Monday, March 11, 2013

Ich Bin Ein Berliner Protester

The Berlin travel fair is over for another year. It is an event which attracts much media attention in Mallorca because of the importance of the German tourism market. This year's event has attracted the attention of the German media; Mallorca's presence at the fair has been news.

Of Mallorca's big-two tourism markets, the German relationship with the island is different to that of the British. It is a deeper relationship to that of the British, for whom the island is primarily and only a holiday destination. The Germans are more students of Mallorca than the British. The association is so strong, it is as though there were an imaginary land connection between Mallorca and Germany. Weather forecasts specifically feature Mallorca and German newspapers from Mallorca are widely available in Germany.

It was once said by a Mallorcan politician that the British have Mallorca "in their genes". If they do, then these genes are partly German. Mallorca is a holiday birthright for the Germans as much as the Chiemsee, South Tyrol and the islands of Sylt and Rügen are.

The participation of Mallorca and the Balearics at the Berlin travel fair has been news in Germany in a way that would be unimaginable in the UK; unimaginable, because events at the Berlin travel fair wouldn't have occurred at London's travel fair. And they wouldn't have occurred because of the different nature of the relationship.

The environmental pressure group GOB chose the Berlin fair to draw attention to concerns it has with policies of the regional government. It was chosen because, more than any other audience, GOB wanted to hammer home its message to the Germans. GOB will know that German environmental consciousness has traditionally been stronger than in other European countries. When TUI, a German company of course, makes the big deal that it does about ecologically sound hotels being an important sales point, it is referring mainly to the German market. Green matters were matters in Germany well before they were in the UK.

What happened in Berlin last week has not, however, put Mallorca in a terribly good light. Neither GOB nor the Balearics government (for which, read the Partido Popular) covered itself in glory in Berlin in what was a follow-on from a video that GOB had launched just prior to the fair. This video, which features the Mallorcan artist Miguel Barceló, is one in which GOB denounces the import of waste and developments such as Es Trenc. It denounces the government and so the PP.

The tourism minister Carlos Delgado had already criticised GOB for releasing the video and for presenting it at the travel fair. He said that it was irresponsible and could cause harm to the islands. But it was what then happened at the fair that caught the attention of the German media, and it did so because both GOB and the government grossly exaggerated what happened. GOB's representatives planned to raise questions at a press conference which President Bauzá was to attend. It was thought that GOB might also stage a protest. As a consequence, the organisers were told of the possibility and they in turn informed the police who did what police normally do, which is to attend the scene and to ensure control and to keep the peace.

The exaggerations then started to fly. GOB claimed the government had called the police in, when it hadn't. GOB also claimed that there were police "cordons" created at the request of the government and implied that there was some aggression by the German police. There were no cordons and there was no aggression. Had the government then kept quiet and let the matter rest, it might have come out of Berlin with its public relations intact, but it didn't. It insisted that GOB had planned "violent" protests; all three of its representatives. The accusation was exaggerated, hysterical and downright wrong.

GOB may believe that it has succeeded in publicising its gripes with the PP, but, and regardless of what one thinks about waste imports and Es Trenc, Delgado was not wrong in suggesting that its stunts could be harmful. In fact, it probably won't make any difference to German tourism, despite the coverage in the German media, but it might make Germans look askance at politics of the environment in the Balearics. Germans like consensus, it is the cornerstone of their political philosophy. In the Balearics there is no consensus. There never is. And the environment is a subject about which the polemic has no end and which has become as tedious as it is divided. Perhaps it would be better if mouths were just kept shut for a change.

Any comments to please.

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