• The Catalan President signing the decree calling the elections (by R. Moreno / ACN)

    Catalan President officially calls elections, cautious of potential Spanish Government ban

    The President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, has signed this Monday evening a decree officially calling Catalan Parliament elections for this coming 27 September. These elections are expected to be transformed into a ‘de facto’ plebiscite on independence from Spain, after the Spanish Government has rejected for the last 3 years any negotiation over organising a mutually-agreed self-determination vote, ignoring the clear democratic mandate from the previous Catalan elections that took place in November 2012. The signing of the decree calling the 27 September elections has been surrounded by an unusual level of discretion about its exact content, as there has been significant speculation over whether the Spanish authorities could appeal against the decree and stop the Catalan elections from happening if they were becoming a plebiscite on independence. In fact, in the past few weeks, and increasingly in the past few days, Spanish authorities have been warning Mas that he can only call “elections to the Autonomous Community Parliament”.

Mariano Rajoy on Friday at La Moncloa Palace (by X. Vallbona)

Rajoy "to fight the battle of defending the many millions of citizens who feel Catalan, Spanish and European"

The Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, has stated that Catalonia's upcoming elections are Spain's "main risk" to the State itself and to the country’s economic recovery. Rajoy read a speech before the press before departing for his summer break, and Catalonia's independence was one of the main issues he talked about. The Spanish PM stressed that the government he heads "will never allow secession to happen"; "by no means will there be independence", he emphasised. He also stressed that the Spanish Government is ready "to fight the battle of defending the many millions of citizens who feel Catalan, Spanish and European". Rajoy said he is satisfied with the strategy he has been employing during the last few years, based on a total rejection of even talking about the organisation of a mutually-agreed vote like the one that took place in Scotland. According to him, his approach was "cautious and proportional". "We have not made any concession", he added, "nothing". According to him, any Spanish PM would have acted in the same way, as "it is not easy to hold a dialogue with somebody who wants to organise a referendum".

Economy of Catalonia grew 3.5% in annual terms in June, above 3.1% Spanish average (by ACN)

Economy of Catalonia grew 3.5% in annual terms in June, above 3.1% Spanish average

Catalonia's GDP increased by 3.5% between June 2014 and June 2015 and was the Autonomous Community with the third-highest level of economic growth, leading Spain's economic recovery.  Spain as a whole grew at a 3.1% annual rate in the same period, according to figures released on Thursday by the Spanish Independent Fiscal Authority (Airef). Ahead of Catalonia in terms of GDP growth are the Balearic Islands – with 4% growth – and the Valencian Country (also called Valencian Community) – with growth of 3.9%. They are followed by Catalonia (3.5%), the Canary Islands (3.4%) and the Madrid region (3.2%). According to these figures, the eastern part of Spain has been the most dynamic during the last few months, and Catalonia, which is the wealthiest Autonomous Community and has one of the highest growth rates, is the region contributing the most in absolute terms.

Andreu Mas-Colell (left) and Cristóbal Montoro (right) on Wednesday in Madrid (by R. Pi de Cabanyes)

Spanish Government rejects reviewing strict 2016 deficit targets for Autonomous Communities

Despite the fact that all the Autonomous Community governments that are not run by the People's Party (PP) requested the Spanish Executive  – run by the PP – to allow them a greater deficit in 2016 and that Spain's independent fiscal authority Airef also recommended granting regional governments greater deficit targets for next year, the Spanish Finance Minister, Cristóbal Montoro, has rejected doing so. In 2016, the Autonomous Communities will have to close their budgets with less than a 0.3% deficit, "an absurd" and "unrealistic" figure according to the Catalan Finance Minister, Andreu Mas-Colell, who was recently awarded an honorary PhD in Economics by the University of Chicago. The Catalan Government asked for a 0.88% deficit target for 2016. Besides this, next year the Catalan Executive will receive €1.2 billion that should have already been transferred by the Spanish Executive but was not, due to Montoro's tax revenue miscalculations. In addition to this, since economic activity is growing, the Spanish Government will increase the Catalan Executive's funds by €700 million each year from 2016 onwards.

The Catalan Culture Minister, Ferran Mascarell (centre) showing the report to the President of the Catalan Parliament, Núria de Gispert (right) (by ACN)

28% of families born outside Catalonia use Catalan language with their children

60.2% of families with one parent born outside Catalonia use Catalan with their children and 27.5% of natives with both parents born outside use Catalan with their children, according to data from 2013 coming from the Language Policy Report 2014 released this week. Ferran Mascarell, the Catalan Minister for Culture, said that "Catalan health remains" and said that "Catalan has passed a phase that was complicated because there have been significant demographic changes," along with technological changes and negative Spanish Government's policies. In Catalonia, the majority of the population 15 years and older claimed to understand, speak, read and write in Catalan: 94.3% understood, 80.4% could speak, 82.4% could read and 60.4% could write. Besides, while 48.1% of the population above 15 has a high level of Catalan in all language abilities, 26.6% reported important deficits in using or understanding the language.

  • A branch of the Catalan Public Employment Service (SOC) (by ACN)

    Unemployment in Catalonia dropped by 11.7% in annual terms in July, and by 8.5% in Spain

    Registered unemployment decreased in Catalonia by 9,162 people in July compared to the previous month, the third-biggest drop for the month of July since 1996. The total number of people registered as unemployed with Catalonia’s Public Employment Service (SOC) at the end of the month was 501,785 individuals, which represents an 11.69% drop in annual terms, the highest percentage decrease since April 2000 (when registered unemployment dropped 11.94% compared to 1999 figures). In addition, the figures from July mean that there have now been 25 consecutive months of annual drops in the number of unemployed in Catalonia. As well as this, the total number of Catalans without a job and looking for one at the end of last month was the lowest  since July 2009 (when there were 495,911 jobless people). In Spain as a whole, registered unemployment decreased by 74,028 people from June to July, which represents an 8.45% annual drop and is Spain’s most significant decrease for the month of July since 1998.

  • Veiled women in Lleida, western Catalonia (by ACN)

    Catalan society less discriminatory than most, say Muslim residents

    Nowadays, multiple cultures, religions and traditions live side by side in the neighbourhoods of many European cities, and Catalonia is no exception, quite the contrary in fact. According to the Union of Islamic Communities in Spain, overall 1,858,409 Muslims live there. The majority of them are concentrated in Catalonia, a country with a long history of accommodating foreigners, where 509,333 followers of this religion dwell (out of a total population of 7.55 million people). Although acknowledging that individual acts of discrimination do occur, Muslims affirm that here the social climate is not filled with hatred. However, in the past few decades, 'anti-immigration discourses' have entered some isolated Catalan political parties' agendas and those whom we interviewed think that local media present a skewed picture of the Muslim community.

  • Luis Suárez at the Barça-Fiorentina game (by FC Barcelona)

    ACF Fiorentina v FC Barcelona: Defeat in summer tour finale (2–1)

    Sluggish start condemns Catalans in last match in 2015 International Champions Cup. Suárez gets one back after early Bernardeschi double but Barça can´t complete comeback.FC Barcelona had full control of the last 79 minutes in their fourth and final game of the preseason International Champions Cup on Sunday night but it wasn’t enough to overcome two early goals from Federico Bernardeschi, as hosts Fiorentina claimed a 2–1 victory. Despite the early goals FC Barcelona clearly dominated the rest of the match, and would have drawn even, or taken the lead, if they had been able to finish with a bit more precision. Fiorentina goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu was key as well, making a bevy of nice saves throughout the evening.

Highlights

  • The presentation of the Barcelona's Chamber of Commerce's economic forecast for 2015 and 2016 (by P. Solà)

    29.07.15 - 22:10

    Barcelona Chamber of Commerce worried about economic situation after Catalan elections

    The President of Barcelona's Chamber of Commerce Miquel Valls has recognised that there is "an important concern" among many business owners about Catalonia's self-determination process and the economic consequences resulting from the forthcoming Catalan Parliament elections, scheduled for 27 September and which will be transformed into a 'de facto' plebiscite on independence. A few months ago, Valls presented a report from the Chamber of...

  • Sandro scored Barça's second goal against Chelsea (by FC Barcelona)

    29.07.15 - 14:21

    Defeat on penalties to round off US Tour for FC Barcelona (2-2, 4-2 pens)

    Goals from Suárez and Sandro give Barça a 2-2 draw over 90 minutes against Chelsea, but the shoot out does not go the Catalans’ way (4-2). FC Barcelona and Chelsea FC put on a spectacular show of football on Tuesday night at FedExField just outside Washington DC in a friendly clash between European giants that had to be decided on penalty kicks. With the score tied at two after 90 minutes of play, Chelsea aced all four...

  • The nuclear plant of Ascó, in southern Catalonia (by ACN)

    29.07.15 - 13:45

    Nuclear cemetery designation mired with controversy, but radioactive waste management unavoidable

    There has been discussion among the Nuclear Safety Council (CSN) to approve construction of Spain's Temporary Centralised Storage Facility, more commonly referred to as the ATC (Almacén Temporal Centralizado), and a decision is expected in the coming days. The Spanish Government designated Villar de Cañas in Castilla-La Mancha's Cuenca Province as the location for the ATC at the end of 2011 to temporarily store 6,700 tU of...

  • Xavier García Albiol (right) this Monday (by R. Garrido)

    28.07.15 - 21:53

    PP chooses controversial former Mayor to run in Catalan elections, despite his xenophobic statements

    The conservative People's Party – which runs the Spanish Government – has chosen Xavier García Albiol, whose statements have been called xenophobic by many, to top its candidature for the next Catalan Parliament elections and run for President of the Catalan Government. García Albiol, who was Mayor of Badalona between 2011 and 2015, will replace the leader of the PP's Catalan branch, Alícia...

  • Jane Goodall receiving the Premi Internacional Catalunya award from the Catalan President, Artur Mas (by P. Francesch)

    27.07.15 - 22:13

    Jane Goodall receives 27th Catalunya International Award for her contribution to humankind

    The British primatologist Jane Goodall, whose work with chimpanzees revolutionised the understanding of animals and the definition of being a human being, has received the 27th Premi Internacional Catalunya award, which is Catalonia's most prestigious award given each year to a world leading personality for his or her contribution to humankind. The independent jury awarded Goodall the recognition for her scientific work but also...

  • The presentation of Catalonia's own tax administration (by J. R. Torné)

    27.07.15 - 22:04

    Sweden and Australia to be models for Catalonia's own Treasury

    The President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, presented on Monday the model for Catalonia's own Treasury, which will be developed should "the political conditions" be there, he stated. "This is the most serious attempt to build our own Treasury in the last 300 years", stressed Mas. "After two years of work, we are ready" to launch and Catalans should not waste "this great opportunity", he stressed. "Without our own Treasury, there is...

  • MACBA's new Director, Ferran Barenblit (by P. Francesch)

    25.07.15 - 20:17

    Argentinean Ferran Barenblit chosen as new director of Barcelona's Contemporary Art Museum MACBA

    Barcelona's Contemporary Art Museum (MACBA) is entering a new period, under the leadership of Ferran Barenblit, born in Buenos Aires in 1968. The international competition opened to choose MACBA's new director has resulted in the hiring of Barenblit, who until the present day was Director of Madrid's CA2M Art Centre. Previously, the Argentinean manager had been Director of Barcelona’s Santa Mónica Art Centre (from 2003 to...

  • Lluís Llach will be heading the unitary pro-independence list 'Junts pel Sí' in Girona (by ACN)

    24.07.15 - 20:37

    Singer-songwriter and anti-Franco activist Lluís Llach to head pro-independence unitary list in Girona

    Lluís Llach, one of the most famous Catalan musicians and one of the main voices against Franco's dictatorship, will  top the pro-independence unitary list running in the Girona Province in the forthcoming Catalan elections, which should become a 'de facto' referendum on independence. In the Tarragona Province, the 'Junts pel Sí' pro-independence list ('Together for the Yes') will be topped by economics professor...

  • Barça supporters in Berlin's Olympic Stadium (by FC Barcelona)

    23.07.15 - 21:25

    UEFA fines FC Barcelona for supporters' Catalan independence flags at Champions League final

    UEFA's Disciplinary Committee has decided to issue FC Barcelona, the current champions of Europe, with a €30,000 fine due to the Catalan independence flags displayed and the songs sung by its supporters during May's Champions League final in Berlin. Despite UEFA representatives present at the final having praised the "excellent behaviour" of the Catalan supporters during the game in their official report, the Disciplinary Committee...

  • A restaurant in Lleida (by ACN)

    23.07.15 - 21:23

    Unemployment falls to 19.1% in Catalonia and 22.4% in Spain in June

    At the end of June there were 31,900 fewer jobseekers in Catalonia than in March and 44,200 less than a year ago, according to the Active Population Survey for the second quarter of the year released on Thursday. These figures mean Catalonia's total number of unemployed was 726,200 individuals and that the unemployment rate was 19.1% at the end of the second quarter. In March, the unemployment rate was 20.05%; in December, 19.88%; and in...

  • Security cameras in the Spanish Parliament (by ACN)

    22.07.15 - 20:02

    Spanish Parliament approves law allowing Rajoy to take control of Catalan police "to defend Spain"

    The Spanish Parliament has approved a bill through which the Spanish Government can take control of the Mossos d'Esquadra (Catalonia's police corps managed by the Catalan Executive), in order "to defend Spain" or in the event of a natural disaster. The Spanish Government has justified the measure by stressing the need to enhance coordination in a crisis situation, putting several security corps under the same command. However, the law also...

  • Tourists visiting Barcelona (by O. Campuzano)

    22.07.15 - 19:56

    New tourist record in Catalonia: 7.4 million foreigners came in the first half of 2015

    The number of foreign tourists visiting Catalonia continues to increase year after year. On Wednesday, the Spanish Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism released the figures for foreigners visiting Spain between January and June 2015. 7,439,211 international visitors came to Catalonia in that period, the highest number ever and a 4.4% increase on the figures from the previous year (when 7.1 million foreigners came). In addition,...

  • Luis Suárez scored Barça's first goal after the summer break, after Marc Bartra's assist (by FC Barcelona)

    22.07.15 - 15:29

    FC Barcelona vs Los Angeles Galaxy: Barça's solid start to the preseason (2-1)

    Confident FC Barcelona defeat the MLS champions with goals from Luis Suárez and Sergi Roberto. FC Barcelona got their preseason off to a fine start with a 2-1 victory against MLS champions Los Angeles Galaxy at the Rose Bowl, Pasadena in front of an astonishing crowd of 93,226. Goals from Luis Suárez and Sergi Roberto put the Catalans well in command, and Tommy Meyer’s 92nd minute header merely served as late consolation...

  • The Spanish PM, Mariano Rajoy, a few weeks ago in Madrid (by ACN)

    21.07.15 - 22:07

    Rajoy “ready” to face unilateral declaration of independence, which would be “a frontal attack on the law”

    The Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, stated on Tuesday that a unilateral declaration of independence in Catalonia in the event that pro-independence parties obtain an absolute majority in September’s Catalan elections would be “a frontal attack on the law”, “which has no precedent in democratic and civilised countries”. The day after the pro-independence unitary list presented its road map for the months...

  • Basketball star Kobe Bryant, who is a FC Barcelona fan, visited the Catalan team's training session in Los Angeles (by FC Barcelona)

    21.07.15 - 21:04

    Los Angeles Galaxy v FC Barcelona: The treble winner are back!

    The Catalans are in California for the first friendly of the 2015/16 preseason in their debut appearance in the International Champions Cup. The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California is the venue for FC Barcelona’s first match of the 2015/16 preseason, which kicks off at 8.00pm on Tuesday local time and early Wednesday morning back in Barcelona at 5.00am CET. A crowd of over 90,000 is expected to watch as the Catalans face current Major...

  • Pablo Iglesias talking in Barcelona on Monday evening, next to ICV-EUiA leaders (by ACN)

    21.07.15 - 17:05

    Podemos leader promises to respect “the democratic will expressed by Catalans” on self-determination

    Pablo Iglesias, Secretary General of the Spanish alternative left party Podemos, has committed himself in Barcelona to respecting “the democratic will expressed by Catalans” regarding a self-determination vote, although he did not mention independence. Iglesias made this statement during the presentation of the electoral coalitions built for both the Catalan and Spanish elections with the Catalan Eco-Socialist and Post-Communist...