Of course, during my visit to Euskal Herria in early April, one of the topics that came up was the crisis. Spain is in particularly bad shape, with unemployment over 20% in the general populace and much higher for young men. The Basque Country is in reasonably good shape, with unemployment hovering in the 8-9% range.
It was interesting talking to different people about the situation. Some are clearly very pessimistic about the future, feeling that the rest of Spain cannot help but drag the Basque Country down as the situation worsens. They point to unresponsible government spending in a bad economy. One comment was that, since the Guggenheim in Bilbao, every little town feels like it needs its own museum. So all of these construction projects are going on, some of dubious use. This includes, in the opinion of at least one Donostiatar, the new addition to the San Telmo museum in Donosti, which is a glorified library/meeting space that seems much bigger than necessary.
In contrast, others point to the fact that, despite the supposedly rough economy, people are still taking their vacations and living the good life, including heading to the Mediterranean coast or even to Central America for vacations during Semana Santa. Clearly, in their view, the people have money to spend and they are spending it. It isn’t so bad, yet, such that people feel compelled to save every euro in the face of some great collapse. I heard this particularly from a more elderly gentleman, who likely has seen much harder times in his life.
Clearly, the crisis is on the minds of everyone and what the future holds for the Basque Country, Spain, and all of Europe is unclear. And, as with everything, everyone has their own views of what that future holds. To me, it seems that, as the economy in Spain as a whole worsens, it can only suck in the Basque Country more, worsening things there too. The Spanish Basque Country is an integral part of the Spanish economy and, as such, is not insulated from what is happening in the rest of the country.