• Mas and Rajoy in the same event in Barcelona in October 2013 (by ACN)

    Rajoy will meet with the new Socialist leader two days before talking to the Catalan President

    The much awaited meeting between the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, and the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, has finally been announced for Wednesday 30th of July at 11am, after both politicians have stated during several months that they were open to talk. In the meeting they will discuss the institutional and social affairs related to the economic crisis, but they should also talk about the organisation of a self-determination vote in Catalonia. However, Rajoy has rejected to talk about it, as he considers it "an absurd" debate, despite the fact that 80% of Catalans want to hold such a vote and it is the main topic in Catalonia's political agenda, and probably in Spain's as well. Besides, on Monday 28th of July, Rajoy will meet Pedro Sánchez, the new Secretary General of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE), who is also against Catalonia's self-determination and offered his will to reach agreements on "the territorial model".

Basf plant in Tarragona (by ACN)

BASF postpones its Tarragona intermodal station to 2017 due to Madrid's delay building the Mediterranean Corridor

German chemical multinational BASF does not expect to launch its intermodal merchant station in Tarragona's petro-chemical compound until early 2017, two years after it initially forecast. The date of commissioning, as recognised by the company, is conditioned by the start of construction of the third rail connecting the railway line in Tarragona to the Mediterranean Railway Corridor (a strategic transport priority for the European Union), an infrastructure the Spanish Government keeps delaying. Although there is currently no start date for construction, BASF has set up the company ‘Combiterminal Catalonia SL’: a 'joint venture' with Contank SA, Hoyer España SA, and Schmidt Holding GmbH and Tradillo Inversiones SL (Pañalón Group) collaborating to build and operate the station.

Headbirds playing in New York's Central Park (by Institut Ramon Llull)

Catalan bands Mishima, Txarango and Headbirds perform in New York´s Central Park

Three of Catalonia´s most popular music groups played in Central Park in New York City on Sunday 21st July as part of the SummerStage Festival. The three Catalan performers, Mishima, Txarango and Headbirds, participated in the event under the slogan ´Catalan sounds on tour´, with the aim to internationalise Catalan musicians and performers. The festival is organised by New York´s City Parks Foundation with the object to raise awareness of the richness of different cultures, and this year includes the participation of the Ramon Llull Institute (IRL), Catalonia's public body to promote Catalan language and culture abroad.

The new electric bikes that will be added to the Bicing service (by J. Regué)

Barcelona´s public bicycle service due to launch an electrical bike service by the end of this year

Barcelona´s bicycle sharing service, Bicing, has announced plans to launch an electrical bike service designed to aid longer journeys around the city. This service aims to improve the effectiveness of the current Bicing service by promoting the use of electrical bicycles, which will further enhance the image of Barcelona as a ´Smart City´. An initial trial of the new service will begin this December when 300 electronic bikes will be spread over 45 Bicingstations across the city. As with the original Bicing service, this new scheme will be directed towards regular residents of Barcelona and will be unavailable to short-stay tourists.

Luis Enrique (centre), in his first match as Barça's Manager (by FC Barcelona)

Recreativo Huelva v FC Barcelona: Barça's winning start of the 2014/15 pre-season (0-1)

Luis Enrique led Barça to a win in Huelva thanks to a Joan Roman goal. All FC Barcelona's 23 players got to play, and the visitors dominated from start to finish. The Colombino Trophy match between Recreativo Huelva and Barça will always be remembered for being Luis Enrique’s debut as first team manager. Goalkeeper Ter Stegen got to make his debut, and although he didn’t have much to do, on the few occasions when he was called upon, he did well. There were only three first team players in the starting eleven (Masip, Montoya and Sergi Roberto), with the other eightall coming from the reserves. Luis Enrique fielded a completely different eleven in the second half, four of which were first team players - Ter Stegen, Bartra, Afellay and Deulofeu

  • Foreign tourists in Barcelona (by ACN)

    Catalonia reaches a new tourism record with 7.1 million foreign visitors in the first half of the year

    Catalonia received 1,677,679 foreign tourists in June, an increase of 2.4% compared with the same month in 2013. The combined number of foreigners who visited the Autonomous Community in the first half of this year reached 7.129 million, which is an increase of 6.7% and sets a historic new record for the number of foreign visitors passing through Catalonia. This good performance has been shared throughout Spain, as it hosted 28 million foreign tourists in the first half of 2014, marking a new record.

  • BBVA's main offices in Barcelona (by R. Pagano)

    BBVA buys nationalised Catalunya Banc for €1.19 billion, meaning taxpayers will lose more than €11 billion

    BBVA will pay €1.187 billion to the Fund for Orderly Bank Restructuring (FROB) for the nationalised Catalan bank, beating the other two offers in the final phase of the auction process presented by Santander and Barcelona-based CaixaBank. This means that Spanish taxpayers will lose €11.84 billion considering guarantees and due to the fact that the Spanish Government injected €12.622 billion into Catalunya Banc since it was nationalised in 2011. Catalunya Banc was a private bank owned by CatalunyaCaixa, the merger of three historical Catalan savings banks (Catalunya, Tarragona and Manresa). It could not face the deep restructuring process required to meet the new banking regulations. The bank had a weak financial position resulting from a high exposition to toxic real estate and mortgages assets, as well as suffering from poor management. The BBVA will become the second largest bank operating in Catalonia, doubling its past position.

  • The Catalan President, Artur Mas (left) and Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida (right), on Monday (by P. Mateos)

    CiU's 'number 2' quits his post within the coalition but continues leading the Christian-Democrats

    Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida, who was the Secretary General of the centre-right pro-Catalan State two-party coalition CiU, quit his post on Monday in the middle of the tensions for the self-determination vote and Catalonia's potential independence from Spain. However, Duran will continue to lead the Christian-Democrat party within the CiU (UDC) and to be the CiU's strong man in Madrid. In addition, one of his closest allies within UDC, Ramon Espadaler, will take his place as Secretary General. Duran is against independence, although he supports building a Catalan State within a Confederated Spain as well as the self-determination vote scheduled on the 9th of November. However, since a wide majority of people within the CiU would vote for independence (including the Catalan President, Artur Mas), internal tensions for Duran's personal stance have increased. Furthermore, there are increasing rumours that the CiU could break up for the first time in more than three decades.

Highlights

  • The third meeting of the National Alliance for Self-Determination (by P. Mateos)

    18.07.14 - 20:44

    3,000 organisations to send Rajoy a letter asking him not to block "the legal" self-determination vote

    Catalonia's National Alliance for Self-determination, which brings together some 3,000 entities including political parties, local governments, trade unions, employer associations, Chambers of commerce and NGOs, held on Friday its 3rd meeting. The Alliance decided to send the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, a letter to ask him not to block the self-determination vote scheduled for the 9th of November, which...

  • Cranes and containers in the Port of Barcelona (by ACN)

    18.07.14 - 20:36

    Exports from the Port of Barcelona increase by 63% from pre-crisis levels registered in 2008

    63% more exports have been channelled through the Port of Barcelona during the first six months of 2014 than in the same period of 2008, prior to the economic crisis. On Friday, the President of Barcelona Port Authority, Sixte Cambra, announced that 2014 will be the year of record sums of exports and imports from the Catalan port. The Port finished the first half of 2014 with 22.5 million tons of goods transported, representing an increase...

  • MACBA's new documentation and studies centre (by MACBA)

    18.07.14 - 20:34

    Barcelona Contemporary Art Museum (MACBA) broadens its horizons with new exhibition spaces and services

    The Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona (MACBA) is expanding into the nearby Àngels Square in the heart of the historic neighbourhood Raval. On 17th July the museum unveiled the details of its future plans, which are designed to increase the flow of visitors to the art centre. These include increased exhibition spaces and the expansion of the existing MACBA Study Centre. The project is estimated to cost a total of...

  • Agbar's headquarters, designed by French architect Jean Nouvel and located in Barcelona (by ACN)

    18.07.14 - 20:27

    Criteria, the industrial holding of La Caixa, acquires 7% of France's Suez Environnement

    Barcelona-based Criteria CaixaHolding becomes the second largest shareholder of Suez Environnement after signing a binding agreement with the French-based utility company for the sale of Criteria's 24.14% stake in Agbar (Sociedad General de Aguas de Barcelona, S.A.) in exchange for 22 million newly issued Suez Environnement shares. These shares represent 4.1% of Suez's share capital and €299 million in cash. As part of the agreement,...

  • Barcelona's Olympic Stadium located on Montjuic hill (by ACN)

    18.07.14 - 17:45

    Barcelona Olympic facilities to host a 66.000 m2 sports theme park in 2015

    Barcelona Olympic Ring will become the home of the first theme park in the world entirely dedicated to sports, called Open Camp Sportainment. According to the company responsible for the project, the 66.000 m2 theme park will offer a "unique" show involving technology, family and sports. The new attraction will occupy the current Olympic Stadium, the Palau Sant Jordi sports hall, the Olympic Museum, the Bernat Picornell swimming...

  • A branch of CatalunyaCaixa (by ACN)

    18.07.14 - 16:24

    CatalunyaCaixa confirms the sale of its €6.4 billion high risk mortgages to US Blackstone

    CatalunyaCaixa (CX) on Thursday confirmed the sale of its portfolio of high risk loans to US investment company Blackstone, consisting mainly of mortgages with a nominal value of €6.392 billion and provisions of €2.205 billion. The transaction involved the transfer of funds to a portfolio of asset-backed securities for an amount equal to its book value, €4.187 billion, with €3.615 billion supplied by Blackstone and...

  • The presentation of the Transparency International's report (by R. Pi de Cabanyes)

    17.07.14 - 22:10

    Catalonia, the Basque Country and Castile and León lead transparency rankings, while Madrid is at the bottom

    The Catalan Government, alongside the executives of the Basque Country and Castile and León, is leading the index of Autonomous Communities in terms of transparency, according to a study issued on Thursday by the organisation Transparency International Spain. These three Autonomies scored 100 out of 100 in the study, which was based on 80 indicators. They were followed by La Rioja (96), Galícia (94) and the Balearic Islands...

  • The Spanish Finance Minister, Cristóbal Montoro, in a recent press conference (by La Moncloa)

    17.07.14 - 17:41

    Rajoy considers self-determination vote "absurd" and rejects discussing it with the Catalan President

    The Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, stated on Wednesday that he "will not join absurd debates" and will not "participate in the game" to negotiate Catalonia's self-determination vote since "the referendum is illegal and will not take place". Ironically, Rajoy accepted the request of the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, to meet, but he has specifically rejected to talk about the purpose of the interview: the...

  • Setting up one of the 4 doors in the Sagrada Família's Nativity Façade (by E. Sendra)

    17.07.14 - 17:37

    First door of the Nativity Façade of the Sagrada Família has now been fitted

    On Wednesday the first door to the Façade of the Nativity of the Sagrada Familia, Barcelona’s famous basilica designed by Antoni Gaudí, was finally installed. The bronze gate is inspired by nature and is full of metal leaves, flowers and insects. It is located in the ‘Portal of Charity,’ and is the creation of Japanese sculptor Etsuro Sotoo, a passionate follower of Gaudí’s career who has been...

  • Some of the Prado paintings showcased in Barcelona Caixaforum's exhibition (by P. Cortina)

    17.07.14 - 17:26

    Barcelona art museum CaixaForum exhibits a selection of the ´little treasures´ from Madrid's Prado

    On the 16th July Barcelona art centre Caixaforumopened its last major exhibition of the season entitled ´Beauty captivates. Little treasures from the Museo del Prado´. The exhibition contains 135 small canvases from the great artists within Madrid´s museum collection such as Velázquez, El Greco, Rubens, Goya and Tiziano. It will run for almost six months, until the 5th of January 2015. The...

  • The Catalan Parliament's Committee that approved the final draft of the Consultation Votes bill (by P. Mateos)

    17.07.14 - 01:10

    The Catalan bill on Consultation Votes passes its last-step-but-one with 80% of parliamentary support

    The future Law on Consultation Votes, which should enable the organisation of a self-determination vote in Catalonia on the 9th of November, has been approved by the parliamentary committee in charge of drafting it and sending to the plenary for the final approval in late September or early October. It has passed with the support from all the parties – including the Socialists (PSC) – except the Spanish nationalist...

  • The Catalan President surrounded in December by the leaders of the other parties that supported the self-determination vote of November 9 (by G. Sánchez)

    16.07.14 - 22:50

    Catalan President assures parties that any change on the self-determination vote will be agreed with them

    Before meeting with the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, the President of the Catalan Government and leader of the Centre-Right pro-Catalan State Coalition CiU, Artur Mas, contacted the other parties that agreed to organise a self-determination vote on the 9th of November in order to explain to them how he envisages the talks that will take place in Madrid. Mas guaranteed them that they would be consulted on any possible...

  • Barça's away shirt for the 2014-15 season, designed by Nike (by FC Barcelona)

    16.07.14 - 13:59

    FC Barcelona and Nike unveil new away kit for season 2014-15

    Barça's away kit for the 2014/2015 season has been unveiled this Wednesday, which is almost entirely bright crimson, a mix of red, orange and pink. The kit will be available starting on July 16 on nike.com/fcb and in stores on July 17. The bright crimson kit is fresh and unexpected to represent the desire of youth to stand out from the crowd, states the Catalan club. The shirt sports a crew neck collar and is entirely bright crimson...

  • Empty flats in Central Catalonia (by M. Martí)

    15.07.14 - 20:54

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

    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....

  • A factory in Banyoles, north-eastern Catalonia (by L. Casademont)

    15.07.14 - 20:43

    Recovery of Catalan economy is ahead of that of Spain, employer association report finds

    ''The recovery has come and has come to stay,'' according to Salvador Guillermo, Director of the Economy of Catalonia's main association of business-owners, Foment del Treball. Guillermo, who coordinated the report published on Tuesday, said that the analysis of economic data confirms that the positive trends have been occurring a month earlier in Catalonia than in the rest of Spain, "which means that recovery is more entrenched'' in...

  • Francesc Homs, at the weekly press conference (by P. Mateos)

    15.07.14 - 18:31

    Catalan President accepts to meet with Rajoy this July in public, but would prefer a discrete meeting

    The Catalan Minister for the Presidency and Government Spokesperson Francesc Homs, said on Tuesday that the President of the Generalitat, Artur Mas, is willing to accept the meeting formula proposed by the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy. Spain's PM rejected a discrete meeting and insisted it should be public, despite the fact the Catalan President had requested a private interview. Nonetheless, Homs said it would be better, "and...