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.


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