ‘yes’ from me.