Heavy rains in Mediterranean area leave deadly toll
Flash flooding kills nine in Mallorca; emergency services stretched in southern Catalonia
Flash flooding kills nine in Mallorca; emergency services stretched in southern Catalonia
Catalonia is still the leading Autonomous Community in Spain in terms of tourism, even before the Balearic Islands, and accounts for 25.1% of the overall total of visits by foreigners. 1,797,966 tourists from all over the world visited Catalonia in September, according to the poll 'Frontur', published this Thursday by the Spanish Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism. The figure is 0,1% lower than in the same period last year, when 1,801,736 foreigners visited Catalonia and is due to the decrease in the number of Russian and Italian visitors. Tourists from the UK still lead the ranking of foreign visitors, followed by Germans. Visits from France and the US grew the most. Nearly 14 million international tourists visited Catalonia from January to September, which is 3.2% higher than the same period last year.
Catalonia's GDP increased by 3.5% between June 2014 and June 2015 and was the Autonomous Community with the third-highest level of economic growth, leading Spain's economic recovery. Spain as a whole grew at a 3.1% annual rate in the same period, according to figures released on Thursday by the Spanish Independent Fiscal Authority (Airef). Ahead of Catalonia in terms of GDP growth are the Balearic Islands – with 4% growth – and the Valencian Country (also called Valencian Community) – with growth of 3.9%. They are followed by Catalonia (3.5%), the Canary Islands (3.4%) and the Madrid region (3.2%). According to these figures, the eastern part of Spain has been the most dynamic during the last few months, and Catalonia, which is the wealthiest Autonomous Community and has one of the highest growth rates, is the region contributing the most in absolute terms.
The Institut Ramon Llull (IRL) is a public body in charge of promoting Catalan culture and language abroad. On Thursday, "it expressed optimism for the first time" about a collaboration with the new Governments of Valencia and the Balearic Islands, both led by left-wing coalitions. The Director of the institute, Àlex Susanna, said that, following the May 2015 elections, "positive signs" are emerging but still could not confirm any conclusive agreement. According to him, the new political landscape opens a "great opportunity" to promote the international mobility of artists and intellectuals from Catalan-speaking territories. Asked about the new Head of Barcelona City Council – part of the consortium constituting the institute – Susanna said that he foresees "continuity" with the work of previous local Executives.
The People's Party (PP), which runs the Spanish Government and holds an absolute majority in the regional parliament of the Valencian Community (also called Valencian Country), has approved the Law on Identity Signs with votes from party members only. The Law entered into force this Friday. The new regional rule sets what are Valencia's identity symbols and traditions, and also insists on defining Valencian as a totally different language from Catalan, going against all scientific studies and experts. It also foresees sanctions for any organisation which states that Valencian is a dialect of Catalan. During the last few decades, Valencian regionalist politicians – most of whom have a strong Spanish nationalist ideology – have been working on differentiating the Valencian dialect from Catalan spoken in the rest of the territories that have Catalan as their native language. The PP has strongly contributed to this split, politicising the unity of Catalan language and also splitting Valencian society over identity issues.
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, posting a significantly low Catalan contribution. According to the Spanish Government's new calculations, 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, using two complementary methodologies used by the Spanish Executive in 2008 and agreed among independent university experts.
Catalan language speakers are increasing their number and have exceeded the 10 million people mark, according to the latest report on the situation of Catalan. This means that 72.4 % of the population now speaks the language in the various areas of the Catalan linguistic community. In addition, 12.8 million understand it, representing 91.7% of the population. These latest figures confirm a consolidation trend, which paradoxically, is occurring in an unfavourable context, with an “adverse socio-political environment in territories outside Catalonia”. According to the report, the political and judicial “offensive” against Catalan are the main threats against the standardization of a language which, nevertheless, continues “to progress”.
On the same day, the Court re-affirmed its decision to keep its current Chairman in position despite his anti-Catalan public stance and having been a member of the governing People’s Party (PP) until 2011. On top of this, Catalan and Basque Members of the European Parliament from five different parties formally asked the European Commission to intervene against the politicisation of the Spanish Constitutional Court, stressing that EU democracies should have an independent judiciary. The Constitutional Court is the highest interpreter of Spain’s legislation, has to guarantee the respect of fundamental rights and acts as a referee between the different government levels and political actors. In this capacity, it ruled against the appeal presented by the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) against the law that abolished the requirement to know Catalan for working as a public servant in Majorca, Minorca, Ibiza and Formentera, despite it being the local language.
The opposition has denounced “the insult to intelligence” and the “ridiculousness” of changing the official name of the Catalan language in Aragon. Catalan has been spoken in the eastern part of Aragon for almost a thousand years. In addition, the regional parliament has also changed the name of Aragonese, a minority language also spoken for many centuries in Aragon’s Pyrenean valleys. The People’s Party (PP) and a minority regional party called PAR have changed the law ruling Aragon’s official languages. Spanish is now considered the only official language in all Aragon and LAPAO (formerly Catalan) and LAPAPYP (Aragonese) are secondary languages. University experts have strongly criticised this decision which goes against all scientific criteria. From Catalonia, the situation is perceived as another attack on the Catalan language and an attempt to eradicate it from certain areas.
Pau Debon, the singer of the band, tells CNA the evolution of the group and how they got here. From Majorca to Catalonia, and later to Galicia and the Basque Country, Catalan-speaking Antònia Font has broken its two-year silence with a new album ‘Vostè és aquí’ (Here you are) and a tour throughout Spain. With a new distinguished style escaping from the stereotyped three minutes and ten-song album, they have experimented with new formats and sounds. Debon assures that after sixteen years together and nine albums, now he would like to play in festivals throughout Europe.
The Irish low-cost airline has announced six new destinations from Barcelona El Prat Airport, as well as an increased frequency of flights on several existing routes. Ryanair has decided to occupy part of the market share left by Spanair after it went bankrupt 10 days ago. Furthermore, Ryanair’s President Michael O’Leary, replied to Spanair workers unions, who complained about the poor working conditions offered by the Irish company to hire them. “Nobody is obliged to work for Ryanair”, he said.
The Great Escape Music Festival, in the UK, known for its commitment to up-and-coming groups, continues to support bands from Catalonia and other Catalan speaking areas. The latest edition of the festival brought together groups that have already performed over the past three festivals such as Mishima or Manel. This year the organisers also decided to include an exclusive space in the programme for bands from the Balearic Islands.
1.9 million foreign tourists visited Catalonia in August, representing a 2.9% increase on the same month in 2010. Catalonia hosted almost a quarter of all international tourists visiting Spain. The number of international visitors who came to Spain in August increased 9.4% compared to last year, totalling 7.64 million.