Catalonia earmarks 15.7 million euros for cooperation grants
The Government’s main priorities are the refugee crisis, Middle East and Central America
The Government’s main priorities are the refugee crisis, Middle East and Central America
The Catalan Government was one of 14 regional executives to sign the 'Under 2 Memorandum of Understanding' in May 2015 as part of a pact to reduce CO2 emissions by 80-95% by 2050 among the signing territories. This goal is an effort to mitigate the worst effects of climate change coming from greenhouse gas emissions. In recent years, the Catalan Government has been working toward improving energy efficiency and developing a greater supply of renewable energy through various initiatives and action plans. However, the biggest changes necessary for Catalonia to adopt the renewable, low-emissions energy model it desires cannot be implemented by the Catalan Government, but would have to come from the Spanish Government instead. Overall, the biggest challenge facing the adoption of renewable energy is being able to produce it at prices competitive with conventional sources of power.
Lombardy, Baden-Württemberg, Rhône-Alpes and Catalonia will work together to develop strategies to foster the Information and Communication Technology sector in both their own territories and at European level, in order to make the continent hold a leading position in this sector at world level. This has been the main conclusion of the main event of the current presidency of the Four Motors for Europe, which is a regional association formed in 1988 by the aforementioned 4 territories in order to develop common projects and lobby at European level. Catalonia currently holds the association's rotating presidency and has made the development of the ICT sector its main objective, particularly focusing on smart city and 4.0 technologies. Lombardy, Baden-Württemberg, Rhône-Alpes and Catalonia signed on Wednesday in Barcelona a shared declaration strengthening their commitment in this field.
On Tuesday, ahead of the United Nations conference on Climate Change to be held in Paris this autumn, Catalonia signed a 'Memorandum of Understanding' in Sacramento (California), together with 11 other US states, Mexican states, Canadian provinces and regional governments. By taking this step, the Catalan Government and the other signatories commit to cut total greenhouse emissions to 80%-95% below 1990 levels by 2050 or to cut per capita emissions to below 2 metric tons during the same timeframe. The 12 founding signatories to the agreement span seven countries and three continents, with a total population of 100 million people and about $4.5 trillion in combined GDP. Apart from Catalonia, the signatories include: California, Vermont, Oregon and Washington (USA); Acre (Brazil); Baden-Württemberg (Germany); Baja California and Jalisco (Mexico); Ontario and British Columbia (Canada); and Wales (UK). More states, nations and cities are expected to join the agreement in the coming months.
As was expected, the Constitutional Court has accepted the Spanish Government's appeal against the Catalan Law on External Action and Relations with the EU, which was approved last November and was already foreseen in the 2006 Catalan Statute of Autonomy. The Court's acceptance of a Spanish Government appeal automatically represents a temporary suspension of the legal measure for an initial 5-month period. The temporary suspension does not mean that the law will ultimately be suspended, but that there are enough reasons to study whether the Catalan law fits within the Constitution or not. According to the Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy, the law goes beyond the Catalan Government's attributions and invades the Spanish Executive's exclusive powers regarding international relations and the direction of Spain's external policy.
The Euromed ministerial conference held in Barcelona on Monday 13 April has ended with agreement on a number of initiatives to fight jihadist terrorism. The informal meeting gathered together the foreign affairs ministers of 22 European Union Member States and 10 southern Mediterranean countries and is the most important Euromed conference since 2008. They discussed irregular immigration, trade and Islamic terrorism. In regard to the latter, they agreed on increasing cooperation and information exchange between them to face this threat, as well as improving the education offered to young people, so as to avoid recruitment by jihadist activists, explained the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and European Commission Vice President, Federica Mogherini. Besides this, the Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister, José Manuel García-Margallo, also insisted on his proposal to create an International Penal Court for Terrorism.
In front of the foreign affairs ministers of 22 European Union Member States, those of the southern Mediterranean countries and the Spanish PM, Mariano Rajoy, gathered in Barcelona for a summit on trade and the fight against jihadism, the Catalan Government President, Artur Mas, said in his opening speech that "Catalonia and Barcelona were born as Mediterranean and have developed as both Mediterranean and European". The Catalan President, who addressed the audience in Spanish, English, Catalan and French, also stressed that Catalonia's future horizons are "always Mediterranean and European", underlining "the umbilical cord with Europe and the Carolingian Empire that has never been broken". "We have the vocation of being a Mediterranean and European capital city", he added. In turn, Rajoy highlighted that Barcelona is "the Spanish capital of the Mediterranean".
The document will be sent to the United Nations, the European Parliament, the European Commission, the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). The Spanish Government “violates the Catalan people’s right to decide its own political future and bans the exercise of democracy through a referendum or an internationally standardised consultation vote”, reads the complaint, signed by 1,386,628 citizens and 3,703 elected representatives such as mayors and MPs. They complain about the “Spanish Government’s anti-democratic attitude”, which ignored an electoral mandate from 2012 to hold a legal and binding self-determination vote in Catalonia, among other facts. The signatures were collected during the symbolic vote on independence held on 9 November by the civil society organisations Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and Òmnium Cultural, as well as by the Association of Municipalities for Independence (AMI).
Following the agreement reached last week between the President of the Catalan Government and leader of the governing centre-right pro-Catalan State coalition CiU, Artur Mas, and the President of the left-wing pro-independence party ERC, Oriol Junqueras, on calling early elections in September as a plebiscite on Catalonia’s independence from Spain, the Catalan Executive’s budget for 2015 is now closer to definitive approval. On Monday, the ERC MPs started to withdraw their full amendments to the different sections of the Catalan Government’s budget. Now, the ERC is asking the CiU and the Government to debate their specific amendments on precise programmes in order to have “a fairer budget” which is less regional and more that of a country in its “national transition”, they said.
The former European Commission’s Spokesperson for Economic Affairs during the Eurozone crisis, Amadeu Altafaj, is to become Catalonia’s Permanent Representative to the EU institutions. This position has been created as a way to increase the political weight of the already existing Catalan Government Delegation in Brussels in the middle of the debate about independence from Spain. Altafaj, who has also worked as Deputy Chief of Cabinet of the Commission’s Vice President for Economic and Monetary Affairs, Olli Rehn, since 2012, will now direct this delegation and become Catalonia’s voice in the EU institutions’ offices. On many occasions, Altafaj has been vocal about Catalonia’s self-determination, supporting it and emphasising that an independent Catalan State would be economically viable.
On Wednesday the Catalan Parliament passed two important bills. With 74% support, it has approved the Law of External Action and Relations with the EU. Only two parties voted against it, the Spanish nationalist People’s Party (PP) – which runs the Spanish Government – and Ciutadans (C’s). A third party, the alternative left and radical independence party CUP, abstained because it considered that the law was not “ambitious enough”. All the rest supported the bill, which mainly puts in order the existing bodies and mechanisms, although it also creates some new ones, in line with the Catalan Government’s powers in this area, recognized by the Catalan Statute of Autonomy. The other bill is the tax on Internet suppliers, which aims to fund the Catalan audiovisual sector, affected by Internet piracy. No party voted against it. The new tax aims to collect some €20.5 million per year and it is welcomed by the cinema industry, and rejected by the main Internet suppliers.
Catalan parties considered the non-binding participatory process to be "a total success" since it sends a strong message: in the near future Catalans want to hold a legal vote on independence. Around 2.25 million people gave their opinion in Sunday's participatory process in a peaceful way, in a symbolic vote without remarkable incidents. With 88% of ballot boxes counted, 81% of them voted for independence, according to figures gathered by the more than 40,000 volunteers and announced by the Catalan Government. An international delegation of observers considered the vote had "been conducted successfully" in "challenging circumstances". In fact, turnout cannot be compared to regular elections (when the total census reaches 5.4 million), since this Sunday's participation process is a non-binding way to gather opinions and it took place in difficult circumstances, with the Spanish Government's total opposition and even threatening attitude. Before knowing these results, the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, asked the rest of the world for "help" in convincing the Spanish Government of organising a mutually agreed referendum. Pro-self-determination parties asked Madrid to negotiate while Spanish nationalist parties downplayed the vote and consider it "a fraud".
On Monday, Barcelona launched its term as first European Volunteering Capital, which will feature more than 30 events spread throughout the year, combining activities created especially for the occasion and traditional celebrations. Among the most noteworthy are the promotion of volunteering in schools and the creation of a mobile app connecting volunteers and organisations in need. The Catalan Minister for Social Welfare and Family, Neus Munté, and the Deputy Mayor of Barcelona, Joaquim Forn, stressed that volunteering has always been one of the defining features of the city. Furthermore, Munté announced that the Catalan Government had already completed the drafts for a future volunteering law and action plan.