• National Alliance for Self-Determination avoids calling 27 September elections a "plebiscite" but urges Catalans to vote

    After months of discussions between parties and civil society organisations, the National Alliance for the Right to Self-Determination, which comprises more than 3,000 different groups, have met once again and announced a minimum consensus on the 27 September elections: citizens must participate in them "to decide" Catalonia's future. However, the Alliance avoided using the word "plebiscite", since some parties and organisations think that the next elections are not a 'de facto' referendum on independence. After the symbolic vote that took place on 9 November last, forces supporting Catalonia's self-determination process have been openly quarrelling on the next steps to follow in order to ensure a binding vote on independence. In mid-January, after reaching an agreement with the left wing pro-independence party ERC, the President of the Catalan Government and leader of the centre right pro-Catalan State coalition CiU, Artur Mas, announced early elections for 27 September, to be transformed into a 'de facto' independence plebiscite.

The entrance of the 2015 Mobile World Congress in Fira de Barcelona's Gran Via venue (by ACN)

2015 Mobile World Congress sets new record with more than 93,000 visitors, 9% more than 2014

The 2015 Mobile World Congress, which takes place each year in Barcelona, has shattered the records by hosting more than 93,000 visitors from 200 different countries, as reported by event organiser GSMA on Thursday, the last day of the trade fair. Thisyear’s attendance exceeded by 9% the figures recorded in 2014 and by 45% the number of people who visited the event during its first edition in 2006. The 2015 Mobile World Congress confirmed itself as the global platform for the cell-phone-related industries, where a large number of news and products were unveiled for the first time by world-class companies such as Samsung, HTC, Sony, Microsoft and Google. Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Sundar Pichai (Google) and Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia) were among this edition's main speakers.

The 4YFN hall (by J. Morros)

Entrepreneurship in Catalan universities on the rise despite obstacles

Entrepreneurship in Catalan universities is not as common as in the United States, but that is starting to change. The Online University of Catalonia (UOC) along with the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) have a stand at 4YFN, a parallel event to the Mobile World Congress, which is the main international event of the cell-phone-related industries, and which has taken place in Barcelona every year since 2006. 4YFN is focused on small companies that build internet services, the so-called ‘start-ups’. For years, universities have run offices dedicated to helping students and teachers to create a business, but the struggle to find investment and difficulties in setting up a business are still the major complaints of young entrepreneurs.

From left to right: Hollande, Rajoy and Passos Coelho, before re-launching the Midcat project (by La Moncloa / ACN)

North African gas to reach Central Europe through Catalonia by 2020 to reduce 40% Russian dependency

A strategic gas pipeline is to be built through the Catalan Pyrenees, linking the Iberian Peninsula with France and Central Europe. The Midcat project aims to reduce Europe's dependency on Russian gas by 40%, diversifying the sources of supply. The pipeline should be operational by 2020, announced on Thursday the Spanish Minister for Industry, José Manuel Soria. The day before, French President, François Hollande, Spanish PM, Mariano Rajoy, Portuguese PM, Pedro Passos Coelho, and European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, re-launched the project's construction. Midcat started to be planned in 2007 but it was halted for several years, mainly due to a lack of interest from French companies and institutions, which were not guaranteeing to build their part. Now, the crisis with Russia has reignited the urge to find alternative gas suppliers for Central Europe.

Ekaterina Rubtsova & Dmitri Efremkin, winners of a Silver Dalí Elephant (by A. Recolons)

2015 International Circus Festival consolidates Figueres as Europe’s second circus capital

The 4th edition of the Figueres International Circus Festival has met all expectations and broken its previous record with more than 30,000 tickets sold. The festival ended last Monday and took place in the Catalan city of Figueres (near the Costa Brava and the French border), which is Salvador Dalí's home town. The National Circus of Pyongyang won the Dalí Golden Elephant for its trapeze performance, pulling off a double quadruple somersault for the first time in Spain. The other Golden Elephant, according to the public, went to the Russian company Troupe Trushin for its acrobatic jumping show ‘Watch Dogs’. Figueres has now consolidated itself as the second European city of reference for the circus world, only after Montecarlo.

  • The Spanish Deputy PM, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría (left) on Friday after the weekly Cabinet meeting (by R. Pi de Cabanyes)

    Spanish Government appeals against Catalonia's External Action Law because it "is not a state"

    The Spanish Government approved on Friday to take to the Constitutional Court Catalonia's Law of External Action and Relations with the EU and the opening of delegations in Vienna and Rome. The Spanish Executive will appeal against the law despite it being foreseen by the Catalan Statute of Autonomy – approved by the Spanish Parliament and the Catalan people through a binding referendum in 2006. This is Catalonia's main law after the Spanish Constitution and recognises the Catalan Government's right to carry out its own external action abroad. However, in the current debate about Catalonia's independence, the Spanish Government is reiterating its 'no-to-everything' attitude and recentralisation strategy and has appealed against the law approved by the Catalan Parliament on 26 November last.

  • Ben Harper already played at the Cap Roig Festival in 2012 (by Festival de Cap Roig / ACN)

    Sting, Ben Harper, Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga to play 2015 Cap Roig festival on the Costa Brava

    The Costa Brava-based Cap Roig's music festival will hold its 15th edition from 10 July to 16 August. Many international and local artists will take part in the event which will start with a performance by one of the greatest exponents of British pop-rock, Sting. The following day, American singer-songwriter Ben Harper will be on stage playing with his legendary band, The Innocent Criminals, in their first tour together for seven years. The festival will also host other big names of international renown such as Lady Gaga & Tony Bennett, Rosario, Antonio Orozco, Julieta Venegas, Miguel Bosé, Passenger and Macaco. Among the featured Catalan artists will be: Mishima with Joan Miquel Oliver, Blaumut, Els Amics de les Arts and Núria Graham. The festival will end with Alejandro Sanz's performance.

  • Lotus Team's truck at Circuit de Catalunya (by A. Barrionuevo)

    The Formula 1 World: inside and outside the garage

    The 2015 Formula 1 World Championship is about to begin and the teams finalised their preparations at the Circuit de Catalunya. 20 racers will be in the spotlight in two weeks’ time for the start of the season, but Formula 1 is not just about the drivers themselves. Apart from the household names of Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton, there is a little known world that every two weeks travels from one side of the world to the other. On the one hand, there are the people who work around the F1 team itself such as the press officers, who manage communication between the different parts of the team and also with the media. On the other, all the circuits mobilise an army of volunteers who sacrifice their day job to be "marshals" at the circuit to take care of the drivers’ safety.

Highlights

  • Ford presented smart cars and bikes  at the Mobile World Congress (by ACN)

    05.03.15 - 20:15

    Smart cars: the Internet of Things is already on the automobile market

    This year at the Mobile World Congress one of the most discussed trends is the Internet of Things (IoT): everyday objects that are connected to the internet and which are able to control other machines. Although some of these implements do not yet have a direct application on the consumer market, the automobile sector is already selling vehicles with these functionalities. Smart cars can be controlled with a smartphone, for...

  • Luís Suárez and Neymar scored Barça's three goals against Villareal (by FC Barcelona)

    05.03.15 - 01:08

    Villarreal vs FC Barcelona: Barça reach Spanish Cup final! (1-3)

    FC Barcelona are headed back to the final of the Spanish Cup. Neymar’s two goals sandwich Suárez’s strike. The Brazilian scored two minutes after the opening kick off and again two minutes from the final whistle to lead the Catalans to a commanding 3–1 win over hosts Villarreal in the return leg of the Spanish Cup quarter-final. Barça duplicate score from first leg to knock out Villarreal 6–2 on...

  • The Catalan Parliament, with the CiU and ERC MPs in the forefront, voting the Catalan Government's 2015 budget (by R. Garrido)

    04.03.15 - 21:28

    Catalan Government's 2015 budget finally approved after modifying state structures programmes

    The Catalan Parliament has finally approved the Catalan Government’s budget bill for 2015 and the complementary law on fiscal measures with the backing of the governing centre-right pro-Catalan State coalition CiU and the opposition left-wing Catalan independence party ERC. The CiU and the ERC introduced last-minute changes concerning the launching of state structures, such as Catalonia's own tax administration. These changes come...

  • The registering operator Lleida.net has a dedicated stand at the congress (by J. Julià)

    04.03.15 - 21:23

    Veteran Catalan companies coexist with projects still in beta at the Mobile World Congress

    The Catalan companies on show at the Mobile World Congress this week not only include recently created start-ups. Some companies have been in the business for over 20 years with delegations in 19 countries, such as the registering operator Lleida.net. There are other projects on show which, although already active, have not been launched completely and are still in beta form, such as King of App, an open source app...

  • Grifols' offices in Los Angeles (by J. R. Torné)

    04.03.15 - 21:20

    Catalan pharmaceutical Grifols to buy 45% of California-based Alkahest for almost $40 million

    Grifols, a global healthcare company based in Greater Barcelona, announced on Wednesday that it will acquire 45% of the California-based firm Alkahest for $37.5 million. The biopharmaceutical company headquartered in Redwood City (near San Francisco) was founded last year upon the work of Stanford University scientists, who proved that factors in the blood of young animals were able to restore mental capabilities in old animals. This...

  • Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, at Barcelona's 2015 Mobile World Congress (by J. R. Torné)

    04.03.15 - 20:56

    MWC: LG and Apple win Global Mobile Awards, Blackberry presents Leap and Jimmy Wales on language minorities

    On the second day of the Mobile World Congress, which is the largest event of the mobile industry and is currently being held in Barcelona, the GSMA announced the Global Mobile Award winners in more than 30 categories and Blackberry presented a new phone oriented towards the business sector. If Then This That won the Best Overall Prize in the app category and LG’s G3 and the iPhone 6 shared the Best Smartphone award. In the featured...

  • Barça training this week, before their game against Villareal (by FC Barcelona)

    04.03.15 - 17:54

    Villarreal vs FC Barcelona: Barça can reach Spanish Cup's final

    The two sides meet in El Madrigal in the second leg of their Spanish Cup semi-final on Wednesday evening (20h CET). The blaugranes have the upper hand in the tie following their 3-1 win in the first leg last month at Camp Nou. In addition, Barça have the advantage in their Champions League last 16 tie against Manchester City following their 2-1 win at the Etihad Stadium. Their 3-1 away victory in the Spanish League at the weekend...

  • Günther Oettinger talking at Barcelona's Mobile World Congress (by J. Morros)

    03.03.15 - 21:07

    First 5G connections to be available in 2020, according to network carriers

    In a keynotes speech held at the 2015 Mobile World Congress, which is currently taking place in Barcelona, CEOs from network carriers such as Huawei, South Korea's KT and Orange have explained their vision for facilitating huge increases in speed and the number of connections supported by network carriers over the next five years. This new standard, which is being developed as a collaboration between the industry’s main actors, should...

  • A stand grouping Catalan companies at the 2015 Mobile World Congress (by J. Morros)

    03.03.15 - 20:58

    Catalan cell-phone industry shows its international success at the Mobile World Congress

    Dozens of Catalan companies are on show at the 2015 Mobile World Congress, which is taking place in Barcelona until Thursday. Many of them are gaining notable success in international markets. For instance, an innovative multi-functional grip for smartphones to take photos, which is made in Barcelona, is selling not only throughout Europe but also in the USA, Canada, Hong Kong and Thailand. This grip, called the...

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

    03.03.15 - 20:53

    Registered unemployment falls by 7.7% in February, highest drop in 17 years

    At the end of February 2015, there were 581,124 people registered with the Catalan Public Employment Service (SOC) as being unemployed, according to figures released on Tuesday by the Spanish Ministry of Employment and Social Security. This represents 1,645 fewer jobseekers than were registered at the end of January (582,769), a 0.28% drop. In addition, at the end of February 2015 there were 48,462 fewer registered jobseekers than a year...

  • Sundar Pichai, Google's Vice President, at Barcelona's Mobile World Congress (by J. R. Torné)

    03.03.15 - 14:37

    MWC: Samsung and Microsoft present new phones, Google enters carrier market and Zuckerberg outlines Internet.org

    The new flagship phone from Samsung will come in two models, the Galaxy S6 and the Galaxy S6 Edge, according to the announcement that the South Korean company made in Barcelona at the beginning of the Mobile World Congress, the largest annual event of the cell-phone-related industries. Microsoft debuted two new mid-range Lumia phones, the 640 and the 640 XL models, which include the new Windows 10. Google announced its...

  • Oriol Pujol, on Monday at the Catalan Parliament (by R. Garrido)

    03.03.15 - 14:31

    Former 'number 2' of governing Liberal party CDC, Oriol Pujol, denies corrupt practices

    The Catalan Parliament has continued its interrogation of the Pujol family for alleged fiscal fraud and corrupt practices, after Jordi Pujol – who uninterruptedly headed the Catalan Government between 1980 and 2003 – confessed in July that his family had kept a fortune in the fiscal haven of Andorra for 34 years without informing the Spanish tax authorities. Pujol (aged 84), his wife, and 6 of their 7 sons and daughters have...

  • Huawei's stand at 2015 Mobile World Congress, taking place in Barcelona (by M. Fernández)

    02.03.15 - 21:47

    Mobile World Congress kicks off in Barcelona with top companies presenting new products

    The major players in the cell-phone-related industries such as Samsung, Sony, Microsoft and Google are currently presenting their new products in Barcelona, consolidating the city’s position as a true meeting point for the sector. For the 10th consecutive year, the biggest event in the world of mobile industries kicked off in the Catalan capital on Monday. The 2015 Mobile World Congress, organised by GSMA, will be in...

  • Abertis' headquarters, based in Barcelona (by ACN)

    02.03.15 - 21:21

    Barcelona-based Abertis to purchase 7,377 mobile phone towers in Italy for almost €700 million

    Barcelona-based Abertis, a multinational company specialised in the management of toll roads and telecommunications infrastructure, has reached an agreement to purchase 7,377 mobile phone towers in Italy at a total cost of €693 million. The Catalan group – which saw its net profits rise last year to €655 million – will acquire 90% of the shares of Galata, the subsidiary of the Italian operator Wind that owns the...

  • A fruit stall at La Boqueria market (by A. Martínez)

    02.03.15 - 18:00

    One challenging week as a vegetarian in Barcelona

    Is life really that difficult as a vegetarian in Barcelona? We challenged the predominantly meat and fish-based Catalan cuisine through a week of discovering restaurants, organic shops and vegan eateries in the city. Ham legs tied to the ceiling do not help the perception that vegetarians would have to survive on a diet of nuts and bread, but after our search we found that Barcelona is an incredibly vegetarian-friendly city. This short...