santi vila

Catalonia to fight climate change by reducing public transportation prices on polluted days

September 25, 2014 09:38 PM | ACN

40 municipalities in Barcelona's Metropolitan Area, are to half the price of public transport during incidents of high air pollution. This is part of a Catalan Government plan for the improvement of air quality with the goal to fight climate change, affecting 4.3 million people. The main objective of the plan is to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and of particle matter less than 10 microns in diameter (PM10). The plan also includes the promotion of rail travel and increasing highway tolls and the fares of municipal parking within these areas by 25% on polluted days. In addition, there will be tax breaks for those industries achieving lower emissions. The measures are aimed at the mobility of people and goods, industrial activity, and citizens’ habits.

Self-determination forces clash over possibility to postpone 9th November vote if Spain blocks it

August 12, 2014 09:04 PM | ACN

In the last few days, the centre-right pro-Catalan state coalition CiU, which runs the Catalan Government, has sent several messages suggesting that the self-determination vote scheduled for the 9th of November would not take place on that day if the Spanish authorities managed to declare it illegal, despite that fact that it would be backed by Catalan legislation. At first it was the President of the Catalan Executive, Artur Mas, who stated that "the only plan is to vote", being on the 9th of November consultation or later through plebiscite elections. The last message was sent this Tuesday by the Catalan Vice President, Joana Ortega, who said that "if the [Spanish] State puts obstacles in front of the vote on the 9th of November" the vote will be postponed. The rest of parties that support the self-determination vote – ERC, ICV-EUiA and CUP – replied to Ortega, saying that Catalans have to vote on that day. In addition, the two grass-roots organisations behind the pro-independence demonstrations of 2012, 2013 and 2014 have stressed that they "will not give up on voting on the 9th of November".

Jordi Pujol's fiscal fraud becomes a threat for self-determination process

July 28, 2014 09:35 PM | ACN

Catalan politics and society are shocked after Jordi Pujol, President of the Catalan Government between 1980 and 2003, confessed on Friday evening that his family had €4 million in Andorra for 35 years which had never been declared to the tax authorities. Madrid-based media and politicians have immediately linked Pujol's scandal to Catalonia's self-determination with the aim to delegitimise the process since the retired politician had been the historical leader of the conservative Catalan nationalists. Parties supporting self-determination have distanced themselves from Pujol, including CDC, the Liberal party he founded in 1974 during Franco's dictatorship that now runs the Catalan Government. It is expected that Jordi Pujol (84) will resign as CDC's Founding President in the next few hours. His confession comes after his family and particularly two of his sons have been targeted by the media and judicial investigations for corruption since 2012.

Catalan Government finally approves tax on empty flats owned by financial institutions

July 15, 2014 08:54 PM | ACN

The Catalan Government approved on Tuesday a measure to impose a tax on empty flats owned by financial institutions. The aim of the tax is to incentivise banks to rent out the empty homes. Santi Vila, the Catalan Minister for Planning and Sustainability, said that the "mere announcement" of the tax has already caused Sareb [Spain's public 'bad bank'], Catalunya Caixa and Bankia to yield to the Government 1,230 apartments for social rent. During the press conference after the weekly Cabinet meeting, Vila pointed out that the new tax will not apply to individuals and will only be intended for flats that have been taken out of the market for more than two years. The Minister also said that the measure is not simply about "tax collection" but is instead to ease the access to housing market in the midst of a housing crisis.

Catalonia is among the top three European countries in the recycling of household waste

June 28, 2014 11:14 PM | ACN

Catalonia is among the top three European countries in the recycling of household packaging, with about 220,000 tonnes collected in 2013, according to the CEO of Ecoembes, Oscar Martin. Speaking at the opening of the first ‘Congress of Sustainable Catalonia’ on Friday, Martin also announced that 84% of Catalans separate waste either every day or almost every day, in what he called an “act of civility.” Ecoembes is a Spanish environmental organisation that concentrates on the ‘ecodesign’ or packaging so it can be more easily recycled. The first 'Congress on Sustainable Catalonia: Society and the Environment’ has been organised by the Catalan Department of Planning and Sustainability, in collaboration with Ecoembes.

Catalan contemporary architecture arrives in Venice for Biennale Exhibition

June 6, 2014 09:54 PM | ACN

Promising Catalan architect Josep Alegre Torrents has presented his 'Arquitectures Empeltades' project to the 14th International Architecture Exhbition held at the Venice Biennale, sponsored by the Ramon Llull Institute, the public body promoting Catalan culture abroad. "We want to show an attitude, a way of working to make the architecture relate and work with existing elements" explained Torrents, who said he wanted "to show the ways of doing things in Catalonia." It is the second time that Catalonia is participating in the Biennale International Architecture Exhibition in Venice. The current edition of this prestigious exhibition is entitled Fundamentals and is directed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas. It will be open to the public from June 7 through to November 23, 2014.

Barcelona El Prat Airport to be connected by metro by early 2016

June 4, 2014 03:18 PM | ACN

The Barcelona Metro will reach El Prat Airport by the first half of 2016, perhaps even earlier, according to forecasts announced on Wednesday by the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas. The L9 line connecting Barcelona municipality to El Prat Airport and other cities has been under construction since 2002, and was originally anticipated to open in 2008, but the financial crisis and the state of public finances have delayed its full completion. An initial stretch of the line became operational in 2009, located at the opposite end to the airport. Once fully finished, the underground line will consist of two branches spanning across the Barcelona metropolitan area, making it the longest automatic metro line in Europe. The entire project will represent a total investment of €16 billion, €3 billion of which is for the airport connection. The test phase of the airport stretch will begin this autumn and should be completed by early 2016 or earlier.

Opposition parties ask the Catalan Government for further efforts to fight poverty

March 12, 2014 08:20 PM | ACN

The Catalan Parliament held on Wednesday a monographic session on poverty, which has increased over the past few years, spurred by the financial crisis. According to a report published by the Red Cross this week, there are 200,000 families in Catalonia which live below the poverty line and since the crisis started, 88 Catalans a day have crossed such a line. With a population of some 7.5 million and a GDP per capita of around €28,000 (similar to the UK's) Catalonia posts a 22.3% unemployment rate and a 26.4% child poverty rate. Opposition parties asked for greater efforts and further measures to fight the poverty increase. The Catalan Government emphasised budget figures and detailed several actions in different areas to show they are tackling the issue. In this vein, the Executive criticised that child poverty stood at 22% in 2006, in prosperity years. Furthermore, they complained about the limited fiscal powers on taxation and public deficit, which seriously reduce spending possibilities.

Catalonia’s new tax on 15,000 empty flats owned by banks as “incentive” to have them rented

March 5, 2014 08:05 PM | ACN

The Catalan Minister for Territory and Sustainability, Santi Vila, who is also in charge of housing policies, presented on Tuesday the draft of a new tax bill on empty flats and houses owned by financial institutions in Catalonia. During a press conference, Vila explained that such a tax is looking to be an “incentive” for banks to make available their 15,000 flats spread across 70 municipalities with “proven demand” for housing, mainly around Barcelona, Tarragona, Lleida and Girona, and which have been empty for more than 2 years without a justified cause. The amount of the tax will be based on the total number of square meters owned by the banks and will include significant accumulative bonuses if the institutions decide to rent their properties, notably for social housing. The Catalan Government estimates that banks own around 40,000 empty flats, including in areas with housing demand.

 

Catalan Government to take Ebro Hydrologic Plan to Brussels as it endangers the Delta’s survival

March 4, 2014 09:45 PM | ACN

The Catalan Executive announced it will take the Spanish Government’s Hydrologic Plan for the Ebro River (Plan Hidrológico del Ebro) to the European Commission, as it will damage the river’s delta, which is a unique environment and one of UNESCO’s Biosphere Reserves. The European Commission replied that it will need “weeks or even months” to analyse the plan, which only guarantees that around 30% of the river’s volume of flow will reach the delta. According to scientific studies, such a volume of water is absolutely insufficient to preserve the Delta, which is a reserve for wildlife as well as a tourist and agricultural centre. The project foresees allocating almost 11,000 cubic hectometres of water per year upstream to irrigate 1.41 million hectares of fields, a third of them newly-created. Brussels is still waiting for Madrid’s documentation but the Commission warned that it will look at the plan “from all the possible angles”.

Ferran Adrià’s ‘elBulli1846’ culinary and research project completed by March 2016

February 10, 2014 08:06 PM | ACN

‘elBulli1846’, the ambitious initiative of acclaimed Chef Ferran Adrià, could well become a reality in March 2016 thanks to a €9 million investment made through the Catalan Chef’s foundation. The Catalan Government described such an initiative as “a national project”. ‘elBulli1846’ is named after the number of dishes created in the 3-Michelin-star El Bulli, which was awarded the world’s best restaurant on 5 occasions. Adrià’s new project is notably looking to establish a unique centre in the world for innovation, research, and training in the field of avant-garde cuisine. Besides, for 20 days a year, visitors will have access to ElBulli restaurant, with half of the available entrances awarded for free through a lottery. The centre will be located in the old restaurant’s venue in the Cap de Creus Natural Park (Costa Brava). 3,000 square metres will be added but built respecting the environment.

Catalonia’s new waste plan to create up to 7,000 new jobs with €800 million in investments

February 7, 2014 08:11 PM | ACN

The Catalan Government has presented the new waste plan for 2013-2020 for discussion between city councils, companies and citizens to finalise its contents, according to Santi Vila, the Catalan Minister for Planning and Sustainability. Vila said the plan foresaw the investment of €782 million, 28% of which would be provided by the private sector. The Government has set “very ambitious” targets such as reducing by an extra 15% the current volume of waste, thereby continuing the efforts of the past ten years in terms of waste reduction, added Vila. They also intend to reach 60% of selective municipal waste collection whereas in 2012 this data was set at 39%. The waste plan will create 4,000 to 7,000 new jobs, in both direct and indirect ways.

Direct Barcelona-Paris train to reach 1 million passengers in its first year

December 16, 2013 07:45 PM | ACN

1 million passengers are expected to use the new direct High-Speed Train between Barcelona and Paris within a year. The Spanish Transport Minister Ana Pastor, her French counterpart Fréderic Cuvillier and the Catalan Minister for Planning and Sustainability Santi Vila, have described the High-Speed connection as a “milestone” that will further develop the bond between states and develop their economy. The very first direct train from Barcelona to Paris circulated last Sunday, connecting seventeen cities between the two states. Both Catalan and French ministers have stated they had taken measures to accelerate the construction of the Perpignan-Montpellier section, where trains are still circulating at a regular speed, making journeys significantly longer.

The first direct TGV connecting Barcelona and Paris on the 15th of December

November 20, 2013 10:01 PM | ACN

The Spanish Government has finally set a date for the first direct High Speed Train between Barcelona and Paris. Passengers will no longer have to switch trains near the French border and a direct TGV will link Paris and Barcelona from the 15th of December. The journey will last 6 hours and 20 minutes, since there is no high-speed railway in the 200-kilometre stretch between Perpignan and Nîmes and trains circulate at a regular speed. The High-Speed railway between Nîmes and Montpellier should be operative by 2017, but the French Government announced last June that the construction of the 150 km between Montpellier and Perpignan would be delayed beyond 2030. The Catalan Executive as well as French and Catalan Euro MPs have requested the French Government to reconsider its decision after the EU has included the Mediterranean Railway Corridor among its 9 main transport priorities until 2020.

European Parliament’s final approval of the Mediterranean Railway Corridor

November 19, 2013 07:17 PM | ACN

After years of debate, the new European Union’s Transport Priorities have finally been approved. The European Parliament has approved the Commission’s plan to build 9 major transport corridors connecting the continent from West to East, North to South and in diagonal. The Mediterranean Corridor for freight and passengers is one of these 9 priorities and will link Barcelona and Tarragona to the Gibraltar Straight and Central Europe, connecting major production centres, import/export infrastructures and tourist destinations. The final plan ignores the Spanish Government’s request to include the Centre Pyrenees Corridor as well, a project that was bypassing Catalonia and therefore Barcelona, despite being Spain’s main industrial, export and tourist centre and being geographically attached to France.