Barcelona - hundreds of cabs on the rank, but no custom
Go to any of the cities of the Southern nations 'transformed' by EU membership and the signs of transformation, whether you're in Barcelona, Bari or Thessaloniki, will be the same. A vast sprawl of low-rise housing to accommodate the formerly rural populations, a new airport, metro system, motorway interchange and an 'international' concert hall, art gallery or the like. Frequently these are laughably out of scale with real demand, as is Barcelona's spanking cavernous new airport, always nine-tenths empty, great echoing halls the size of soccer pitches with just a dribble of Bromsgrove architects on homage dragging their little wheely bags noisily across the monumental stone floors, so empty that Easyjet has an entire terminal to itself.
The eye has little difficulty stripping out all of this post 1960s tat - it's as though it hasn't been here long enough to be wholly visible. One can see the olive groves, the field boundaries, the cart tracks and the cement-stuccoed farm clusters spread on a landscape on which the glass, glistening steel and gleaming concrete seems but holographic. And there's a disturbing parallel with the grandiose, Speer-esque, oversized architectural hubris of the Third Reich, which lasted not for a thousand years but for barely a day; truly ephemeral - from ephemeros, and the Greeks must know the meaning of their own words and see the truth.
Dimitrios Ionnidis, now 87, remains in prison in Greece for his 1973 coup against the 1967 coup regime. As I studied for my 'O' levels, Greek tanks were crushing the walls of Athens Polytechnic and Greek army officers executing left-wing student leaders with the traditional pistol bullet to the back of the head. The CIA-formented post war civil war had already cost over 10,000 lives, the fear of Communism was palpable and as Franco held NATO's western flank the Colonels held the East. Look carefully at your Athens cab driver - was he a torturer? Did he execute reds? Or maybe he was one of the hidden Communists, fearing the secret police at the door. All this is within living memory, and the memories are stronger than the millions of tonnes of the EU overlaid so transparently on the landscape, worth more than the millions of Sterling taxes channelled via the EU to pay for all those monumental stone floors.
The Observer reports accurately this morning the return of violence and terror to Greece, but those brigands and shepherds and their wicked knives, so dangerous to unwary tourists in the past, have moved down from the hills into the sprawling suburbs. There's war again between the wealthy and the professional middle class and the dispossessed. The EU's hollow boast that it has prevented war in Europe for half a century only remained true so long as the Ponzi scheme of unsustainable construction and development continued in places like Barcelona, Bari and Thessaloniki. Once the money has all gone, so will any remaining reason for closer Union.