• Since this March, it only takes four months to legally change your gender in Spain. Parliament has passed a LGTBQ protection law that keeps Spain on track to be one of the most progressive countries in LGTBQ issues, at least on paper.

    In the past, a trans person needed a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria and two years of hormone therapy. Now, all you have to do is inform the civil registry that you want to change your gender, come back three months later and wait another month. This avoids the “pathologisation” of trans people.

    “Grandparents helping their children become independent or paying for their grandkids’ school is proof the system doesn’t work. This year, my pension will grow by 8.5%, but you will probably not get a pay rise, and if you do, it will be 3% at most.

    It is unfair that we still get better and better pensions: just for starters, I have bought my house, while my son loses 40% of his salary on rent.”

    Mariano Guindal, 72, is a pensioner from Barcelona who feels privileged. He receives the maximum pension (which is more than 3,000 euros per month), and it keeps increasing.

    But he feels this is unfair: in his opinion, the pensioners are a ‘protected’ social group, spoilt by successive Governments for electoral purposes. In Spain, there are ten million seniors, which means ten million voters out of a total of 36 million.

    I became a ‘feminist’ because of rage. When a child, I only cried publicly when I perceived something was unjust. Like knowing it was much easier to be a boy than a girl. Boys were allowed to do more things. Later, I put names to those feelings and concepts: feminism.

    In adulthood, I tried to navigate all the contradictions, from being raised in a sexist world (I still prefer the Spanish word: machismo) to overcompensating with thoughts such as ‘I’m not a victim’ and ‘I’m succeeding because of my personal effort’ and so on. But it’s not only personal effort, but the effort of so many women before us.

    Spain is one of the most progressive countries in terms of law: the Government has just proposed a law making parity in electoral lists mandatory. It has one of the longest paternity leaves in Europe (non-transferable), and so on. Not bad for a country that some in Europe still perceive as Catholic-conservative, is it?

    Maybe the laws were introduced too early and society wasn’t prepared, some say. There is still ‘machismo’ in Spain. In everyday life, in the streets where women face harassment, in the wives still beaten by their husbands, the social pressures and expectations on women, we still suffer.

    I would be happy for the day when a woman can be as mediocre as a man and still access the same opportunities. Some men say to women like me in Spain, who ask for more equal rights: ‘Spain is one of the most ‘feminist’ countries, why don’t you go to Iran to protest? There they have problems, not here’.

    But I am radically convinced that you don’t have to wait for a society to ‘be prepared’ to start making changes, especially when they’re about justice and equality. Spanish society will surely catch up with the mindset that has drawn up these new laws.

    I know there are countries where the conditions of women are worse than in Spain. But now is the time to speak about our rights and duties, and where room for improvement is needed, supported by the laws and beyond them.

    “Imagine cancelling your tax residence from the country where your head is on the coins”, the tweet says.

    In Spain, corruption has reached the highest level: the monarchy. After decades of a policy of eyes wide shut to the shady business of Juan Carlos I (our first King after the Franco dictatorship), the scandal grew so big that he was forced to abdicate to save the institution.

    So now, as “emeritus King” Juan Carlos lives in “exile” in the United Arab Emirates, where he had previously used his status as the Spanish monarch to make business.

    Juan Carlos has even changed his tax residency to the UAE to avoid investigation by the Spanish Treasury for tax evasion regarding juicy ‘presents’ from his Arab friends. Surreal, isn’t it? So much that the Spanish can only do one thing: laugh.

    Satire is no different from reality, when it comes to global warming. That was the public reaction after the Spanish version of The Onion published an article with the title: “The upper classes begin to worry about climate change when they see that there is no snow in Baqueira”.

    Skiing and other winter sports that need snow are not so popular in Spain, as warm weather is the norm here. Ski resorts such as Baqueira in Catalonia are seen as an expensive holiday destination, and not for all pockets.

    But this also shows the stark reality of climate change: for Spain, today’s scarcity of snow will mean tomorrow’s lack of water. The reservoirs in internal basins of Catalonia, for example, are at 31% of their total capacity. According to the Catalan Water Agency (ACA), this figure is “worrying”.

    “We want beer! We want beer!” roared the crowd during the opening match of the 2022 World Cup. In a country where migrant workers have been deprived of their rights, where women and LGTBQ people are oppressed, and where the World Cup bid was won with cold hard cash, the public drew the line at Doha’s decision to forbid the sale of alcohol around the stadiums.

    The Qatar World Cup is facing the biggest boycott of any major sports event in recent history. But something is bugging me. Russia hosted the World Cup in 2018. Russia, a country notoriously undemocratic, where political opponents and journalists fall from windows, get shot on their doorstep or are poisoned with polonium, and where the World Cup bid was also won by dirty money.

    Was there a boycott there? No. Sounds like something has changed… Or that there are some double standards. Why were European societies ‘ok’ with Russia’s Cup and not with Qatar?

    Let me underline some aspects that could play a role: Qatar is different from us Europeans, and the ban on alcohol is just a small part. We could close our eyes to politics and focus on the game in Russia with the help of all the party that comes with football: beer, pre-match joy on the streets, fights with rival fans, and even prostitution.

    You can find none of that ambience in Qatar. This time, there is a specific anti-Qatar feeling, driven in part because of its strict Islamic-based laws, but also because it is unattainable for the average fan to attend.

    Many fans feel the show has been stolen from them. That is why we do not have the incentive to close our eyes, as we did with Russia.

    I come from a Catholic family. I have three sisters. But when I think about having children, what I see is the uncertainty of the future.

    After the 2008 crisis, the Spanish labor market suffered a shock. What used to be ‘a company you always worked for’ transformed into unemployment queues. We received the ‘firing flexibility’ but without the perspective of a fast re-hiring in another company.

    Now, if I don’t know whether I will still have a job in five years’ time, how am I going to embark on a long-term commitment like having a child?

    When I hear drastic warnings about the shrinking of the European population, fears that Spain’s birth rate is among the lowest in Europe, or politicians blaming young women and their lifestyle for this situation: it’s always on women.

    The blame for the decline in birth rates only falls on women joining the workforce (it’s true!), women wanting to focus on their careers (also true!) and even ‘selfish’ women trying to enjoy longer child-free years of youth (more truths!).

    But when politicians address natality, it is never about housing, economic insecurity, the labor market, or the cost of living. Government policies should approach the problem in a holistic way. Unfortunately, it has always been a disappointment.

    Instead of trying to convince me to have children, the Government could try to fix the housing market. After years of unstable employment, I was 27 years old when I got my first fixed contract. In Madrid, where I live, finding an affordable house with more than two rooms in a normal neighborhood is an ordeal. And forget about buying a place.

    How could I think about having a child without a house to raise them? Let alone four kids, like my mother.

    For this week’s European Focus, our colleague Alicia Allamilos interviewed a man who professionally follows Russian disinformation campaigns in Spain, and the wider Spanish-speaking world. For security reasons, our interviewee keeps his identity secret.

    Juan López de Uralde left his post as director of Greenpeace Spain to found the country’s first Green Party in 2011 – but without success. Today, the Greens are divided among various coalitions.

    European Focus: Let’s start with the problem. Will Spain be the first country in Europe to be affected by the worst aspects of climate change?

    Juan López de Uralde: We’re probably the EU’s first, and most vulnerable victim of climate change. According to the Spanish Meteorology Agency, the temperature increase has already reached 1.2º C. This has implications for the spread of wildfires, the reduced availability of water, the widening of arid zones and much more. The problem is that passivity is taking its toll – as we have long warned.

    European Focus: As a woman from Córdoba, I remember the 47ºC summers and some years of water rationing. The awareness of climate disaster is there in Spain. Yet there is no Green Party and no strong environmental activism, why?

    de Uralde: We have tried without success. There are three main problems: Firstly, the lack of resources. Secondly, the Spanish electoral system, which punishes small parties. And thirdly, there is no strong social support for the Green cause as compared to other European countries. Awareness has grown, but the climate issue is not yet a decisive factor in voting decisions. That’s the main difference with Europe. Economic or employment problems count more.

    European Focus: You were in jail after gatecrashing a Climate Change Conference (COP) in 2009 with a banner. Now we see young activists throwing soup at Van Goghs. Do Spanish activists have to be even more radical to be heard?

    de Uralde: We went directly to those who were causing the problem. But I respect what these activists are doing: it’s a cry for help from the younger generation. In Spain there was also a factor that we have not mentioned so far: The biggest climate mobilizations were around COP25 (in Madrid), just before the Covid 19 pandemic. Some major parties are also beginning to take up the climate agenda, but it remains to be seen whether this is really the case. If not, activism will increase.

    The energy crisis is a European one, but this time, unlike during the 2008 financial crisis, Europe is upside down: Germany, in particular, was once the “schoolmaster” lecturing Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain about fiscal irresponsibility, but Berlin now finds itself much harder hit than its southern neighbours when it comes to energy. 

    Germany powered its industrial and economic growth with cheap Russian gas, giving little thought to the security risks, not just to itself. Who’s “irresponsible” now? One might ask.

    Spain, on the other hand, proved its farsightedness by investing in a more diversified energy mix, despite the greater economic cost.

    While just a few months ago the Spanish proposal (backed by Portugal and Italy) to radically overhaul the European energy market was being dismissed by some – with their hierarchical reflexes – as ‘quixotic’, it seems there are finally some southern winds of change: an adapted Spanish “gas cap” is now becoming a reality for the rest of the bloc

    Of course, reform like that is a long-term project. This winter, the door must still be opened to more pragmatic and short-term options for gas or coal from the United States, Norway and Azerbaijan. 

    But, just as the Covid-19 pandemic allowed for the rupture of certain ‘mantras’ that seemed impossible to break, the belated understanding that energy is a matter of European security also represents a historic opportunity to push for more sustainable means to ensure it. 

    Looking to the future, this hopefully means moving towards a better developed energy mix with more renewables all over Europe – together.