EC starts process to fine Spain for excessive public deficit

July 7, 2016 06:59 PM | ACN

Spain’s effort to reduce its public deficit “has been insufficient”, according to Brussels. Thus, the European Commission (EC) took this Thursday the first step in order to fine Spain, ahead of the Ecofin meeting. The fining process foresees that 20 days after this meeting, the EC could present the suggested fine, which could equal 0.2% of Spain’s GDP. According to a report released this Thursday by the EC, Spain closed 2015 with a 5.1% deficit target, far from the 4.2% established by Brussels. The report concludes that Spain’s fiscal effort fell “significantly short” of what was recommended and even “relaxed in 2015”. “Spain did not reach the intermediate target for the headline deficit in 2015 and is not forecast to put an end to its excessive deficit by 2016”. 


Brussels applauds Catalonia’s offer to host refugees and calls for Madrid’s support

April 18, 2016 02:36 PM | ACN

EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos stated that “all levels of governance can contribute” to the European Commission’s commitments to tackle the refuges crisis. In a letter addressed to Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, Avramopoulos considered Catalonia’s offer to host 4,500 refugees “a step in the right direction” and called for the offer to become a reality as soon as possible. He also lamented that Spain had “only relocated 18 migrants” besides having committed to “assisting 6,127” refugees. “These schemes have to be implemented as a matter of urgency” to “ensure that the Union takes on its fair share of the global responsibility to provide a safe haven for the world's refugees”, stated the letter. Avramopoulos also expressed his will for Spain’s government to “support” Catalonia’s efforts in this matter, as it is “responsible for the implementation of the relevant EU decisions”.

EC invests €9 million in seven Catalan SMEs

April 12, 2016 03:29 PM | ACN

Half of the 14 Spanish projects selected by the European Commission from the State are from Catalonia. The 7 innovative SMEs, or small and medium enterprises, will receive a total of €9 million to launch their projects and receive business advice along the way. The Commission selected 50 SMEs across 14 different countries to invest €73 million in after phase 2 of the Horizon 2020 SME Instrument. In Spain, the 14 SMEs selected focus their projects primarily in the areas of information and communication, transport, energy efficiency, and food production. Since the start of the instrument in 2014, this has been Spain’s most successful year, with the 14 selected projects receiving €15.4 million — more than any other country in the programme. 

MEPs ask EC about Russian use of Ceuta’s port during Ukrainian conflict

March 21, 2016 07:12 PM | ACN

11 MEPs from different parties, amongst them Catalan liberal party CDC MEP Ramon Tremosa, have sent a parliamentary question to the EC’s vice president, Federica Mogherini, regarding the repeated use of the Spanish port of Ceuta by Russian military ships. According to Ceuta’s local press, this port, located in North Africa, was used by Russia’s fleet at least 57 times between 2011 and 2015 along the ships’ route towards the Black Sea. The fleet included frigates, destroyers and attack submarines. The use of this port by Russian ships coincided with the European fines against Moscow due to its participation through third parties in the civil conflict in Ukraine. Thus, MEPs have asked Mogherini to clarify whether this support from the Spanish authorities contravened ­­­­the European fines and why.

EC investigating possible illegal state aid to mining company Iberpotash

January 26, 2016 04:45 PM | ACN

The European Commission has opened “an in-depth investigation” into whether public measures in favour of mining company Iberpotash gave it a selective advantage over its competitors, in breach of EU State aid rules. “The Spanish authorities fully financed EUR 7.9 million of costs to physically cover one of Iberpotash's waste heaps and reduce pollution” stated the EC’s press release. If confirmed, this would entail a breach in the 'polluter pays' principle since a public authority would have been bearing the clean-up costs rather than the company responsible for the pollution. Iberpotash already has a European infraction procedure against it, which has been pending since 2014.

Juncker urges Spain to form "stable government" amid Catalan independence crisis

January 15, 2016 02:54 PM | ACN

The European Commission’s President, Jean-Claude Juncker, urged Spain to form a “stable government” and do it “as quick as possible, as it belongs to the Eurozone”. Juncker refused to “give an opinion on the movements in some regions and provinces”, referring to Catalonia’s push for independence, but called for “Spain to rise to” the circumstances. In a similar vein, the Euro Parliament’s President, Martin Schulz, assured that the Catalan case would have to be “dealt with within the framework of the Constitution”. The Vice President of Flemish Nationalist party N-VA, Sander Loones, commented that the EC “missed a great opportunity” by not taking up a role as mediator and noted that “saying that it is a Spanish issue only is a way of making sure that nothing will move”.

MEPs call for the EU’s support to end Francoism impunity in Spain

November 25, 2015 06:35 PM | ACN / Sara Prim

MEPs from eight different parties asked the European Commission to urge Spain to investigate and judge the crimes committed during Franco’s dictatorship. “Justice doesn’t expire. We don’t aim for vengeance but reparation”stated Catalan left-wing ERC-NeCAT MEP Ernest Maragall on Tuesday at a joint press conference in Strasbourg. Maragall was joined by Catalan MEPs from ERC-NeCAT, liberal party CDC, left-wing ICV and christian democrat UDC, as well as MEPs from Basque nationalist PNB and Bildu and alternative left-wing Spanish parties Compromís and Podemos. They wrote a joint declaration which stated that “the principle of universal justice makes impossible the impunity of the crimes”committed during Francoism and “forces the State to judge those who were responsible”. “This is not about opening wounds but to close them”stated PodemosMEP Miguel Urbán.

Schulz takes the scandal of the two versions of the Commission's answer "very seriously"

October 30, 2015 06:00 PM | ACN / Sara Prim

The European Parliament's President, Martin Schulz "shares" the Catalan MEPs’ concerns "about the accuracy of the answers to written questions". Schulz was referring to the two different versions, one in Spanish and one in English, of the answer sent by the Commission to PP MEP Santiago Fisas on Catalonia's unilateral declaration of independence. "I can assure you that I take this issue very seriously" he stated in a letter sent to the Catalan MEPs on Friday. Schulz assured that he is "fully aware of the sensitivity of this particular issue, especially in the period before the regional elections in Catalonia on 27 September". The Euro Parliament President also assured that the "Parliament's services asked the Commission's competent services to clarify the situation as a matter of urgency" and added that he welcomes the decision to investigate the scandal. "I look forward to being informed of its conclusions" he concluded. 

Innovative Catalan projects received €190 million from EU funds

October 28, 2015 07:19 PM | ACN

Catalonia received more than 190 million euros from the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme, the most important initiative in the EU in terms of innovation and R&D. In the past year and a half, Catalan innovative companies and research projects received 2.6% of the total that the EC has given out so far, representing a higher figure  proportional to Catalonia’s population weight within Europe (1.5%).“Catalonia’s R&D system is one of the most productive and successful in Europe”stated general director of Recerca, Josep Maria Martorell, head of the entity which executes and promotes research and innovation initiatives in Catalonia. “During the first year of Horizon 2020, Catalonia has multiplied by 3.5 what was raised in the first year of the previous European funding programme, the FP7”he added. Most of the 142 companies which received Horizon 2020 funds were SMEs and this allowed them carry out feasibility analysis and be able to fund their R&D activities, so that their projects could be launched. The Horizon 2020 programme, launched last year, has an 80 billion euros budget until 2020.

European Ombudsman: EC's statements on Catalonia's independence are "a personal view"

October 19, 2015 02:33 PM | ACN

The European Ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly, warned that "any declaration made by members of the EU institutions" regarding Catalonia's independence "would be reflecting their personal view and not the official position of the institution". By stating this, O'Reilly answered a letter sent by Catalan MEPs from liberal CDC, left wing pro-independence ERC-NeCat, Christian Democrat UDC and Eco-Socialist ICV. In the letter, they expressed their concerns about the double version of EC president Jean-Claude Juncker's answer on Catalonia and the problems that many Catalans abroad faced to vote. O'Reilly admitted to being "up to date" on the double answer scandal but asked the MEPs to contact the EC first. Regarding the problems with the vote abroad, O'Reilly considered them a "national matter" and refused the meeting request "for the moment". 

European Commission: The 27-S elections are “a domestic issue for Spain”

September 28, 2015 02:52 PM | ACN

“The EC does not comment on regional elections” stated EC spokesperson Margaritis Schinas. He added that the EC won’t express “a position” regarding the 27-S results in Catalonia, which it considers “a domestic issue for Spain”.The EC spokesperson confirmed that EC President Jean-Claude Juncker “was informed” of the election results but that he “didn’t have any immediate contact” to evaluate them with the Spanish nor the Catalan governments. “I have nothing else to say” stated Schinas, who denied any consideration of whether the EU should promote dialogue between Madrid and Barcelona. However, the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Anne Brasseur, stated at a press conference that “the vote of the people of Catalonia must be respected” and added that “there must be dialogue from both sides”.


Brussels: The Spanish translation was a “human mistake” as “nobody can manipulate the EC”

September 24, 2015 05:26 PM | ACN / Sara Prim

The European Commission attributed to a “human mistake” the differences between the two answers, one in English and one in Spanish, to the same parliamentarian question regarding Catalonia’s push for independence. “We are an organisation of 35,000 people. It is normal that human mistakes do happen” stated EC spokeswoman Mina Andreeva and said that the only assertive version was the English one. “The Commission is an independent authority. Nobody can manipulate it” she emphasised, insisting that the EC’s position in respect to a hypothetical independent territory in the EU has always been clear and the same “since 2012”. Three Catalan MEP’s have sent a joint letter to EC president Jean-Claude Juncker urging him to open a full investigation “to clarify this political scandal”

European Commission doesn’t want “to influence” the Catalan elections as they are “a choice of voters”

September 18, 2015 02:34 PM | ACN

European Commission vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis assured this Friday that Brussels’ intention “is not to influence votes in member states and regions”, referring to the upcoming 27-S Catalan elections, and outlined that they are “a choice of voters”. Dombrovskis comments came after European Commission spokesman Margarities Schinas warned on Thursday that in the event of becoming an independent state, Catalonia “will become a third country and may apply to become a member of the EU”. Dombrovskis, former Prime Minister of Latvia and European Commissioner for the Euro and Social Dialogue recalled that the European Commission “does not normally comment on party politics in member states or their regions”. “We are ready to work with democratically elected or appointed authorities of member states”, he emphasised