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More English skills, infrastructures and research are needed to gain competitiveness and bring about Catalonia’s internationalisation

Former Catalan President Jordi Pujol, scientist Jordi Camí, macroeconomist Jordi Galí, Spanair Chairmand Ferran Soriano and Architect Benedetta Tagliabue talked about opening Catalonia to the world in a round table debate hosted by the Catalan News Agency in Barcelona.

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26 January 2011 10:42 PM

by

ACN / Laura Pous

Barcelona (ACN).- The internationalisation of Catalonia is a slow process that requires perseverance, but the country is taking the necessary steps to open up to the world - this was the main conclusion of the round table organised by the Catalan News Agency in the MACBA Auditorium under the name of 'Open up to the world - priorities for internationalising Catalonia'. The debate, moderated by the CNA Director, Saül Gordillo, was a great success due to the participation of former President Jordi Pujol, researcher Jordi Camí, economist Jordi Galí, businessman Ferran Soriano and architect Benedetta Tagliabue. During the conference, ACN's official English language news portal, the Catalan News Agency (CNA) was officially presented to the public.


The aim of the round table debate was to contribute to the debate about the idea of internationalising Catalonia and ensuring it becomes a global actor on the global stage. The guest speakers were convinced that opening up Catalonia to the world is one of the main ways to get this country out of the economic crisis and allow for expansion in socio-economic, political and cultural areas. Pujol, Camí, Galí, Soriano and Tagliabue based their arguments on the main priorities needed to internationalise Catalonia. For them, the most important are improving infrastructure, promoting research and innovation, defining key sectors, creating a business-friendly environment and ensuring English language skills\u2019 expansion, in particular to the main political and business leaders in Catalonia.

The internationalisation of Catalonia \u2013 a priority for ACN

During the introductory speech, the Director of the ACN, Saül Gordillo highlighted some factors that demonstrate the process of the internationalisation of Catalonia like increasing exports and the number of Erasmus students or researchers studying in Barcelona. Gordillo indicated the ACN's strong commitment to provide information about Catalonia to the world this year, giving a Catalan perspective of global information.

Gordillo mentioned ACN's English language service, the Catalan News Agency (CNA) as one of the leading information portals for the internationalisation of Catalonia. He also spoke about ACN's network of correspondents in Paris, London, Berlin, Brussels and New York that have been operating since last year.

Independence and internationalisation

The former President of the Catalan Government Jordi Pujol warned that Spain's policy may leave Catalonia with two options: either the \u201Cdisappearance\u201D of Catalonia as a nation and as an identity in a 30, 40 or 50 year-time scenario\u201D or \u201Cthe independence\u201D from Spain.

With regard to the internationalisation of Catalonia, Pujol said that Catalonia should to \u201Cplay two \u201Cduplicating roles\u201D, that coincide with \u201Cidentity and openness\u201D and \u201Croots and modernity\u201D. According to the former President, \u201CCatalonia must maintain its identity, otherwise it will not be able to open up\u201D. The small countries and small cultures have to be defended. \u201CAs we are so small, we do well and we don't fail very often as we don't have too many resources or reserves\u201D but Pujol warned, \u201Cto bring about quality and excellence we need a great effort from all\u201D.

A challenge: infrastructures

The Chairman of the airline Spanair Ferran Soriano said that transforming the airport of Barcelona into an intercontinental hub is one of the elements that should define the \u201Croadmap'\u201D of the future of Catalonia and its internationalisation. Soriano said that that the conditions for the emergence of a \u201Chub\u201D in Catalonia were already there. Soriano also insisted that the country must choose in which sectors to invest by making a priority list. This means leaving some sectors aside and putting all the efforts in others, in a coordinated way.

Soriano highlighted the importance of leading airports and airlines for the country as in his words, they generate \u201Cadded high value\u201D. He also said that in Catalonia there has always been a lack of major tractor companies, not like in Madrid, which many former State-based monopolies are large multinationals.

The manager of Spanair added that \u201Cwe need roads, highways, ports, rails airports and telecommunications so that Catalan companies can do business abroad and that foreign companies can do business here\u201D. He explained that \u201Cthe majority of multinationals that are installed in Spain are in Madrid. According to him, Catalonia has to offer conditions for enterprises to also be easily settled here.

Less dependence on Madrid

The director of the Research Centre for International Economics (CREI), Jordi Galí, regretted the \u201Cexcessive dependency\u201D that Catalan companies have on the Spanish market and secondly on the EU market. Galí argued that if Catalonia had all the powers of an independent state, it could develop a more powerful role in the economic field. \u201CIt is important not to deceive ourselves\u201D, he said, \u201Cwe do not have the main instruments to let Catalonia become the type of economy we want. They are not under our control - these tools are in the hands of Madrid\u201D, he was mainly referring to the fiscal instruments. The economist added that this \u201Cdoes not mean that we should resign, but we must strive even more and not be afraid to experiment, take risks and see what happens\u201D.

English, essential for a global country

The director of the Biomedical Research Park of Barcelona and the director of the Pasqual Maragall Foundation for the Research on Alzheimer Jordi Camí called for all Catalan politicians and businessmen to speak English. Camí said that this was a \u201Cmoral and ethical requirement\u201D that leaders must obey by if they want to internationalise Catalonia. \u201CThey should find another job if they can't speak English\u201D, he emphasised. \u201CWithout knowledge of the English language, we should not even have this discussion about the internationalisation of Catalonia\u201D, he said. Camí also mentioned \u201Cthe provincial education\u201D that Catalan students receive, which does not encourage them to go abroad.

Camí also said that the research and innovation sectors should be priority areas for government investment, especially in times of crisis. He explained that this is a sector that competes directly with the world and provides a \u201Cnet income of talent\u201D for the country. He explained that a sector is obliged to play in the first division, where English is normally the language. As an example, he pointed out that half the scientific papers produced in Catalonia are carried out by international research groups. Camí asked for more flexible policies towards alien workers and for more and better infrastructures, both in the transport and the research fields.

Barcelona, a model of architecture

The architect Benedetta Tagliabue also participated in the roundtable \u2018Open up to the world'. The architect, who is responsible for the Miralles-Tagliabue EMBT study, spoke about the rich architectural talent in Catalonia due to the country's architectural tradition. However she did say that she regretted how the sector was still unknown. From her point of view, Catalonia is a \u201Cgood place to learn and study\u201D but professionally it needs to be developed more. With regard to city-planning, Tagliabue, who is currently working on several projects in China, said that \u201CBarcelona has always been an example and will also be so\u201D. \u201COur philosophy now is to do an excellent job\u201D said Tagliabue. The architect explained that there are many young architects and interns from all around the world working on the study and keeping international relations strong.

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  • The architect Benedetta Taglibue besides former Catalan President, Jordi Pujol (by O. Campuzano)

  • The expert in biomedicine, Jordi Camí (by O. Campuzano)

  • The former Catalan President, Jordi Pujol, talks to the audience (by O. Campuzano)

  • The panel debate speakers and the moderator, Saül Gordillo (by O. Campuzano)

  • The macroeconomist, Jordi Galí (by O. Campuzano)

  • Spanair's Chairman, Ferran Soriano (by O. Campuzano)

  • The architect Benedetta Taglibue besides former Catalan President, Jordi Pujol (by O. Campuzano)
  • The expert in biomedicine, Jordi Camí (by O. Campuzano)
  • The former Catalan President, Jordi Pujol, talks to the audience (by O. Campuzano)
  • The panel debate speakers and the moderator, Saül Gordillo (by O. Campuzano)
  • The macroeconomist, Jordi Galí (by O. Campuzano)
  • Spanair's Chairman, Ferran Soriano (by O. Campuzano)
More English language skills, infrastructures and research are needed to gain competitiveness and bring about Catalonia’s internationalisation