Monthly Archives: May 2012

How are things in Catalonia? Migration, Exports and Plan B

Things in Catalonia aren’t great.

Unemployment dropped slightly during a cold April and hopefully as the tourists arrive, it will drop some more over the summer. But it’s still very high and the various cuts don’t seem to be stimulating job-creation. Someone asked me the other day if I’d thought about leaving: migrating somewhere. The answer is no: if Catalonia and Spain are to have a decent future, good, decent people need to stay here. And me, obviously. Seriously: I wouldn’t consider it for a second. Besides, I’ve booked my summer holiday: I’ve got something to look forward to.

The PP in Madrid announced a plan to get rid of the Generalitat’s ACC1Ó agency which helps Catalan businesses find new markets in other countries. The argument is that Spain’s ICEX agency already does this. The Spanish government knows very well that ICEX and ACC1Ó have agreements in place not to duplicate efforts but this is a nuance the PP neglects to mention. The Generalitat has said that ACC1Ó is sacrosanct – its work is dedicated to increasing exports, which is supposed to be the sort of thing that governments like – but we’ll see. I obviously have some personal interest in ACC1Ó remaining.

Meanwhile, the ‘Plan B‘ that Catalan commentators have been bickering about has been clarified somewhat. The newspaper Ara (subscription totally worth it: you get the supplements and everything!) had a bit yesterday explaining the process Artur Mas is likely to follow in order to force Madrid to give us more money. Part of the plan could be calling early elections (never a bad idea when opinion polls look favourable) – and organizing some sort of national coalition of the Catalanist parties, i.e. CiU, ICV, ERC, SI. Assuming they manage to beat the PP and PSC, they’d then introduce a law in the Catalan parliament which will give Catalonia the power to manage 100% of its tax revenues within Catalonia. In other words, Madrid would get sod all.

The problem with the plan is that it’s almost certainly illegal. It’s essentially an appropriation of the central government’s fiscal power. Fransesc Homs said a few days ago that by calling (and winning) an election on this issue, the Generalitat would have the moral authority to act in this way. It would be a mandate, but more importantly, it could set up the most significant confrontation between Catalonia and Spain in decades. If Spain refuses to negotiate, Catalonia will have taken a key step towards self-rule. I don’t think it’ll get that far, mind.

Not much news about Eurovegas recently. My suspicion has always been that Artur Mas doesn’t really want the giant casino complex to be built in Catalonia, but he made sure we are in the running, in order to have a negotiation chip with Madrid at some point in the future. Not much evidence to support that, unfortunately. Eurovegas is a disgusting idea and I’d rather it didn’t land anywhere in Spain.

We’re eagerly awaiting the result of the French presidential election. There is definitely some hope here that a Socialist victory could change things in Europe. I’m not so sure. It’s nice to have hope in your heart but I think we’d be better trying to force our own government to change tack, instead of hoping for someone else to do it.

And finally, Pep Guardiola has left FC Barcelona. He’s being replaced by Tito Vilanova.


Resolution for change

Happy May Day!

A few months ago, I resolved to take more of an active role in politics in Catalonia. I’m not planning to run for mayor or anything like that, but as a disenfranchised non-citizen my options are basically limited to joining and supporting political organisations. In a way, I had been heading in this direction for the 10 years I’ve lived here. I decided to join a political party for the first time since my arrival in 2002.

For me, a political party ought to be a broad church, but a united one. After experiences with arguably over-ideological groups in the UK, I needed to find an organisation which reflects a plurality of opinions with an agreed general direction. The federated nature of many parties here does seem to offer that sort of broadness (but let us not forget that many parties, including Labour, are federations).

What, then, is my political ideology? What are its main components and how important are they to me, relative to each other?

There should be little doubt from the posts on this blog that I’m a supporter of left wing politics. Marx continues to offer the best analysis of capital and socialism the best answer. Egalitarianism, a defence of workers’ rights, opposition to exploitation and colonialism: these are concepts that for me are tied-up inevitably with socialism. And at a time when capitalism is in such serious crisis, when political parties across Europe are eagerly tearing up the social contract we have enjoyed for decades, we have to be even more strident in our defence of rights and benefits that were hard-won and remain well-deserved.

Catalan independence: a tricky subject. I’ve been careful on this blog not to express a clear position on whether or not I support the concept of independence for Catalonia. I should think it’s clear that I’ve leaned in that direction but I’ve never been explicit about my opinion because I’ve genuinely never been sure of it. My ideological position here is that a majority of people in a geographical area who want to claim the right to self-determination should be allowed to do so. If this were the case in Catalonia, I would support a push for independence. I don’t believe that’s the case currently, but I do think that as time goes by, general ‘soft’ support for independence is increasing. I also think that independence from Spain would be almost impossible to achieve. But that’s a point for another day.

When we look at the challenges that face us in the coming years, many of them come down to poor custodianship of our planet. We need to embrace green policies wherever we can, and support alternative energies, public transport over personal vehicles, sustainable development and agriculture. I feel strongly that this beautiful planet can be protected, without the vast de-population supported by apocalyptic doomsday freaks. Better management of resources, for the good of all, can be achieved.

A few months ago, I joined a political party which I think represents my views. Iniciativa per Catalunya Verds (ICV-EUiA ‘Initiative for Catalonia Greens – United and Alternative Left’) is of the left, defends equality for all, supports the right to self-determination and promotes green policies. This blog will continue as it has always been: not much to read, but it’s always independent. That won’t change. But I’ve made a resolution for change and call on my friends to do the same.

Happy May Day!