We need professional help. What is it that Spain is really suffering from? And how can Europe help? After lunch we have an appointment with José Ignacio Torreblanca, Head of the Madrid office of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) and European commentator for El Pais. He invites us to his think tank's little office in the heart of Madrid, opposite the Museo del Prado. "Europe has been a success story for Spaniards," he states right in the beginning. Torreblanca is 43, he belongs to the post-civil-war generation whose main political concern does not remain with antiquated quarrels between left and right. Like Christian, he sees Spain's future in Europeanisation and globalisation, of which he's a big fan.
"Spaniards are pro-Europeans by default," says Torreblanca. His country needs the EU's and ECB's support, but they need to show some discipline as well. Unlike in Greece or Italy, the Spanish public debt crisis was primarily induced by a private debt crisis. So not only does the state deficit have to be solved, but so do people's spending patterns. "The whole 'bread for today, hunger for tomorrow'-mentality cannot go on like this," as Diego pointed out earlier in the park. This is exactly what impresses us: everyone to whom we speak expresses regret for Spain's mistakes in the past. Young Spaniards are all very aware of their situation and most are keen to master the upcoming challenges. After some 45 minutes of discussion, Torreblanca concludes, "It's going to be a tough year for young people – they have to decide when to lose their patience."
Later that day, we have the privilege of meeting Carlos Blanco, one of Spain's aspiring intellectuals. He is only in his early twenties but has already completed three Bachelor degrees (in chemistry, theology and philosophy), holds two PhDs, has published three books and is currently assistant professor at the University of Navarra. At the age of 12 he appeared on national television, lecturing about Greek and Roman history. The guy is a genius. He is also a friend of Europe, especially since he believes in European intellectual history. France, Germany and only now the UK are important reference countries to the young scholar.
Like Torreblanca, he is not afraid of a braindrain, but rather sees an opportunity in well-educated young Spaniards going abroad. He is also convinced that Spain will recover quickly from the crisis and soon play an important role in Europe again. All this, he says, should make Spain more European, although he doesn't consider himself primarily European. "I am a human being," says Carlos. His identiy goes beyond statehood and is rooted in universal (intellectual) values rather than national particularities. At the same time, this is something that we have heard quite a few times before – also from people without a university degree. Young Europeans are not as strongly connected to national or supranational entities anymore. We are all "non-nationals" now.
With Barcelona and the issue of Catalonian independence ahead, we left Madrid after our two day visit – very grateful for all the responses and the support.