Monday, September 1, 2014

Attack at the Catalan National Assembly (CNA) stall in Granollers in broad daylight

Attack at the Catalan National Assembly (CNA) stall in Granollers in broad daylight

This is the second attack that the organisation has suffered recently during the annual “Blancs i Blaus” festival, following the disruption suffered on Wednesday morning at its premises.

Firstly, there was the disruption that the CNA was subjected to at their premises in Granollers this Wednesday morning. Now, this Saturday evening, there was a direct attack in broad daylight just in front of the Granollers Casino.

According to reports by the CNA and various witnesses, “with the street full of people”, two individuals between the ages of 30 and 40 insulted members from the organisation who were at the stall collecting signatures for ‘Signa un Vot’ (a petition to give Catalans the right to vote for independence) and “tore down signs and placards”.

However, the events did not stop there. People in the surrounding area wanted to defend them which led to the break-out of a fight in which two people, who were defending the CNA, “were left badly hurt”. According to reports by the organisation, one had to be taken in an ambulance. The attackers fled towards the Torras i Villà park and were finally arrested by the Catalan police.

The people, defenders of democracy
The CNA in Granollers has released a statement thanking “the co-operation of the people for defending democracy”. The organisation also recommends “letting them act without getting involved” and, if needs be, “take a photograph of the attack and file a complaint”. They are also keen to remind people that “the objective of the CNA is to gain independence peacefully”.



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Friday, August 29, 2014

Spanish Civil Guards suspected of stealing pro-independence flag in Viloví d'Onyar tonight

Members of the Civil Guard are suspected of participating in the theft of an estelada, a pro-independence flag in Vilobí d'Onyar. “Three or four individuals” were seen inside a car that stopped at the roundabout that marks the city limit of Vilobí, in the province of Girona. At least one person got out of the car, climbed the flagpole decorating the roundabout, and yanked the estelada off the top. The vehicle then drove away, according to the police report. A witness jotted down the license plate and informed local authorities.

Unionists usually stole and attack Catalan symbols in Catalonia but this time the fact is that when investigators at the Mossos d’Esquadra — the Catalan police agency — checked the license plate number on their database, the system said it was a “reserved” number. Further inquiries yielded a surprising result: even though it looked like a civilian vehicle, the car in fact belongs to the Civil Guard, a national law enforcement agency.

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Atlantic Council: The Military Implications of Scottish and Catalonian Secession

Scotland will free-ride in the Atlantic without sustained investment, but Catalonian maritime specialization would be welcome in the Mediterranean.

On 18 September, Scotland votes on the question of independence from the United Kingdom, and the polling strongly suggests a vote of no. On 9 November, Catalonia could be voting on the same issue vis-à-vis Spain, but the polling slightly suggests a yes—if the Spanish Constitutional Court allows the vote to take place. NATO members should treat neither case lightly, but the independence of Catalonia would pose fewer military problems for the alliance than that of Scotland.

The secessionist movements in both countries have endorsed joining both the EU and NATO. But both organizations have warned that accession is not remotely automatic, and depends on the agreement of every existing member state. Those are slightly different lists of 28 countries, and one must only remember the juvenile and endless exclusion of Macedonia by the Greeks—over a branding dispute—to understand how long a blackballing can last. The Spanish probably could not manage to block a determined move for Catalonian self-determination. That said, two of my Atlantic Council colleagues have questioned whether the European Union would admit Catalonia, as some member states (e.g. Belgium) have cause to fear further secessionist activity. Would the British accede to Scottish independence, but then plausibly attempt to exclude the country from NATO? A currency union may be off the table, but such dickering over the serious business of defense would be unacceptable.
As Griffe Witte of the Washington Post argued just this week, in the long run, Scottish secession could be challenging for maintaining Britain’s Trident submarine force. The Scottish National Party (SNP) aims to declare independence in 2016, and see the nukes off by 2020. Today, the submarines and their warheads are conveniently somewhat isolated at Her Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde, 40 kilometers from Glasgow. The Royal Navy’s other two major facilities, HMNB Devonport and HMNB Portsmouth, are both in populated areas on the south coast of England. This has caused some to question whether the south coasters would appreciate the sudden arrival of a few hundred nuclear weapons. But Devonport is where the RN overhauls and refuels those nuclear submarines, so the locals are already accustomed to the presence of things nuclear. In the breach, it is likely that they would prefer the several thousand high-paying industrial jobs that would transfer down from Scotland.
That could be all well and good, but assuming that Scotland and Catalonia were admitted to NATO, what would they contribute? At the Strategic Foresight Forum this past spring at the Atlantic Council, Anne Marie Slaughter—late of Princeton and the US State Department, and now running the New America Foundation—opined that an independent Scotland and an independent Catalonia would do a fine job of defending themselves. At the reception afterwards, a former defense official and defense industrialist argued to me that the consequences for NATO would be adverse, “because the Scots think that defense is a free good”. But even beyond the hyperbole, it’s important to note how significantly plans for forces flying the Saltire cross and the four bars of the Senyera differ.
Scotland is a country of 5.3 million people, with over $200 billion in GDP. The SNP has in mind a tiny version of Britain’s armed forces as a whole: a navy of a few frigates, a fighter squadron, and an armored infantry brigade. With enough investment, a short-ranged maritime patrol squadron might follow as a welcome addition to the recent loss of RAF Coastal Command. The problem, however, is that Scottish resources aren’t likely to match these goals. Spending the NATO average of 1.6% of that GDP on defense would provides just over $3 billion annually. That level of spending is equivalent to the budget of Austria, a neutral country which needn’t maintain a navy. Unless Scotland steps up to a higher rate of spending, its exit from the United Kingdom would produce another free-riding Celtic state on the periphery of the open North Atlantic.
 Catalonia has 7.3 million people, with more than $300 billion in GDP. Spending just 1.6% of that on defense provides over $4.5 billion annually, or roughly the budget of Denmark, which has well-regarded and efficient armed forces. Catalonian military plans are more vague, but so far, they emphasize the navy. With excellent ports in Barcelona and Tarragona, Catalonia is well-positioned as a minor naval power, ‘with the Mediterranean as our strategic environment, and NATO as our framework’, as the nationalists’ think-tank on defense argues. The rough plans call for a littoral security group of a few hundred sailors at first. After a few years, Catalonia would assume responsibility as "a main actor in the Mediterranean," with land-based maritime patrol aircraft and small surface combatants. Eventually, the nationalist ambition may include an expeditionary group with a light assault carrier and hundreds of marines, to take a serious role in collective security.
 Of course, all these plans are subject to the vagaries of each country’s political process, but even the announced policies differ importantly. Scotland’s tiny replication of British capabilities wouldn’t be so clearly efficient. On the other hand, Catalonia’s ambition would be more restrained. If accurately characterized by the few white papers that have surfaced, the separatists’ position suggests a valuable and refreshing view of specialization in collective defense: build a navy that is comparatively focused on influencing events ashore. By de-emphasizing the military forces that any landlocked country will have, and instead steering investments towards those it is comparatively positioned to provide, Catalonia could punch above its weight in European political affairs. There may be no further Álvaro de Bazáns in Barcelona, but there may be new littoral forces that NATO needs around the periphery of the Mediterranean.

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Monday, August 25, 2014

"The unpleasing behavior of the Catalan people ..."

Catalanophobia has a long history in Spain, and democracy has failed to eradicate it. Now, conservative politicians and media are stirring it up again, now that the regional funding system has been reformed.
The recent decision on the new model of regional funding has resulted in the reemergence of a reflex, an instinct, a political resource that has run spasmodically through Spanish public life for several centuries at least, even though some are bent on denying its very existence: I’m talking aboutCatalanophobia”.
Arguably, since the 17th century, almost every time that Catalonia –that is, the hegemonic sectors at each moment in Catalan society - has endeavoured to preserve or improve its status within the Spanish state (whether the latter was a monarchy or a republic, traditional or parliamentary), powerful movements of rejection and disqualification have arisen in Castilian Spain, often acquiring tones of anti-Catalan prejudice or phobia. Back in the days of King Philip IV and the Duke of Olivares someone of the stature of Quevedo did not hesitate to write that "the Catalans are a monstrous abortion of politics," or "The Catalan is the saddest and most miserable creature that God created" among other niceties.
Two and a half centuries later, the leading role of Catalans such as Figueras, Pi i Margall, Tutau or Sunyer i Capdevila in the first governments of the 1873 Republic led to a Madrid newspaper to report that "Spain has become the asset of Catalonia," a alarm which has never raised when there are Andalusians, Basques or Galicians, however numerous, in the government. The editor added: "Well, they are still not content. The rest of Spain will have to pay them (the Catalans) a handsome tribute, so they bequeath upon us the gift of not declaring their independence or thinking of changing their nationality."
Does the melody sound familiar? With such precedents, the birth of political Catalanism infused into Catalanophobic speeches a justification and returns that made them flourish.
When the Catalanist movement was in its infancy, two promising young members ​​of the Conservative Party, José Martos O'Neale and Julio Amado, published Peligro nacional. Estudios e impresiones sobre el catalanismo  (National danger. Studies and impressions of Catalanism (Madrid, 1901). It was a shrill and melodramatic warning about the risk that Catalonia might become, in the near future, another Cuba, this time within the confines of the Iberian peninsula. But, in chapter on solutions, Martos and Amado proposed measures not just  against the Catalanists (repressive emergency laws, exile), but against the whole of the  suspect society: a complete ban on the "Catalan dialect" in the public sphere, "incompatibility of the Catalans to hold official positions in the service of the State in Catalonia ", replacing all the local clergy by churchmen “from other Spanish provinces”, the elimination of protective tariff to punish the manufacturing bourgeoisie ..
From then until the Civil War, Catalanophobia ("... the unpleasing behaviour of the Catalan people ...") was a stable ingredient of españolista rhetoric, all the more so during the home rule campaigns of 1907, 1918-19 and 1931-32, and even became the main personal platform of politicians such as Antonio Royo Villanova.
It contained two main sub-themes: an economic one ("Catalonia has been the heir of poor Spain", "if the Catalan provinces have thrived it has been at the expense of the rest of the country", "after all, they live off our sweat and our blood "), seasoned with more or less explicit threats of trade boycotts; and the language one ("are we going to accept that in those  furiously  autonomic regions children leave school barely being able to speak Castilian?" asked state school teachers in the Alcañiz region in late 1918).
During the transition, the ominous shadow of the Franco regime slowed the return of this rhetoric. But not for long: the old prejudices quickly lost their shamefulness and once again attained an ideological mainstream which comfortably included from people such as Alejandro Marcos Rojas and Juan Carlos Rodríguez Ibarra. However, for political cultural as well as tactical reasons (the combat to end the long hegemony of Felipe González, the little that AP-PP stood to lose in Catalonia...), it was Spain’s center-right and their media entourage that devoted most energy to cultivate messages depicting los catalanes or Cataluña as a selfish, rapacious, uncaring community, privileged within the shared State and, at the same time, disloyally plotting to break it.
From 1993 on, the political situation (the impatience of the People's Party to regain power, the then current parliamentary alliance between Gonzalez and Pujol, the subsequent transfer to regional governments of 15% of income tax ...) fed that discourse. "It cannot be that rich regions become richer and the poor ones become poorer, nor can we accept that the conflictive regions are always the biggest beneficiaries," asserted Juan José Lucas, then president of Castilla y León. What the Socialist Government was doing was "to take several billion pesetas from Spanish pensioners and unemployed" to give them to Catalonia, in the words of José María Aznar. Mercedes de la Merced, meanwhile, launched a dire warning about the risk that "any madman might become tomorrow's president of the Catalan government."
Naturally, the parliamentary arithmetic during the 1996-2000 legislature, the first government of the People's Party, was to bring about a complete withdrawal of these theses: no crazy presidents, no plundered pensioners, no Catalans raking it in. Then (from 2000 to 2004), a comfortable absolute majority and the ensuing superiority complex in Aznar’s team made ​​bogey of an interior unnecessary enemy, the devious - and what is more, separatist - Phoenician.
In fact, the Popular Party (PP) did not return to its ways until 2005, once the trauma of March 2004 was being overcome. It was during the takeover bid by (the Catalan firm) Gas Natural for Endesa when Catalanophobic reflexes resurfaced in the conservative party and on-social media news and opinion-leaders. They were well expressed by Manuel Pizarro – later to become an MP - with his "never will I become an employee of La Caixa." Other, lower ranking authors called on “los catalanes"  to keep "their dirty hands " off the electricity company, on whose future ​​the slogan "German rather than Catalan" became popular.
And then, without a break, the campaign against the new Statute began. To criticize and combat a bill sponsored by any government, or by certain political forces, is perfectly legitimate and even healthy in a democracy, no doubt. But in this case, the excess and the alarmism of the offensive often made opinion slide down into collective disqualification and stereotyping.
With the new Statute of Autonomy, "the poorest regions will be pulverised", said Mariano Rajoy drawing on the age-old cliché. As regards the boycott against Catalan cava wine, stirred up by a public television company controlled by the PP, it seems that their goal was to harm not a government, or a party, or several, but rather the Catalan economy as a whole.
So the playing field - the playing field of the political and media discourse, that of the collective imagination, that of identity construction... - is such a fertile breeding ground that inevitably the role of the Catalan government in the funding reform has made ​​the clichés reemerge: "That a Catalan be worth twice as much as a Madrideño is intolerable!" blurted regional Minister Beteta. "The money is going to the wealthy Catalans" it was reported in Asturias;
"Spain was and is a sumptuous business for Catalonia" they say in Galicia.
After three decades of democracy and an autonomic State, there are discussions in which we are the same as during the days of Castelar (1832-1899) or Moret (1838-1913).
Joan B. Culla i Clarà is a historian.

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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Spanish PP Mayor claims women in lifts could rip off bras and skirts

The Spanish nationalist mayor of Valladolid (Partido Popular) said he had qualms about getting into a lift and warned men to 'beware'. "I have qualms about getting into an elevator," the conservative mayor of Valladolid in central Spain, Francisco Javier León de la Riva, told on Thursday. "Imagine you get into an elevator and there is a girl who is out to get you, she enters with you, tears off her bra or skirt and flees shouting that you have tried to assault her," he said. "Beware of this kind of thing."
León de la Riva has apologised after an outcry over his comments that lone women in lifts could rip off their bras and skirts to make false accusations of assault. Faced with a public backlash, the mayor offered an apology. "I am sorry that statements taken out of context have had such repercussions," he told Spanish journalists on Friday. "To anyone who was offended, I have no problem offering an apology."

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Remembering the Thirteen United States of America

There is much talk of whether current Spanish law allows Catalonia to decide for itself whether it wants to become a fully sovereign state. There is much talk of a possible aggressive reaction from Spain were Catalonia to express its will to decide. There is much talk of whether European organizations could and would support a possible secession. There is much talk of whether the world would be willing to recognize Catalonia as an independent state.

A lot is being said about this, too much.

So much in fact, that we forget that the right to decide, the right to self-determination, is an act that resides in the people who may exercise it, and it is their duty and responsibility to decide, when facing an unjust and immoral situation, whether they wish to continue being invariably tied to those who, begrudgingly, permanently and systematically submit a people against its will to laws, regulations and actions that directly attack its essential characteristics and endanger its survival.

We are not talking about a kind of emancipation in which those who have the power voluntarily grant it to whoever wants to emancipate themselves. We are not talking about this because those who have this power to grant do not have the slightest intention of doing so. On the contrary, those who have the power seek to perpetuate it and to create the conditions to rid themselves of whoever requests emancipation at any time.

We have talked about a people that want what is theirs, who intend to decide on their own future, something that is being denied by those who have the power and furthermore who act premeditatedly to eradicate this people, to assimilate it into a culture and a world that is not its own.

While I was reading history, I stumbled upon a text which might help to understand the feeling of the Catalans and which could perfectly be the Declaration of the Independence of Catalonia,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

The text continues explaining the causes that have led the people to take this decision in order to protect themselves; not looking to damage or scorn the State from which they want to separate, but simply impelled by a strong desire to ensure the survival, freedom and happiness denied by the state they belong to against their will.

The text is not too long; it has 1,330 words including the title. It is easily understood, convincing, clear, and explicit. After calmly reading it, as a Catalan I subscribe to it and make it my own almost in its entirety. It is the Declaration of Independence of the thirteen United States of America signed on July 4, 1776.

I only ask to all of those who are puzzled, wondering what is happening in Spain and what the Catalans are asking for, that they read this declaration, or those who already know it, that they re-read it. Once read, or re-read, think of a peaceful people with its own culture and language, one that is at least as old as Spanish but cannot be used in a normal way and on a daily basis. Think of a people that feels constantly asphyxiated by the taxes it pays, but which do not go to improving its welfare; of a people who approves laws which are censored or just simply revoked; of a people that sees that the state it belongs to despises it and scorns it; of a people that continues stoically to work and contributes, hoping that one day all of this will improve until, finally, it receives what it deserves.

And finally, ask yourselves what the Catalans should do –seeing that they find themselves at the gates of the disappearance of their culture, language and as a people, due to the will of the state which they are part of– how they should act, how they should react. And after thinking about this, I ask you again to read the Declaration of Independence of the Thirteen United States of America.

Please, keep the Catalans in mind. Thank you.

Albert Sagués

Spanish version

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Saturday, August 9, 2014

Spanish Government cuts infrastructure investment by 50% in Catalonia and only 25% in the rest of Spain

According to a report published on Thursday by Barcelona's Chamber of Commerce, the Spanish Government's investment in infrastructure in Catalonia has dropped by 50% in the last 10 years, while it has been reduced by 25% throughout Spain in the same period. 
The President of the business association, Miquel Valls, stated that this reduction represents "a break" in the Catalan economy's growth and competitiveness. This political decision harms Spain's and Catalonia's economy, since now Catalonia could be in a better position to speed up the overall economic recovery as Spain's main engine. 
The Chamber's report takes into account the executed investment made by the Spanish Government and its public companies in areas such as airports, high-speed railway and harbours. In 2006, the Spanish Parliament recognised "a historical" lack of investment in Catalonia when it approved the Catalan Statute of Autonomy and set a minimum investment percentage share to be made in Catalonia to compensate this in the next 7 years. 
This investment share, which had to be equivalent to at least Catalonia's share within Spain's GDP (19.8%), was never respected by the Spanish Government, allocating to Catalonia 11% or 13% of the total infrastructure investment made throughout Spain in those years. Now, with the Chamber of Commerce's report, it is stressed that this investment has been reduced to an even greater extent than the country's average.

The president of Barcelona's Chamber of Commerce emphasised that infrastructure investment in Catalonia made by the Spanish Government "plummeted" between 2004 and 2014. The Spanish Executive decided to reduce spending in Catalonia by 50%; in Valencia by 33%; and in the Balearic Islands by 31%, while the Spanish average was a 25% reduction. Aragon, Castille-la-Mancha and the region of Madrid registered a higher drop of between 60% and 80%. However, the Chamber explained that many infrastructure investments made in Castille and León and Castille-la-Mancha were for roads or railways heading to Madrid, which is a very small and urban region, and therefore have a direct benefit for Spain's capital. In fact, Castille and León has had an investment increase of 100% and Galicia a growth of around 200% with the construction of the high-speed train railway, among other projects.

The Chamber's report takes into account the executed investment made by the Spanish Public Works and Transportation Ministry and associated companies and agencies, although for the two last years (2013 and 2014) it only considers the planned budget, as budget execution figures are not available yet. Regarding Catalonia, 2009 was a clear inflection point. While in the first five years infrastructure investment grew by 61% throughout Spain and by 76% in Catalonia, in the 5 last years, infrastructure investment has dropped by 53% throughout Spain and by 71% in Catalonia. The entire 10-year period posts an overall drop of 25% for the whole of Spain and 50% for Catalonia.

The Chamber of Commerce explained that these figures were because of political decisions adopted by the Spanish Government. However, it also emphasised the effects of the economic crisis and how the works of Barcelona El Prat Airport's Terminal 1 ended, as well as most of the works of the high-speed railway. In fact, in the last few years the main infrastructure work in Catalonia made by the Spanish Government has been the enlargement of Barcelona's harbor.

Barcelona (ACN)

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Stanic: “A Spain without Catalonia will also be out of the European Union.”

Ana Stanic, a lawyer specialized in international conflict resolution, considers that “Catalonia should insist that this is not secession but the dissolution of the Spanish State,” in an interview to newspaper Ara. 

Ms. Stanic considers that “a Spain without Catalonia will also be out of the European Union,” Stanic, daughter of one of the organizers of the Slovenian independence referendum in 1990, is the founder of E&A law firm and has worked for the most prestigious London firms. 

The lawyer considers that “Catalonia should insist that this is not secession but the dissolution of the Spanish State. Catalonia is an essential part of it. If it achieves independence, Spain will no longer exist as it is conceived right now, and the states which derive from it will have to be considered as heirs of the dissolved state.” 

“This is important,” she explains, “from the point of view of EU membership for Catalonia and for what would remain of Spain: either both territories stay inside the EU or both are left out.” “Spain without Catalonia would be a different country. I do not see why just Catalonia should have to apply for readmission. If this were to happen, Spain should also have to do so,” she stated. 

Stanic explains that “as it is happening in Catalonia, pro-independence efforts in Slovenia were driven by the people” and politicians joined later on. There was some uncertainty until the last moment, she explains, because, despite of their win in the referendum with a 88.5% of votes, a few months before the day of the election, December 23, 1990, separatist sentiment was not majoritary.” 

“In Slovenia, the amount of people in favor of this route shot up when they saw that the process was for real. There comes a time when a no return point is crossed and support for independence becomes unstoppable. I do not know if this time has arrived to Catalonia yet,” she pointed out. 

She does not hesitate to position herself in favor of Catalonia’s right to self-determination: “Freedom of speech is a fundamental democratic right. There is no legal justification to oppose to it,” she says. 

Finally, Stanic explains the existing a-legality, within the international framework, regarding unilateral declarations, “The position of the International Court of Justice was clear regarding Kosovo’s case, stating that nothing in the international law forbids a unilateral declaration. The international law does not legalize the right to secession, but it does not forbid this. It just ignores it. No one could then argue that international law considers it illegal,” she said.

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Monday, August 4, 2014

The Spanish Government downplays Catalonia's fiscal deficit and rejects reviewing its funding

On Tuesday, the Spanish Finance Minister, Cristóbal Montoro, rejected to review the funding scheme of the Autonomous Communities to grant them more resources, despite the fact that the Catalan Government is under-budgeted. On Wednesday, the Spanish Finance Ministry downplayed Catalonia's fiscal deficit by issuing the so-called fiscal balances, which calculate the inter-territorial fiscal transfers (how much money is raised in taxes and how much comes back in terms of public investments and services) and posting a significantly low Catalan contribution. According to the Spanish Government's new calculations, whose new methodology has been designed for the occasion, Catalonia gave away €8.46 billion in 2011, representing 4.35% of its GDP. The figure is significantly lower than the Catalan Government's calculations: €15.01 billion and €11.09 billion, based on two complementary methodologies used by the Spanish Executive in 2008 and agreed among independent university experts.

Catalonia had a €8.46 billion fiscal deficit according to Madrid and a €15.01 billion one according to Barcelona

Angel de la Fuente presenting the new fiscal balances,
calculated with a new methodology for the occasion
According to the Catalan calculations, Catalonia's taxpayers gave away €15.01 billion in 2011 (7.7% of the GDP) using the monetary-flow formula, or €11.09 billion using the tax-benefit one (5.7% of the GDP). The two formulas are complementary, although they show different realities. However the first one is more widespread and is considered by experts to be more accurate in times of economic crisis. The second one is based on a greater number of assumptions and therefore it relies on a greater degree of interpretation. The first formula takes into account investments, services and grants specifically delivered in a given territory, including an estimate of the centralised services (such as the army). The second formula makes an estimation of the benefits that all the services and investments in the country (not only in a specific territory) have for the citizens living a given territory. For instance, with the second formula, a railway built near the border with Portugal is considered to be also beneficial for citizens living near the French border in Catalonia, in the other side of Spain. However, this formula does not take into account the benefits of a railway built on the French side of the border.

The Spanish Government designs a new methodology just for the occasion

The Spanish Government's figures have totally ignored the monetary flow formula that is traditionally posting higher fiscal deficits for Catalonia. In fact, using this formula, Catalans have given away an average of 8% of Catalonia's GDP (equivalent to €15.5 billion using 2013 money) each year since 1986. The Spanish Government not only ignores this fact but they have also modified the calculation method used by the Spanish Executive in 2008, when it calculated the fiscal balances from 2005. Back then, the Spanish Government stated that Catalonia had a fiscal deficit between 6.38% and 8.70% of its GDP, depending on the formula used, similar figures to those issued by the Catalan Executive.

Fiscal balances designed to counter-act the support for independence

Furthermore, the fiscal balances published this Wednesday come with a seven month delay despite Catalonia's business community pushing to have such figures earlier. Montoro decided to change the methodology arguing that fiscal balances "are used by pro-independence supporters" to argue that Catalans pay far more than what they receive from the Spanish Government. A few months ago, he explained that the new calculation will show the "territorialised accounts", which will show the cost of services per inhabitant in each Autonomous Community. According to Montoro's new calculations, each Catalan gave away €1,119 in 2011, while the Catalan Government's calculation showed a figure of €2,055.

With Montoro's new methodology designed for the occasion by the economist Angel de la Fuente, who is very vocal against Catalan nationalism and has been directly appointed by Montoro, Catalonia's fiscal deficit is significantly lower than the Catalan Government's calculation. According to De la Fuente, in 2011, Catalan taxpayers contributed €8.46 billion to fund services, investments and grants in other parts of Spain, an amount representing 4.35% of Catalonia's GDP. The figure comes from the €9.365 billion the Spanish Government raised through taxes in Catalonia that year and the €910 million it spent there, according to the "territorialised accounts".

With Montoro's calculations, Madrid has a €16.7 billion fiscal deficit

The region of Madrid is instead the Autonomous Community with the highest fiscal deficit, posting a €16.72 billion one, equivalent to €2,575 per citizen. In the last few months, the regional government of Spain's capital city, run by the People's Party (which also runs the Spanish Government), has been lobbying to grant Madrid greater resources. Ironically in the last two decades, the Spanish Executive has been carrying out centralist infrastructure plans, such as building a radial railway network for high-speed trains where all the lines pass through Madrid. Furthermore, the Spanish Government has spent billions in Madrid Barajas Airport and in the capital's metro lines or short distance trains, and it has under-budgeted or delayed many investments in other parts of Spain, such as in Catalonia. In addition, all the Spanish Ministries, most of the public companies and agencies, and many multinationals pay taxes in Madrid.

Catalonia is the second Autonomous Community with the highest fiscal deficit according to the Spanish Finance Ministry's calculations (€8.46 billion and €1,119 per person). The other two Autonomous Communities bringing resources to the system are Valencia (€2.02 billion, equivalent to 2.03% of its GDP and €394 per person) and the Balearic Islands (€1.48 billion, equivalent to 5.71% of their GDP and to €1,329 per person). The rest of Autonomous Communities have a positive fiscal surplus, meaning the receive more than what they bring to the common system. For instance, Extremadura receives an equivalent of 17.64% of its GDP (€2.99 billion); the Canaries get 9.96% of their GDP (€4.05 billion); Castile and León, 7.10% (€3.93 billion); Galicia, 5.79% (€3.24 billion); and, Andalusia, 5.24% (€7.42 billion). Ironically, Catalonia and Valencia are the two Autonomous Communities with the highest public debt levels, since their governments are under-budgeted, while Extremadura is posting very low debt levels and is lowering its own taxes this year.

Montoro stated he will not give more resources to the Autonomous Communities

On Tuesday, in a press conference in Barcelona, Cristóbal Montoro stated that the Spanish Government is not planning to grant the Autonomous Communities greater resources, despite the fact that they are exclusively managing the healthcare, education and social affairs systems, among other policies, and they have been obliged to undertake severe budget cuts. In addition, the Spanish Finance Minister closed the door once again to setting up a new scheme granting the Catalan Government a greater amount of resources, reducing Catalonia's solidarity to the common scheme and its transfer to poorer parts of Spain.

This demand is widely shared by a majority of the Catalan society and it was proposed by the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, in September 2012 to the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, who even rejected to talk about it. At the time, Catalonia's fiscal agreement had the support of more than 75% of Catalans and the entire business community. This fiscal pact would have been quite similar to the one the Basque Country and Navarra already had, but Rajoy rejected to even talk about it.

Barcelona (ACN)

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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Blanes' International Fireworks Competition gathers 100,000 people in its opening night

Blanes' annual International Fireworks Competition (Costa Brava), which this year celebrates its 44th edition, started on Thursday night, attracting more than 100,000 people to watch the show, according to initial estimates by the Mayor of the Catalan coastal town, Josep Marigó. The event was supervised by pyrotechnic and three-time festival winner, Tomás de Castelló. The competition, which will run until Sunday, involves four professional pyrotechnics: the Valencian which opens the competition, last year´s winner from Granada, one from Aragón and a last one from Slovenia. The winner will be chosen by a jury, which this year is open to the public and formed of volunteers.

The first firework night in Blanes' International Competition
 (by A. Recolons)
Blanes, a coastal town in Catalonia's Costa Brava, launched one of the top summer attractions in the Counties of Girona, the Blanes' International Fireworks Competition. The event started on Thursday night with the fireworks display by pyrotechnic and three-time festival winner, Tomás de Castelló de la Plana. More than 100,000 people filled the beach and the promenade in Blanes to enjoy the show, which is "powerful, full of lights and color" according to the Mayor of Blanes, Josep Marigó. No incidents occurred apart from the lack of wind, which has concentrated much smoke in the launching area, and a certain "lack of pace" of the show, as experts reported.

The show, which started on Thursday, is the start of a contest that will run until Sunday. It is an international competition, one of the most important in Europe, in which various companies from around the world participate. This year, the main participants include Angustias Pérez, the last year winner from Granada; a pyrotechnic from Zaragoza who participated in the event last year and Privatex, a Slovenian pyrotechnic who will close the competition on Sunday.

One of the main novelties of this year's competition is that the jury is opened to the public and is formed of volunteers. The winner will be selected by the eight members of the Technical Committee and 40 members of the Popular Jury, of which twelve are chosen among all those who have requested to be part of it.

The Mayor of Blanes emphasized that despite the high concentration of people, the night has passed without any notable incidents. In fact, the security and emergency plan, chosen as the model to follow, which involved more than 100officers from the Catalan Police, the fire brigade, the Guardia Civil and medical services, worked perfectly and the event took place without any incident apart from small actions "in the areas with concentration of lots of people," said Marigó.

This is the third year that the fireworks will last four days instead of six as it used to be two years ago, due to the City Council´s decision to reduce the format, budget and awards. This year everything remains as last year. With a total budget of €101,000, the City Council will pay a maximum amount of €19,000 to each pyrotechnics participating in the event. The prize for the winner will be €6,000, the invitation to participate in the competition next year and participation in Girona's street festival with the additional amount of €12,500. This year 10 requests to participate in the competition have been received.

CNA/ Neringa Sinkeviciute

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