The Catalan Government will not open delegations in Mexico, China and Morocco for the moment

The budget austerity measures and the reduction of the public deficit have forced the restructuring of the Catalan Government’s offices abroad and have also impeded the opening of new ones. The Catalan Vice President Joana Ortega explained these changes to the Catalan Parliament’s External Action and European Union Committee.

CNA / Maria Fernández Noguera / Gaspar Pericay Coll

April 8, 2011 02:12 PM

Barcelona (ACN).- The offices of the Catalan Government abroad will also be affected by the budget cuts and austerity plans, which will reduce public expenditure by 10% in order to reduce the public deficit. The Catalan Government has offices abroad to represent Catalonia’s interests. Their aim is to project its economic, cultural and political dimensions. The new Catalan Government, controlled by the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition Convergència i Unió (CiU), will not close any of the existing Government delegations but will adapt them and merge them with commercial and cultural offices, as it has already done in New York. It will thus maintain the delegations opened by the previous Catalan Government in Brussels, Paris, London, Berlin, New York and Buenos Aires. However, due to the budget restrictions, the Government refuses to open new delegations that were already planned and considered “strategic”. They included offices in Mexico, Morocco and China. The Vice President of the Catalan Government Joana Ortega told the Catalan Parliament’s External Action and European Union Committee that the decision will be reconsidered in the medium term, depending on the future budget.

The network of offices abroad

The Catalan Government has three types of offices abroad:

- ACC1Ó offices, which are in charge of assisting Catalan companies to find new markets as well as attracting foreign investment. They focus on the internationalisation of the Catalan economy. There are 33 offices, in the 6 continents.

- The Institut Ramon Llull offices, in charge of promoting the Catalan culture and language abroad (such as the British Council, the Instituto Cervantes or the Goethe Institut). It has 4 offices abroad: London, Paris, Berlin and New York; and,

- The Government delegations, in charge of a political and advocacy role and of giving support to the other two offices. There are a total of 6 delegations: in Brussels, London, Paris, Berlin, New York and Buenos Aires.

These last types of offices, which other Autonomous Communities in Spain and regions in Europe also have (such as the Basque Country or Bavaria), were opened by the previous Catalan Government, a three-party Left-Wing Catalan Nationalist coalition. Their opening caused controversy among the Spanish Nationalist parties and media in Madrid, as they were seen as Catalan “embassies”. All the Catalan parties, except those considered to be Spanish Nationalist parties, defended them. However, CiU, which at the time was the main opposition party, criticised the way they were opened and run. The new Government, now run by CiU, has kept them open but has decided not to increase the network with planned offices in Mexico, Morocco and China.

No new Government delegations in the short-term

The already planned delegation in Mexico will have to wait to be opened. The same goes for the delegations in Morocco and China, which were considered “strategic” by the previous Catalan Government. This decision will be reviewed in the future, depending on the budget available, explained the Catalan Vice President Joana Ortega. “We will see what happens in a couple of years”, she stated. “We do not discard opening new delegations in the future”, stressed Ortega, “especially in emerging markets and in places where the Catalan economy is present”.

Restructuring and rationalising the current network of offices

In times of economic slowdown, developing the internationalisation of Catalonia, opening up in new markets, promoting the Catalan culture and fine tuning lobbying activities is a strategic drive, which needs resources and a network of offices to operate. However, as the Catalan Vice President explained at the Catalan Parliament they are adapting to the reality of the new budget, by merging the three types of offices into one and by reducing their expenditure. This process has already been carried out in New York, where the Government Delegation merged with the Institut Ramon Llull office and the ACC1Ó office, in charge of developing trading and economic relations.

The idea is also to maximise the existing offices from ACC1Ó, such the one in Mexico. The lobby and advocacy work, as well as the institutional activities in this American country “can be pursued by ACC1Ó, which develops the internationalisation of Catalan companies and economy”.

Today’s hearing at the Catalan Parliament

On the political front, it was the first time Joana Ortega spoke before the Catalan Parliament’s External Action and European Union Committee. In fact, Ortega does not have direct powers on the Catalan Government’s External Policy, as it depends directly on the Catalan President Artur Mas. However, Ortega, as Vice President, can represent Mas on demand and she also manages the Government’s relations with the Catalan Parliament. Ortega was joined by the two managers of the Government’s External Policy: the Catalan Government’s Secretary Germà Gordó and the External Affairs Secretary Senén Florensa. Gordó and Florensa did not intervene and let the Vice President provide the explanations to the parliamentary committee.

The Catalan Socialist Party spokesperson at the Committee, Montserrat Tura, pointed out that the Government has kept the delegations “that you criticised so much” in the past. The Catalan People’s Party’s spokesperson Santi Rodríguez stressed that their party would close the delegations, as “they act more as a pseudo-diplomatic body than an element to internationalise Catalonia”.