What's next for Catalonia in 2020

Possible thaw between Catalan and Spanish governments, likely ousting of president, and increasing action on climate emergency among issues expected next year

Fridays for Future protest in Barcelona (by Sílvia Junyent)
Fridays for Future protest in Barcelona (by Sílvia Junyent) / Guifré Jordan

Guifré Jordan | Barcelona

December 31, 2019 11:35 AM

The decade-long prison sentences for sedition for nine pro-independence leaders and the protests and riots that came afterwards was clearly the main story in 2019 in Catalonia. 

Now, as the year - and the 2010s - come to an end, the mid and long-term impact of that decision is also very likely to dominate the headlines in 2020. 

After a year that included three important elections, 2020 has none on the horizon, although with the instability in both Catalonia and Spain nothing can be ruled out. 

Rising music star Rosalía, the climate emergency, and the fears of stagnation in the economy were also hot topics in 2019, and are very likely to continue as such next year. 

Time for a thaw between Barcelona and Madrid?

A 15-minute phone conversation was all the direct contact between the Catalan and Spanish presidents in 2019 – and even then the outcome of that talk was contentious. 

The outcome of the November 10, 2019 Spanish election saw the best bet for the Socialists to stay in power being a deal with the pro-independence Esquerra party – or at least that was the easiest option. The latter's condition for backing Pedro Sánchez is talks on Catalonia's crisis between the Spanish and Catalan governments. 

If a deal is sealed, as looks likely, the year 2020 will see a possible thaw in relations either succeed or fail. 

Yet, multiple other scenarios can impact these potential talks: the Catalan president, Quim Torra, is likely to be barred from public office for disobedience offenses next year, which will see him ousted from his post. This would lead to either a new leader succeeding him, or a snap election. 

If a new vote does take place, the independence issue might see a softer approach, things speed up again, or it could even be ruled out by the public. 

The first permits for the jailed leaders and a new momentum for the international dimension of the Catalan conflict with Carles Puigdemont as an MEP and upcoming European court rulings are also likely to unfold. 

Brexit and stagnation, economic challenges

The imminent Brexit will be a challenge for the whole of the EU, including in Catalonia. The government has enabled a so-called 'Brexit plan,' and Barcelona opened an information point. But the country's economy is dreading the impact of the UK leaving the Union, especially tourism, and the agri-food and automobile sectors. 

The stagnation of the worldwide economy, anticipating a possible new crisis, will also affect Catalonia. Its GDP growth is set to slow, as is the recent drop in the unemployment rate, although the figure is still expected to fall below 10% (it is now at 10.9%). Foreign investment and export trends will also be at stake in 2020. 

Families could be worse off if the 2020 Catalan budget fails to pass in parliament for a third year in a row, or standards could improve if the public spending plan is successful and gives a boost to social policies.

In any case, international fairs will continue in full swing in 2020, with highlights including the Mobile World Congress (February 24-27), agricultural machinery events in Mollerussa (March 19-22) and Lleida (September 24-27), the Alimentària food and drinks fair (April 20-23), Barcelona Meeting Point – on real estate – (October 21-24), the Internet of Things Solutions World Congress (October 27-29), and the Smart City Expo (November 17-19). A new one on wine, Barcelona Wine Week, will open from February 3 to 5. 

Climate emergency, poverty, depopulation, feminism, 2020 challenges

Climate emergency was selected as the neologism of the year in 2019 a few weeks ago, meaning that it is firmly on the public agenda. The Catalan government declared the climate emergency in May 2019, and in January 2020 it will host its first ever summit on the topic. 

Institutions like Barcelona's local government are likely to play a key role next year, with a Low Emissions Zone for vehicles coming into force in the capital on New Year's Day. 

Other long-term challenges will continue on the agenda, such as feminism and the struggle against the increasingly reported sexual abuse cases and rapes and how to deal with them. Poverty and depopulation are set to give plenty to talk about as well next year. 

Old rockers Paul McCartney, Elton John, Kiss and Iron Maiden, in da house

2020 will also be time to go back to the 1970s in Catalonia, with the visit of veteran rockers like Paul McCartney (June 17), Kiss (July 4), Iron Maiden (July 25), and Elton John (October 2 and 3).

But it will also be time to discover new talent, such as Halsey (February 7) and Dua Lipa (April 28), and to enjoy established world-class stars, including Keane (January 23), Belle and Sebastian (July 2-4), Diana Ross (July 15), and Tiziano Ferro (December 13).

Local band Manel will be touring the country to present their new album, and Txarango will perform in a farewell tour ending in 2021. 

Rosalía is not expected to perform in Catalonia in 2020 after her two concerts in December, but the Catalan superstar will no doubt continue her meteoric rise: January 26 might be her consecration, as she is nominated for two Grammys, which will be revealed that night. 

There will also be the usual international music festivals, including Primavera Sound (June 3-7) and Sónar (June 18-20), as well as the Fira Tàrrega (September 10-13) performing arts festival and the Fira Mediterrània (October 15-18) fairs, the comic con (May 8-10) and the manga fair (October 29-November 1).