conference

First Digital Government Congress promotes a public administration “closer” to citizens

January 21, 2015 12:58 AM | ACN / Pau Rodríguez

The 1st Digital Government Congress organised by the Catalan Government and the Open Administration of Catalonia consortium (AOC) will take place on Wednesday and Thursday at the Palau de Congressos de Fira de Barcelona. The main aim of this summit is to develop through the use of new technologies the public administration into an “open and innovative administration” that will be smarter, more efficient and effective in order to give “real answers to the demands and expectations of society”, according to Àlex Pèlach, the Managing Director of the AOC consortium.

Spanish Government accuses Catalan President of calling early elections “to hide his ineffectiveness”

January 16, 2015 06:04 PM | ACN

The Spanish Deputy Prime Minister, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, strongly criticised the calling of early elections in Catalonia, announced by the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, for 27 September as a ‘de facto’ plebiscite on independence. Sáenz de Santamaría stated that such a call shows Mas’ “failure” and his “incapacity” to run a government. She also said that the Catalan President is announcing elections 8 months in advance “to hide his ineffectiveness”. Besides this, the Spanish Deputy PM warned Catalan authorities that any measures adopted in the coming months that exceed Catalonia’s self-rule powers will be taken to the Constitutional Court. 

Catalan President: the self-determination process has “to continue and end well”

January 13, 2015 05:46 PM | ACN

The President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, assessed on Tuesday the Executive’s work during 2014, which he found to be “positive” overall, although he admitted there are still many people in great need and many social and economic challenges ahead. Referring to the current debate on whether to call early elections transformed into a ‘de facto’ referendum on independence from Spain, Mas promised immediate decisions to be announced on Thursday. Before taking the definitive decision and after weeks of admitted “confusion”, the Catalan President wants to hold a last round of talks with the main civil society organisations supporting independence and the left-wing pro-independence party ERC – with whom the governing centre-right pro-Catalan State coalition CiU has shared a parliamentary stability agreement for the last 2 years. “I will not slack” in the self-determination process, Mas stated.

Green Socialist leader highlights the need to vote on social issues and budget cuts besides independence

December 15, 2014 09:53 PM | ACN

Joan Herrera, the leader of the Catalan Green Socialist and post-Communist coalition ICV-EUiA, also held his own conference on Catalonia's political future and self-determination road map, after those of the Catalan President, the Spanish Prime Minister and three other political leaders. Despite supporting Catalans' right to vote on independence, Herrera rejected exclusively voting on independence, since after years of budget cuts and corruption scandals, citizens also have to vote on social issues and measures to clean up the democratic system. Herrera strongly criticised the austerity measures approved by the centre-right pro-Catalan State coalition CiU and the People's Party (PP). The ICV-EUiA does not have an official position regarding independence and about half of its leadership and voters would support it, while the other half supports greater powers for the Catalan Government within a federal Spain.

Catalan Socialist leader would support an independence referendum if citizens reject Constitutional Reform

December 11, 2014 08:57 PM | ACN

Miquel Iceta, First Secretary of the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), is currently rejecting a vote on independence and is proposing a broad Constitutional Reform to grant Catalonia a better fitting within a truly federal Spain. On Wednesday evening, Iceta exposed his proposals in a conference, emulating what the main pro-independence leaders – Artur Mas and Oriol Junqueras – had done one and two weeks ago. On Thursday, he was interviewed by a radio station about his proposals and he was asked about would happen if Catalans were to reject the Constitutional Reform he is pushing for. In such scenario, the leader of the PSC – which is part of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) – stated that he would support the organisation of a referendum on independence. However, before voting on breaking up with Spain, Iceta insisted on the need to vote on a new agreement set through a Constitutional Reform.

BCN World's main investor does not buy land to build $6 billion resort by expected deadline

December 10, 2014 10:56 PM | ACN

Veremonte has decided not to buy the land to build the macro-casino and holiday resort yet and it will wait until it has a better knowledge of the town-planning project's details, which are currently being defined by the public authorities. The main company behind the holiday resort had an exclusivity right to purchase some 500 hectares of land from a Caixabank's subsidiary until December 10 at midnight for €380 million. Veremonte has confirmed it will continue to work on the $6 billion BCN World project with Hard Rock, Melco, Value Retail, Melià and Caesars Entertainment and it could buy the land at a later stage. After knowing about Veremonte's decision, the Catalan Government announced it had reached an agreement with Caixabank to manage the purchase of 150 hectares of land during 18 months at no cost, allowing other companies to buy some plots. They have also confirmed that the project will carry on, "with or without Veremonte". The first version of the town-planning project should be issued in later January and the definitive version should be approved during the summer months, in order to allow construction as from autumn 2015. 

Catalan Socialist leader insists on a Constitutional Reform as the "only" solution for the current political situation

December 10, 2014 10:47 PM | ACN

Miquel Iceta, First Secretary of the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), proposed his road map for the coming two years: no early elections and broad Constitutional Reform to better fit Catalonia into a federal Spain. On Wednesday Iceta held his own conference after those of the Catalan President and leader of the centre-right pro-Catalan State coalition (CiU), Artur Mas, and the left-wing independence party (ERC), Oriol Junqueras. While the two others support independence, Iceta opposes it. He totally rejected the road maps proposed by Mas and Junqueras and insisted on the need to work "on the real problems of Catalans", such as poverty, unemployment, budget cuts in public healthcare, etc. However, the PSC leader admitted that "there will be no solution without a vote", but "a real vote". Iceta said that before breaking up with Spain, Catalans should be allowed to vote on "a new agreement" to remain in Spain. In order to facilitate such a new agreement, he proposed that the Spanish Government cancel part of the Autonomous Communities' debt.

Pro-independence parties keep arguing about running together or separately in early elections

December 5, 2014 09:29 PM | ACN

Early elections at the Catalan Parliament transformed into a ‘de facto’ referendum on independence is the only formula left to allow citizens to hold a self-determination vote. However, parties supporting self-determination, and particularly those supporting independence, do not share the same approach about how to ensure it will become a true plebiscite, nor on the exact steps that should follow if they were to win.  The President of the Catalan Government and leader of the centre-right pro-Catalan State coalition CiU, Artur Mas, wants to run through a broad single list grouping many ideologies together. However, left-wing parties are against this formula and want a debate on social issues and corruption. Both approaches pretend to be the one that guarantees the highest number of pro-independence votes. At present, parties and civil society organisations are holding intense talks to explore a consensual way out.

Cirque du Soleil signs additional 5 year deal with PortAventura theme park

December 3, 2014 08:49 PM | ACN

Cirque du Soleil will be performing in PortAventura at least until 2020, the popular family resort and theme park on the Costa Daurada (Catalan for the Golden Coast) in Tarragona, southern Catalonia. The five-year partnership was announced this week, after last season’s success. The internationally renowned Canadian performance troop made their debut at the Catalan theme-park last summer, with their show ´Koozo´ in July and August. Following its success they decided to base their summer productions there until 2020. In 2015 they will perform ´Amaluna´, a show that combines a coming-of-age tale with a love story. The show will coincide with the 20th anniversary of the theme park, one of the most popular family destinations in Europe. 

Left-wing independence leader wants separate lists in early elections and national unity government

December 2, 2014 11:28 PM | ACN

The President of the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party ERC, Oriol Junqueras, has explained his own road map to allow citizens to vote on independence from Spain and build a new state. Junqueras proposed running in immediate early elections through different pro-independence lists with shared elements and opened to independents, in order to respect diversity. The ERC leader differed from the proposal of running through a single electoral list made by the President of the Catalan Government and leader of the centre-right pro-Catalan State coalition CiU, Artur Mas. Junqueras insisted on the need to answer to the social and economic concerns of many citizens in addition to those about independence. Should they altogether obtain a majority, the different pro-independence candidatures should form a national unity government and start building the new state from day one. He particularly emphasised the need to include those who did not voted for independence in the constituent process, which should be finally ratified in a referendum.

Rajoy’s PP meets in Barcelona and strongly criticizes independence plans

November 29, 2014 12:56 AM | ACN

The People’s Party (PP), which runs the Spanish Government but is only the 4th largest group at the Catalan Parliament, has organized two days of debate in Barcelona on local governments and good governance. The main leaders of the party are coming to Catalonia, including the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, who will close the debate on Saturday. Rajoy’s speech has been greatly publicised as he will visit Catalonia for the first time after November 9’s symbolic vote on independence. Rajoy himself has raised expectations, as he said “he will talk to Catalans” in this restrictive party meeting. In fact, on Friday, the PP insisted on representing “all the Catalans who did no vote on November 9”, therefore excluding the citizens who voted. The PP’s ‘number 2’, Maria Dolores de Cospedal, accused the President of the Catalan Government of being a “ pre-made myth” and insisted that her party “loves Catalonia”, and will continue to “help Catalans” despite “the independence challenge”.

Not all pro-independence parties are willing to join Catalan President’s shared electoral list

November 26, 2014 09:14 PM | ACN

Parties supporting the self-determination process have expressed their first reactions to the Catalan President’s offer to run in early elections by sharing the same electoral list and negotiating independence from Spain in a maximum of 18 months, if they obtain an absolute majority. The two-party centre-right pro-Catalan State coalition (CiU), headed by the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, is divided: Mas’ Liberal party CDC wants to join it but the leader of the Christian-Democrat force UDC is sceptical, since he opposes independence. The left-wing Catalan independence party ERC, which tops most of the opinion polls, is thinking about it and its leader, Oriol Junqueras, will make his own proposal next Tuesday. The Catalan Green Socialist and post-Communist coalition (ICV), which supports Catalonia’s self-determination but is divided about whether or not to be independent, rejected Mas’ offer and accused him of forgetting about social and corruption issues. Finally, the alternative left and radical independence party CUP rejected the single list formula.

Catalan President ready to call early elections to achieve independence from Spain in 18 months

November 25, 2014 11:57 PM | ACN

The President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, proposed the next steps in Catalonia’s self-determination process: early elections to the Catalan Parliament and, if a single pro-independence list get an absolute majority, negotiations to reach full independence in 18 months. Such a list should be formed by independent personalities and recognised professionals, who should commit to only run once, with traditional parties adopting a secondary role. After negotiating independence and building the new state’s basic structures, a referendum to ratify the new state’s genesis and constituent elections would be called, in which traditional parties would again be running separately. Mas said he was ready to be the front-runner or to end such a list, the latter case ruling out the possibility of his being re-elected. However, he will only call early elections if parties and civil society organisations transform them into such a ‘de facto’ referendum on independence. After years of peaceful citizen mobilisations, now “it is time for the definitive vote” and the “only” way of doing it is through early elections, he said.

Barcelona hosts the most international Smart City conference to date: 400 cities from 5 continents

November 19, 2014 10:32 PM | ACN

Between the 18th and the 20th of November, Barcelona is hosting the 4th edition of the Smart City Expo World Congress. This year it will be the most international edition so far, with 400 cities from 5 continents represented, a 33% increase. Participating cities include Berlin, Munich, Boston, Chicago, New York and San Francisco, who are present at the Fira de Barcelona exhibition centre. The goal of reaching 9,000 visitors may be achieved, as nearly 700 people attended the opening ceremony on Monday. Companies are presenting technological applications for improving the sustainability, mobility and quality of life of everyday citizens. Applications being presented this year include drones for cities, technology to monitor free parking for busy commuters, and applications to assess air quality for the physically active and for choosing the best place to open a business.

Catalan President accuses Spanish Government of "abuse of power and abuse of legal process"

October 31, 2014 09:00 PM | ACN

The President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, reacted on Friday evening to the Spanish Executive's appeal against November 9's alternative consultation vote on independence. Mas guaranteed that the vote will take place because "it cannot be stopped" as it is run by volunteers. In addition, he has accused the Spanish Government of "abuse of power and abuse of legal process", since "it is using the Constitutional Court to solve its problems" and is using "the appeal to hide its lack of political capacity". Furthermore, he emphasised that the Spanish Executive had at first been "downplaying" and "mocking about" the alternative vote, but "two weeks later" it considers it to be a great threat to democracy and it appeals against it. By doing this, the Spanish Government "has crossed the line of becoming ridiculous", he added.