Elections needed if Torra ousted, says business association head
PIMEC president Josep González asks for "a little bit more governing and a little less politics"
PIMEC president Josep González asks for "a little bit more governing and a little less politics"
All Catalonia’s employers’ associations, with the exception of ‘Foment del Treball’, and every chamber of commerce have united behind Catalonia’s right to vote and expressed on Thursday their wish to “unconditionally support” the result of the upcoming elections on the 27th of September. The president of the employers’ association CECOT, Antoni Abad, said that “the right to decide is a structural element of a democracy”, adding that “we must re-establish Spain or found a new state”. The businessmen handed a copy of ‘Manifest del Far’ - a document signed in 2014, in which they expressed their commitment to Catalonia’s process of sovereignty - to the President of the Catalan Parliament, Núria de Gispert. She thanked the employers for “such a necessary” event and emphasised that “the time of ambiguity is over”.
The President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, announced on Wednesday that next Monday he will send a letter to the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, to assess November 9's participatory process and to offer a negotiation for organising a definitive referendum on independence. Mas made such an announcement the day after the Constitutional Court suspended November 9's vote and after the Catalan Government confirmed that the participatory process will still take place on Sunday. The Catalan President emphasised that November 9's vote "is not a referendum to declare independence" and he said that those making these declarations "are lying". Mas emphasised he has respected the suspension of the original consultation vote, launching a citizen participation process instead. "If such a process cannot be carried out in a normal way, then Spanish citizens should think about Spain's democratic quality", he concluded.
FC Barcelona has joined Catalonia’s National Alliance for Self-Determination, which groups together more than 3,000 organisations, such as chambers of commerce, employers’ associations, trade unions, political parties, NGOs, etc. The world famous sports club therefore backs Catalonia’s self-determination process and will participate in this group that works to push it forward. Furthermore, in the last few weeks leading Catalan sportsmen such as Xavi Hernández, Gerard Piqué, Pep Guardiola, Cesc Fàbregas, Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, Aleix Espargaró and Pol Espargaró have given their explicit support to Catalonia’s right to hold a self-determination vote to decide on its own political future, regardless of whether they would vote for independence or not. In fact, only Guardiola has openly backed independence, although none of the others have specified being against it.
Pimec and Foment, Catalonia’s largest employers’ associations, have expressed outrage at the Spanish Government’s budget proposal for 2015 and its planned investment in Catalonia. Both Foment, which groups the largest employers, and Pimec, who represents small and medium-sized enterprises, have criticised that the Spanish Government has allocated to Catalonia only 9.5% of Spain’s total investment, despite it contributing 19% of the country's GDP and having 16% of its population. Spokespersons for both organisations have said the shockingly low budget is at odds with Catalonia’s high productivity and represents "a missed opportunity", both for economic growth and political dialogue, considering the independence debate. According to Ramon Adell, from Foment, Catalonia "as the engine of recovery, deserves a greater investment in infrastructure."
''The recovery has come and has come to stay,'' according to Salvador Guillermo, Director of the Economy of Catalonia's main association of business-owners, Foment del Treball. Guillermo, who coordinated the report published on Tuesday, said that the analysis of economic data confirms that the positive trends have been occurring a month earlier in Catalonia than in the rest of Spain, "which means that recovery is more entrenched'' in Catalonia. The agents of this recovery are internal demand (consumption and investment) and the fast pace of exports in Catalonia.
An agreement between the Centre-Right pro-Catalan State Coalition (CiU) – which runs Barcelona's municipal government in minority – and the People's Party (PP) will allow shops located in tourist areas of the Catalan capital to be open on Sundays during the summer season, from 10am to 6pm. Shops in Catalonia are normally closed on Sundays, with few exceptions for the Christmas or sales seasons. However, shops in small tourist towns are allowed greater flexibility during holidays and can open on Sundays. The case of Barcelona is quite unusual, since it is the largest tourist destination in Catalonia but it is also a big city with a dense network of small and neighbourhood shops. These small shops could be damaged if they have to open longer hours (with the increase of financial and personal costs associated) in order to compete with multinationals.
On Thursday and Friday, several messages were sent from business circles and the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) aiming to negotiate a Constitutional Reform to find a better accommodation of Catalonia within Spain. However, on Friday afternoon, the Spanish Government once again closed the door to such a Constitutional Reform saying there was "no consensus". In the morning, Spain's largest business owners association stated that "laws are not immortal" and "can be changed to adapt to reality". The day before, the President of the Cercle d'Economia business lobby said he supported "a legal" consultation vote "agreed with Spain", but asked the Catalan President "to give dialogue a second chance" and reform the Constitution if necessary. On Friday, the Secretary General of the PSOE stated that such a Constitutional Reform should be negotiated among the governing People's Party (PP), the PSOE and Catalonia. However, it would not recognise Catalonia's right to self-determination. The CiU's 'number 2' replied that the Spanish Government rejects talks.
28 employers’ associations, chambers of commerce and business organisations have signed a manifesto that explicitly backs Catalonia's right to self-determination. They presented the initiative on Thursday, in a lighthouse on the Costa Brava. The document is based on a previous agreement reached among employers and business associations just from Girona Province (north-east), but now it has been shared with organisations from throughout Catalonia. Some media, mostly edited in Madrid and abroad, are portraying the business community as against the self-determination process, but there are many employers that are backing it, even among the larger companies. A few weeks ago, the President and co-owner of the pharmaceutical Grífols – which is one of the world leaders for blood-derivate products – backed the Catalan President and his efforts to organise a self-determination vote.
On Thursday Universitetet i Oslo (UiO) hosted a round table debate with Norwegian and Catalan academics, journalists and economists to discuss the economic viability of an independent Catalonia and how it would fit into the European framework, whether in the European Union (EU) or the European Free Trade Area (EFTA). This debate was part of the conference 'Self-Determination Processes in the EU: the case of Catalonia', organised by the Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia (Diplocat) together with the University of Oslo. The Diplocat – an organisation backed by the Catalan Government, universities, business associations, trade unions, FC Barcelona and other public and private institutions – is organising a series of debates in European and Spanish universities on Catalonia's self-determination demands.
The Spanish Finance Minister, Cristóbal Montoro, announced on Friday that the publication of the so-called fiscal balances will be delayed until June, after he had promised to issue them by last December and by the current month of March. Montoro changed the calculation method in January, as the figures were used to support Catalonia's independence from Spain. Now, the new delay is "to improve" the report. This document shows how much money Catalan citizens and companies pay to the public authorities and how much returns to them through services, infrastructure and funds. A wide majority of the Catalan society has been complaining for decades that their contribution to finance services, infrastructure and funds in other parts of Spain is too excessive and they have asked for reducing such inter-territorial money transfers. Studies show that Catalans have been paying each year an average of 8% of Catalonia's GDP between 1986 and 2010, which represents 200% of Catalonia's total GDP.
On Wednesday evening the main Catalan small- and medium-sized enterprises association, Pimec, organised a protest conference in which they accused the Spanish and Catalan Governments of politically and financially "discriminating" against them. With the slogan #diguemprou (#wesayenough) 1,400 owners of SMEs and self-employed workers protested against both Governments for not taking SMEs into account and only working for the interests of large corporations. The protest was explicitly backed by 220 guilds and associations, as well as by 9 professional associations and that of self-employed workers. The event issued a manifesto compiling a list of grievances, split into 7 different areas: entrepreneurship; loans and funding; taxation; labour market; energy; training and employment; and internationalisation.
The business owners’ association Cercle Català de Negocis (CCN) insisted that neither Spain’s confederation of employer associations, CEOE, nor its Catalan member, Foment del Treball “represent anything other than themselves and the interests of large corporations linked to the Spanish Government”. After the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, asked employers to participate in the political debate, these two main employers’ associations have rejected getting involved in the self-determination process. However the CCN recalled that these large corporations only represent a tiny part of Catalonia’s business sector. The CCN stressed that SMEs account for 99% of all Catalan production and many of their owners “have mostly positioned themselves in favour of exercising the right to self-determination”. During a luncheon on Tuesday, Mas nuanced his previous statement, saying that he was “not asking for explicit statements” but “to be within” the political debate.