Controversy enters Barcelona's Chamber of Commerce

Catalonia's political future is now a key issue for the traditionally unionist institution since a pro-independence group took majority control of the body


The pro-independence presdient of the Barcelon Chamber of Commerce, Joan Canadell (by ACN)
The pro-independence presdient of the Barcelon Chamber of Commerce, Joan Canadell (by ACN) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

July 3, 2019 04:45 PM

This week saw the new board of Barcelona's Chamber of Commerce, which was voted in last month, meet for the first time, and controversy duly followed.

The institution's new head, Joan Canadell, caused a stir after the meeting when he said he "would think again" before answering any more questions from the press in Spanish.

After being asked by a journalist to repeat three answers he had already given in Catalan, Canadell asked: "Don't television channels have translators?"

The ongoing independence issue has touched just about all aspects of public life in Catalonia, and the capital's foremost business organization is no exception.

Canadell favors independence and led a candidacy from the Catalan National Assembly that saw a pro-independence organization take control of the chamber for the first time.

For those against independence such a thing is an anathema, especially as the Chamber of Commerce has traditionally been led by unionist, conservative businessmen.

Unionists challenge election results

It didn't take long for the election results to be challenged, with a group of the chamber's unionist members alleging irregularities with the electronic voting system used.

Canadell dismissed the challenge led by financier Carles Tusquets as "bordering on the ridiculous," as even if it were upheld the pro-independence lobby would keep its majority.

While Catalonia's General Council of Chambers of Commerce studies the challenge, Canadell says his pro-independence group "will continue working."

The new president's political stance can be seen in his first comments. Last month, Canadell said Catalonia "must have a state" for the economy to reach its full potential.

He also stressed the need for "stability" and accused the Spanish authorities of "generating political instability" with their refusal to "enter into dialogue with Catalonia."

Yet, Canadell also said business was his main priority and insisted he would not tell the government what to do: "They are the ones who have to decide on the roadmap," he said.