The union and the cordiality between the European people were confirmed once more in the tenth Retired Bankers’ Euromeeting in Salou, Catalonia. In a so friendly atmosphere our condolences were addressed to the families of the horrible terrorist attempt occurred in Madrid.
It is really admirable to see how those representing the Political Parties along the different countries fight in an unselfish way for the elderlies’ rights, hoping to recruit new members for the European Group, and therefore, have a stronger political influence.
Because of the social and economical crisis, Europe is in a moment of change, and this is why radical reforms are needed. The pension systems as well as the Social Security are main issues to all generations. In this way, Mr Chretien (France) and Mr Lemchen (Sweden) presented their new Pension and Health System. Up until now, the Swedish Pension System seems to be the best in Europe.
We, all the Europeans, have the task to develop creative ideas in order too preserve the welfare state, taking into account that in Europe the standard of living has increased, the birth rate decreases constantly and the unemployment rate continues without any changes. Because of the different strategies and the National solutions, the creation of a firm Pension System in Europe is not going to be easy. Nevertheless, similar tendencies can be seen, providing that the Governments want to get implied.
Our President, José R. López, presented the project of the Horizontal (e-mail) Communication System, a system that would be very useful for the National and the International exchanges and would also allow the Group Members belonging to different countries have information about the government bills and directives willing to affect them.
The Platform AGE in Brussels, the European Pensioners’ Organization with more than 22 million members, is supporting us so we can make all our aims true. We support Mr. Franco Salza, President of the Italian Group, who aspires to get a place in AGE’s Governing Board on behalf of our Group.
In the Annual General Assembly held in Tarragona, the President of AGE’s Group of Experts for the Social Protection, Mr. Michael Teit Nielsen (Denmark), told us about the Platform’s demands:
• The right to an adequate Pension System
• The maintenance of the society’s standard of living. The best solution is the pension’s
adaptation to the average wage.
• The capacity to maintain the income level by means of additional old age allowances (pension funds).
• Equal pensions for women.
• Suspension of early retirement.
• Possibility of enlarging working life voluntarily.
Every country is encouraged to have their reports from now up to 2005. AGE is prepared for the new EU Memberstates’ adhesion, and it is taken into account that these countries are not going to have a negative influence in our Social Systems.
Our President José RobertoLópez informed us that the forecasted building of the residence for elderly people, “Mediterráneo Palace Club”, is not going to be a reality for the moment because the sufficient number of adhesions has not taken place.
In each of our European meetings, the Spanish colleagues always organize a varied programme of activities. Once more, with Halcón Viaje’s collaboration they fantastically organized all the outings. We discovered that Catalonia is an Autonomous Community with their own police corps. Their inhabitants live on tourism, industry and agriculture. Cereals, nuts, almonds, olives and wine are cultivated. This region is the third most important hazelnut distributor of the world.
In addition, cava is a very known and popular product. In the visit to the cava winery “Codorniu” we learnt a lot about the different types of vine, about the juice’s fermentation and pressing. We were amazed with the trip in the electric train along 35 kilometres of doomed-roofed wineries where the bottles are stored up to the ceiling, and some of them were more than a 100 years old.
In Catalonia we can find several monasteries and castles. We visited the Santa Creus and Poblet Cistercian monasteries, founded in the 12th Century. In the striking architectural ensemble of Poblet the monks still live faithfully to the “ora et labora” principle. This was illustrated in an audio-visual show.
Montserrat is a picturesque spot, and has been transformed in one of
the most Important tourist attractions in Spain for its well-known Benedictine monastery. The monastery is erected over a group of impressive rocky formations that can be seen all over the Catalan mountains because of its steep fall. Because of this, there is a legend that says that the mountains were sawn by small angels. The monastery, together with the basilica and the adjacent buildings, form a closed city. The 80 monks that live there devote their lives to work and prayer, and also to attend the pilgrims and visitors as well as to the Black Virgin’s, the “brownie”, worship. The venerated image of the
Madonna is the centre of an important pilgrimage tradition. While we were there we attended a special mass where songs were played and that was celebrated by the monks in the basilica. The magic massif inspired a great number of well-known artists, such as Wagner, Gaudí, Rusiñol, Picasso and Dalí when creating unforgettable worldwide known works. In the monastic school for the spiritual music, create din the 15th Century; the young apprentices receive an excellent singing training.
The old port city of Tarragona is in a hill at about 100 meters, near the Francolí River’s Estuary. Thanks to its marvellous views this city has received in several occasions the name of the Balcony of the Mediterranean. Our tourist guide showed us uncountable architectonical samples belonging to the Roman occupation.
Our schedule led us through the archaeological visit, along the immense and old Wall (The Cyclops Wall), surrounded by cypresses, up to the bronze statue representing the Emperor August, the Roman forum and the amphitheatre. The entrance to the Cathedral a main door decorated with sculptures. The interior of the Cathedral impressed us very much. In the transverse nave, two rosettes are located, both adorned with ostentatious paintings. The organ and the masonry date from the 15th Century. In the main chapel we can find statues of the Virgin and Baby Jesus, Saint Peter and Saint Tecla, while this last Saint’s imagine is represented in the Altar. The legend tells that Saint Tecla’s mother wanted to prevent her, no matter how, from becoming a nun. Seeing that Tecla wasn’t persuaded by her words, she sent her wild animals: lions, snakes and bulls, but before Tecla these became tame. Not even fire could affect her. The interior courtyard, surrounded by Gothic arches and trees, is considered one of the most beautiful Cloisters in Spain. In the Diocesan Museum chasubles and tapestries belonging to the 15th and 17th century are exposed, as well as paintings Middle Age paintings.
Sitges is one of the most traditional holiday resorts of the Mediterranean Coast that, in part, has been able to escape from the massive tourism. The painter and art collector Santiago Rusiñol fomented Sitge’s fame as a cultural city. His house has, nowadays, been converted into a museum, and hides a vast art collection of the Catalan Modernism, including paintings belonging to Picasso, el Greco and himself.
The American’s (autochthonous inhabitants that became rich in America and Cuba and then came back to their home town) is omnipresent. Middle Age buildings, modernist buildings, Turn-of-the-Century and Victorian villas adorn the walk. The Parish church dominates the city from the top of the mountain.
In our trips around the region, the organizers were concerned, as usual, for our well-being, and they suggested us to try liquors in the Montserrat Monastery and a copious meal with wine and cava. The fun reached its best moment when the moment to taste a Catalan speciality, the “Calçotada”, came: on the fire a variety of leaks (calçots) were, roasted and were served on clay tiles; then they were piled by hand and dipped in “romescu” sauce. The bibs that had been distributed before stopped our clothes from getting dirty.
The German group remembers pleasurably this beautiful meeting full of harmony and solidarity and is looking forward to meeting up again next year with all of our friends.
We would like to thank Jessica and Juan for their excellent translations, and wish them luck for the future.
Ruth Rebert and Christa Saia