by Raimundo Prado Bernabéu
Let’s stop fooling ourselves. We the Spanish are the way we are. Our way of being has been forged throughout history, in the events and the circumstances; those circumstances that another Spaniard, one who knew us well; Ortega y Gasset, explained so succinctly. We the Spanish, apparently, are contradictory, anarchic, individualistic, passionate, superficial, vitalist, bridegrooms of death, lovers of life, laid-back and obsessive. We the Spanish do not comply with predetermined patterns or clichés, except perhaps, paella and bullfighting which, as those of us who are Spanish really know, are just that: mere clichés that, just like many others, don’t stand up to reality. When I say españoles, the Spanish, I also mean españolas, Spanish women. This is another debate that has become rooted in political language in a somewhat artificial way.
This introduction highlights that within our national contradictions we can find public demand. The State, the Administration, is obliged to provide us with resources and assistance. The State, the Administration must provide services “because I’m worth it” and, pay attention here, good services. Quality services. Services like those in Germany or Denmark. We want, we demand, healthcare, education, protection and security. We demand subsidies, festivals, rest, quality and we even demand that Spain wins the World Cup again. In truth, this is good. Requiring the Administrations to invest reasonably in social well-being is a sign of a developed country. So, the question is, what are we willing to contribute? And, above all, how should public income be distributed? I suppose every Spaniard would distribute public resources in their own way and in accordance with their own needs and values. Nevertheless, nobody can deny that along with healthcare and education, as if it were a sort of Cinderella, justice constitutes the basis of the frame of the democratic state and the rule of law, of a free, social State and the basis for real coexistence. Justice permeates everything for the better. It creates security, stability and wealth. Justice creates equality and prevents abuses on the part of those who purport to be stronger. The blanket of justice covers all, for better or for worse, regardless of their personal or professional circumstances.
It’s enough to look back at recent political, banking and territorial events for anyone, other than the intellectually obtuse, to realise that. Justice, by definition, is essential. It is a decisive pillar of the frame of coexistence and personal and collective development. This justice is done by women and men who are prepared, who are responsible and who, so far this year, have resolved roughly 5,000,000 cases, that is to say, the problems of the reader of this article, the judicial problems of everyone. They are women and men who have nothing to do with the image in those Anglo-Saxon films of judges who wear wigs, live in ostentatious mansions and enjoy afternoon tea at an elitist country club. On the contrary, the judges of Spain are poorly paid. We shouldn’t be ashamed to say it. Judges have heart, and we also have expenses, just like everyone else. I’m at an age now where I should say what I think, on a reasoned basis.
In theory, we are a Power. Of course there are other civil servants who are paid less, but that is not the issue. Don’t let anyone confuse or confront you on that. Judges are subject to professional incompatibilities, working hours, a level of responsibility and a need for independence that is not remunerated whatsoever in what is begrudgingly granted by the Executive and the Legislature. In reality, it is not in their interests to pay judges well. I know of cases of colleagues who share apartments in certain cities because they can’t afford rent on their own. I know of colleagues who earn less than the local Police Chief, with all due respect.
I have read in the newspapers that in a southern city, young students have become traffickers and tell their teacher “Sir, we earn more in a day than you’ll earn in months!” This is not good for society. This is not healthy for a modern State. I do not want this for my children. Effort, valour, sacrifice and independence in the face of corruption, in the face of the powers that be, the creation of security and wealth, should be remunerated. Quality public service and justice must be paid for by society. This is a good investment for everyone.
We’re not asking for anything special, just the restoration of what has been taken away over many years since 1989. Nobody is going to see their rights cut because the Executive and the Legislature, as in other countries, guarantee a certain salary purchasing power for judges. In a budget this sum is a minimum. Judges who, by the way, do not even have the same holiday and leave entitlements as public sector workers, who cannot choose their representatives even though Europe has ruled on the matter; judges who do not have a set job or set working hours and who, nevertheless, are subject to an extensive disciplinary and professional incompatibility regime.
Judges who, by the way, demonstrate day after day responsibility and loyalty to the Constitution and to people, guaranteeing clean elections. Judges who suffer from one of the lowest ratios in Europe of positions per number of habitants. Judges who, to paraphrase Almodóvar, do not deserve this.
For all of this, we are going to mobilise. We are going to do it for ourselves, of course, but also for everyone, for society itself, of which we are a part. To attempt to obtain professional conditions that benefit our nation and a better, more efficient and faster acting Justice. We will go as far as necessary so that they sit up take notice of us. These mobilisations are not aimed at a particular party but at a structure that, to some extent, has been belittling us or, just as bad, has been belittling normal society for some time. Things can begin to change. Spanish society can improve further. We’re not a “caste.” Judges, and this is a cliché, are you and I, and we all have a heart, desires and vulgar needs.
Raimundo Prado Bernabéu, National Spokesperson, Asociación Francisco de Vitoria