Andalucia Diary – Seasonal Travel Notes

How to be or not to be … a Citizen?

Finally, a year after my application, I am now officially a
Spanish resident. Spanish_flag_1Why bother? Well, in a nutshell since this is now home,
emotionally and financially, it makes a lot of sense for me to be an official
resident. I feel more connected and hey,
I get a better interest rate from the bank! Although Spain is a fully-fledged member of the European Union, to get access to
all benefits of citizenship, one needs to apply at a local police station for residency.
The process took some time, as no sooner had I applied for residency in April 2005, than Spain adopted an amnesty for all illegal immigrants.Since Andalucia has a huge number of illegal immigrants, due to its proximity to Africa, the system really slowed down due to the sheer weight of applications. However, I think it’s good to see a country taking a progressive attitude to immigration, rather than ignoring it or distorting it.  The countries with the fastest growing economies are often the ones with the greatest economic contribution from migrant workers.
My fairly easy, yet lengthy process to get residency here
makes me think about the big debates going at the moment about citizenship,
national identity etc. in the across Europe & the USA.
Although I don’t think of myself as Spanish ( I’m proud to live here and feel it is home), neither do I really have strong feelings about my UK identity.
For me “European” has more
resonance. With the creation of the EU
and the later free movement of trade and people, there has been a huge shift in
people across borders and to a large extent this has eroded the traditional national pride and identity of many.
Many, like me move to a new country in serach of a better quality of life, or to learn a new language.  Others, for sheer economic necessity.  Yet the additional of perceived outsiders in a competitive economy can create friction..Look at the recent hostility against immigration seen in the US
(wasn’t that country built on immigration??), and the shift to the far right in
UK local politics shows that for an increasing number of people though, the
concept of “foreign” creates strong reactions. Here in Southern Spain there are hundreds of thousands of
foriegn nationals. In many ways, this is a good thing. It’s a cosmopolitan
environment of Europeans and other nationalities living and working together –
with a sense of identity that goes beyond language or politics or home country. 
Yet many foreign people here on the
coast are disengaged – living here, experiencing the benefits, but not engaging
in a profound way. Many of my fellow expats (the euphemism for immigrant) are totally disengaged from the
day-to-day politics and issues of Spain. This, I believe is partly due to language challenges, partly due to lack
of interest and partly due to alienation from corrupt and unaccountable public
. Many have not decided to register with the local authority or
adopt residency. Here, where the sun
shines and the golf courses are close by, it doesn’t seem important. Yet some of these people are the ones that
often state over drinks or dinner how England has “gone to the dogs” with all
the immigrants, who don’t integrate, don’t learn much on the the language!

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Andrew ForbesTravel & Lifestyle Marketing Communications Consultant | Travel Editor Web: Twitter : @andrewaforbes Instagram @andrewaforbes and @luxurynavigatorView all posts by Andrew Forbes »