Government proposes to cancel the traditional afternoon nap
The recent announcement of Spain’s interim PM Mariano Rajoy to make local customs more “European”, by adopting the Greenwich Mean Time (like in the UK and Portugal) as well as abolishing the traditional siesta, have been echoed in the national and international press. For instance, foreign media sarcastically reported “Spain is set to end siesta in bid to join the 21st Century” or “Traditionally, the Spanish work day begins at 10 a.m. and is split in half by a two- to three-hour break known as the siesta.”
While the siesta was a widespread tradition in Spain’s rural society until the mid-20th century in order to avoid working the fields in the scorching heat, along with the country’s industrialisation, a prolonged mid-day break became less common. In fact, a 2009 study conducted by the Foundation for Health Education detected that only 16 % of Spaniards take a nap every day and 58 % never do. The majority stated that they follow the siesta tradition irregularly. Regarding inter-regional differences, there is no distinct pattern among different parts of the country. The average siesta lasts approximately one hour. Precisely the duration of naptime has been debated and as several academic studies acknowledge, short 10-minute nap have been found to be the most effective. This type of nap produced immediate improvements including the perception of fatigue, vigour and cognitive performance.
Aside from the disputed health considerations, the current debate in Spain revolves around the question how to handle the balance between distinctive cultural heritages and global socio-economic adaptions.
“Panama Papers” – Repercussions in Spain
The latest revelations regarding secrete offshore companies, known as the “Panama Papers” affair, concerns a large number of Spaniards, which together have been holding around 1,200 companies administered by the leaked Panamanian Law Firm Mossack Fonseca. Among the most well-known are the prominent filmmaker Pedro Almodovar, the EU-climate commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete and the sister of former King Juan Carlos, Pilar de Borbón. As the Spanish government recently announced, the attorney general has taken over the investigations.
The strongest repercussion in the media coverage triggered the case of Pilar de Borbón, who had administered at least one offshore company for 40 years, between 1974 and 2014. While she affirmed that the respective capital was not hidden from the control of tax authorities, the incident casts once more a negative light on the Spanish royal family. Only two years ago, among other scandals, the royal Infanta Christina and her husband Iñaki Urdangarin were involved in a serious tax and corruption affair
. However, also in the current affair, young King Felipe appears to maintain his clean image. Right after his accession to the throne in 2014, the offshore company of his aunt Pilar, was dissolved.
A further affected and very prominent personality that resides in Spain is soccer Star Lionel Messi. He and his father Jorge Messi are accused of tax levy in which their presumable offshore company “Mega Star Enterprises” facilitated illegal operations.
National Elections – Back to square one
More than four months after the general elections the political situation remains the same as before the election. There are plenty of possibilities to form a new government coalition, but there was an enormous lack of political will
Individual interests are dominating the negotiations: the newcomer party Podemos aims at forming a left-wing coalition with the Socialist Party (PSOE) while excluding the second newcomer party Ciudadanos. Latter is widely regarded as the greatest competitor for Podemos due to their joint role as alternative political force. Likewise, Ciudadanos would like to agree on a coalition pact with the Socialist Party (PSOE) while also excluding Podemos. On the other side, the conservative interim ruling party Partido Popular (PP) fears most the new alternative parties. Consequently, they would like to build a grand coalition with the Socialists Party (PSOE) as a junior partner. On behalf of the Socialist party with its party leader Pedro Sanchez, this last option in turn is regarded as political suicide. PSOE wishes to get rid of the bad reputation that burdens both people’s parties and thus seek to pact with one of the newcomers. Nonetheless, neither with Ciudadanos nor with Podemos they will easily provide a parliamentary majority.
As a result, despite countless talks, meetings and press conferences, Spain remains where it was before the elections. It´s back to square one.