How can the Balearic government boycott the opening of a new hospital? We are not talking about a clinic, or a first aid post we are talking about a full-blown national health hospital which is vitally needed in Majorca and which will take the strain off Son Dureta, which is almost at breaking point. Balearic leader Francesc Antich, who is always the first to criticise the central administration in Madrid for not providing sufficient funds for the islands, said that he didn't attend because he never received an invitation. What an excuse and how petty. His absence could be explained by the fact that he didn't want to attend a event, which quiet rightly was Madrid's party because they had paid for the hospital and naturally wanted some of the credit. Madrid is ruled by the right-wing Partido Popular, while the Balearics are administered by a left wing/nationalist coalition. Political differences should have been put to one side for the day, and Antich should have taken his place at the opening ceremony. This was not a time for fall-outs, this was a time for working together to show that the hospital had been built for the people of Majorca regardless of anything else. Relations between Palma and Madrid are probably at their lowest level ever and the only people who will suffer, are us, the people who live here. Financial aid from Madrid to build more hospitals, roads, etc will probably not be forthcoming because of the frosty reception from the local government.

If Balearic leader Francesc Antich is planning to make any New Year resolutions then settling his differences with Madrid should be high on his list. I can understand that it is not easy dealing with an administration which does not have the same political ideas. This state of affairs is not made easier by the fact that the man that Francesc Antich beat at the last local elections is a minister in Jose Maria Aznar's team.

But Antich must learn to put all this to one side because at the moment Madrid pulls the purse strings and vital aid could be held back or even spent elsewhere. It may be good party politics to knock the Madrid government but it doesn't do much to improve the Balearics, easily when so much depends on Madrid.

Jason Moore

Get the basics right first

A remarkable letter was published in the Independent newspaper last Saturday. Among its fifteen signatories there were at least eight former European prime ministers (or their equivalent) - among them Felipe Gonzales, Helmut Kohl and Helmut Schmidt - and a number of other distinguished politicians such as Roy Jenkins of the UK. Their letter began in apocalyptic terms: “After the tragedy of 11 September, the European Union is in danger. The Union was forged through crises, but it could now perish in a crisis.” The burden of the letter was that the EU cannot survive “unless it speaks with a single voice and shows its capability to play a bigger role.” To achieve this, the letter argued, urgent “institutional and constitutional reform” is essential - it is “the only way to avoid the risk that the Union turns into a simple free-trade area, which it has never been, but will become unless decisive reforms are adapted.” The letter was presumably intended to coincide with the discussion at the European Summit in Belgium about the future role and shape of the EU. So it was doubly unfortunate for the fifteen good European men and true who signed it that their successors who attended the Summit should have shown themselves incapable of dealing with the simplest of matters. The way that Belgium misrepresented the EU's role in the international force for Afghanistan was unforgiveable and the petty row that broke out over the allocation of new EU institutions to member states' cities was deplorable and depressing. The EU needs to put its existing house in order before moving on to bigger things.



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