Spain announces new €11 billion rescue package for businesses and self-employed
Aid will focus mainly on hospitality, catering, SMEs, and the tourism sector
Aid will focus mainly on hospitality, catering, SMEs, and the tourism sector
Women, service workers, and young people most affected by pandemic economic downturn
Union heads vow not to pay for impending financial crisis
Acting president Pedro Sánchez proposes to criminalize illegal referendums as right-wing parties urge him to suspend self-rule in Catalonia
An increasing number of people are fed up with living in concrete jungles. Many think of the countryside as a solution to problems such as stress, a low-paying job and pollution. Due to the start of the economic crisis, this phenomenon boomed, with people beginning to look for an 'alternative way of life' or, at least, new opportunities. Catalonia and the whole of Spain are no exception to this. Here, moving (back) to the countryside nowadays looks like an attractive option to many, especially to young unemployed graduates. However, sustainable agriculture initiatives and the like are the 'junior division' compared to more complex social, cultural and ecological experiments: the eco-villages. Coming in different shapes and sizes, their members share resources and spaces, grow their own food and cover in a sustainable way the energy demand of the buildings they live in. With different missions and features, many eco-villages can be traced back to one or two decades ago and could teach a lot to newcomers.
In times of economic crisis, the Mariano Rajoy-led Spanish Government has been making recentralisation a main driver of its political agenda, using the economic recovery as the reason for passing the reforms. An additional step in this direction was taken on Monday with a new regulation forcing Spanish Autonomous Communities to seek permission from the Spanish Ministry of Finance before granting loans and guarantees to private companies located in their territories. From now on, Madrid's permission will be conditional upon the applicant's compliance with deficit targets. The new regulation substantially curbs the Autonomies' powers to shape their industrial policies, following a reform passed in May that modifies both the Organic Law for Financing the Autonomous Communities and the Organic Law on Budgetary Stability and Financial Sustainability.
The Fundació Arrels (Arrels Foundation) – a Barcelona-based NGO dedicated to homeless people founded in 1987 – registered 892 persons sleeping on the streets of the Catalan capital on Wednesday night. More than 700 volunteers – in groups of three or four – combed the city divided up into 160 areas from midnight until 2 am. The initiative aimed at counting people sleeping on the streets: inside ATM lobbies, under bridges, on benches of public parks, in front of private entrances or nearby train stations. Barcelona's local Ombudsman service – an institution for the defence of rights and public liberties – also took part, through the presence of some of its staff among the volunteers. According to Maria Assumpció Vilà, Head of Barcelona's Ombudsman office, the reality certified by the Arrels Foundation is "absolutely unacceptable". "An emergency plan must be launched urgently", she stressed, as the Catalan capital cannot accept having 900 people without a place to sleep.
Catalans are holding their municipal elections on Sunday, while the elections to the Catalan Parliament are to be held in September, as opposed to other parts of Spain, where they are voting for their regional parliaments on Sunday. These municipal elections come after 7 years of economic crisis and also with very uncertain political horizons. Two debates have dominated the campaign: Catalonia’s independence and the rise of new or secondary parties that promise to change the current model. For many people in Catalonia, Sunday’s elections will be a first stage of the ‘de facto’ plebiscite on independence that is going to take place with the Catalan elections on 27 September. It is also the opportunity to support changing the current political, economic and social model, with the rise of alternative left coalitions. Furthermore, majorities and town halls go through significant changes, particularly in Barcelona and the cities of its Metropolitan Area, where there are no clear winners forecast and surprises are likely to happen.
At the end of March 2015, there were 571,655 people registered as unemployed in Catalonia. This is 9,469 fewer jobseekers in comparison with February 2015, representing a 1.63% drop. It is also the largest monthly decline in absolute terms since 1996. In annual terms, this was the biggest drop in the last two decades, as the number of jobseekers fell by 52,812 people (-8.46%). Moreover, registered unemployment in Catalonia declined for the 21st consecutive month in annual terms. In Spain as a whole, at the end of March 2015 the number of people registered as unemployed stood at 4.45 million, with 60,214 fewer jobseekers than in February (which represents a 1.33% drop, the largest decline in 13 years). In annual terms, registered unemployment fell by 343,927 (-7.17 %), a positive sign considering that during the last 6 years it had grown in the month of March by an average of more than 35,000 people.
The GDP of Catalonia increased by 1.5% during 2014, according to the definitive figures released by the Catalan Statistics Institute (Idescat) on Friday. However, on the same day, the Spanish Statistics Institute (INE) published its economic growth figures for 2014 and announced that the Catalan economy had grown by 1.4% last year, the same rate as Spain. In any case, both figures are quite positive after many years of economic crisis and slowdown. In fact, 2014 has been the best year since 2007, when the Catalan economy grew by 3.2% according to the Idescat. The final figure for 2014 is higher than the provisional 1.2% growth rate previously announced. Following European Union instructions, the calculations for last year include R&D activities, as well as prostitution and trafficking of drugs and tobacco.
The coalition will be led by the social activist Ada Colau, former spokeswoman of the Platform for People Affected by Mortgages (PAH), a Spanish grassroots organisation that helped citizens to stop evictions, promoted housing rights and in 2013 was awarded the European’s Citizens Prize. The local left-wing front will be mainly formed by the Catalan Green Socialist and post-Communist coalition ICV-EUiA and several parties campaigning for a re-launching of democracy, such as the Socialist and pro-Catalan independence Procés Constituent and the Spanish far-left party aimed at breaking the bipartisan political model Podemos. However, the main Catalan pro-independence far-left party CUP is working on a separate candidature for the same local elections that will take place on the 24th of May.
The number of Catalans with Spanish nationality living abroad and registered with consulates rose by 9.31% between 1 January 2014 and 1 January 2015, according to data from the Spanish Statistics Institute (INE), which is a legally independent institution run by the Spanish Government. In early 2014, there were 221,444 Catalans living in a foreign country, while a year later this figure had risen to 242,070, thus registering a 20,626 person increase. Regarding Spain as a whole, on the 1 January 2015, there were 2,183,043 citizens living abroad and registered with consulates. This represents a 6.1% growth on the figures from January 2014, when there were 124,995 less Spaniards living abroad.
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.