VilaWeb: The Moncloa imposes change of name of El Prat airport to Josep Tarradellas

This is a translation of an article from Catalan newspaper VilaWeb entitled “La Moncloa imposa el canvi de nom de l’aeroport del Prat pel de Josep Tarradellas“. VilaWeb publishes some of their own articles in English here.

The Spanish Council of Ministers will today approve the change of name of Barcelona-El Prat Airport, which will be called Josep Tarradellas Airport. Sources at the Moncloa have confirmed the news, adding that ‘it is a decision which is loaded with symbolism, communicated to the Generalitat and the family’.

Indeed, the decision was communicated to the family, who were informed days ago and gave permission to use the name of President Tarradellas. But the Generalitat, according to sources in the Catalan Government, have not been able to have their say, and complain that the change was not agreed upon, recalling that there are naming commissions to manage and work on decisions like this one. The Catalan Government have requested that the Spanish Government rectify the decision and not go ahead with approving the change of name.

The General Secretary of ERC (Republican Left of Catalonia), Marta Rovira, as leader of Tarradellas’ party, has criticised the decision:

VilaWeb: Diplomatic tension between Spain and Belgium: Borrell summons the Belgian ambassador

The is a translation of an article from Catalan newspaper VilaWeb entitled “Tensió diplomàtica entre Espanya i Bèlgica: Borrell convoca a l’ambaixador belga“. VilaWeb publishes some of their own articles in English here.

The diplomatic tension between Spain and Belgium continues growing. After refusing European Arrest Warrants and opening a trial against [Spanish judge] Llarena, a new front has opened in the diplomatic relations between Brussels and Madrid. The Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, has called the Belgian ambassador in Madrid to answer questions, immediately after Jan Peumans (N-VA), president of the Flemish Parliament, sent a letter to Carme Forcadell at the Mas d’Enric prison. The Spanish authorities considered that the content of the missive is an insult to the state, according to the newspaper De Tijd.

In the letter, Peumans regrets ‘that democracy in Catalonia has been violently crushed’ and assures that the Spanish state ‘doesn’t meet the minimum requirements for being a member of the European Union’. Peumans is the first politician of note from the EU who has spoken in these terms against the Spanish state. It must be taken into account that recently the European Parliament has set in motion the mechanism to activate Article 7 of the EU against Hungary for the authoritarianism of Viktor Orban’s government.

The N-VA MEP Mark Demesmaeker was the one who handed the letter to Forcadell on 7 September. He also published it on Twitter:

The Spanish Government has told the Belgian ambassador, Marc Calcown, that it is disappointed by the content of Peumans’ letter. ‘The official letter of the president of the regional parliament is considered an insult to Spain’, Calcoen explained in a report addressed to the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs.

In addition, according to De Tijd, the Spanish Authorities want the Minister to contact Peumans to make it clear that ‘the content of the letter is totally unacceptable’. In fact, the Spanish Government told the president of the Flemish Parliament that the letter was ‘a hositle gesture’.

Ciudadanos versus freedom of expression: the story of #RiveraQuitameEste

On Wednesday, the leader of the centre-right Ciudadanos party took to Barcelona to remove yellow ribbons from the streets. The social media response became a worldwide trending topic on Twitter. This is why.

Ciudadanos (in English, Citizens, or simply Cs) is a party which presents itself as the party of the Spanish political centre, a more progressive alternative to the established Partido Popular (Popular Party, PP). In Europe, it sits in the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group with the UK’s Liberal Democrats and, ironically, their ideological opposites in Catalonia, the Partit Demòcrata Europeu Català, (Catalan European Democratic Party, PDeCAT).

It’s liberal credentials have been questioned, however, by analysis of the party’s policies. Originally designating itself as a centre-left party and, more recently, centrist, analysts have variously described Cs as a centre-right or even right-wing party. For the purposes of this article, I will, where necessary, use the term “centre-right”, whilst acknowledging that a precise location on the political spectrum is a matter for intense debate.

Cs was born in Catalonia in 2006, originally in response to Catalan nationalism, among other social issues, but soon became a significant force in Spanish politics. They currently have 32 of the 350 seats in the national parliament, the Congress of Deputies, after winning 13.1% of votes in 2016, and sought to use their influence in a failed attempt to oppose the confidence vote against Mariano Rajoy and his PP government in June.

Whilst they are the fourth largest party nationally, in the elections to the Catalan Parliament in December they topped the poll, winning 36 of the 135 seats and 25.4% of the popular vote. However, they still sit as an opposition party against the votes of the Catalan nationalist groups Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia, JuntsxCat), Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (Republican Left of Catalonia, ERC) and Candidatura d’Unitat Popular (Popular Unity Candidacy, CUP), with a combined total of 70 seats – an overall majority – and 47.6% of the popular vote. The perception of winning an election but remaining in opposition clearly irritates Cs’ leader in Catalonia, Inés Arrimadas, who believes she should be the region’s president instead of Quim Torra, the compromise candidate from the JuntsxCat parliamentary group.

Torra’s election did not come easy. In fact, he was the fourth choice for president. The first was Carles Puigdemont, the leader of PDeCAT and incumbent president, until he was deposed by the Spanish government when they invoked Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, sacking the Catalan Government and calling fresh elections. That, in turn, was in response to the Catalan Government’s decision to press ahead with a referendum on independence on 1 October 2017, which the Spanish Government and Constitutional Court ruled was illegal, and subsequent declaration of independence following a 92% vote in favour of secession (on a 43% turnout). Puigdemont’s decision to seek exile in Belgium rather than face (as he and many Catalans see it) a political prosecution caused complications and his bid was halted in favour of building a workable government in Barcelona. To many Catalans, though, he remains the legitimate president. Continue reading

If you value your sanity, never bank with BBVA

Last Sunday, I officially became a customer of Spanish super-bank BBVA. Many people will have heard of them, if not while realising that they are a bank, because they sponsor the top league in Spanish football (named, funnily enough, the Liga BBVA).

I would mention, before explaining exactly why this particular bank is about as useful as an inflatable dartboard, that I did not become a BBVA customer by choice. Until Sunday my Spanish banking services were provided by CatalunyaCaixa, an organisation which came highly recommended and with which I have never experienced any issues in the twelve months my account had been open.

On 8 September, however, my bank closed and the process of merging with BBVA began, with CX customers allegedly able to access their new accounts from 11 September. Now, I have a new account number (which no one has thought to advise me of) but I am supposed to be able to log in to BBVA’s online banking with the same login details as my CX online account. Yet when I tried online (and again on the app), the banking equivalent of Gandalf popped up on my screen and informed me (in three different languages): “you shall not pass!”.

The helpful suggestion from this not-so-great Gandalf was to try the “forgot your password” link, even though I clearly knew my CX login details – and had used them many times over the past year. However, where the wizard shall point, the mortal shall go, so off went I entering my username to reset my password – only to be informed my username was “incorrect”. Now I really knew they were taking the piss, so, as is traditional in the digital age, I took to Twitter to vent my frustration:

Now, I appreciated that BBVA’s Twitter support was primarily in Spanish (with some Catalan answers), so I approached them – in my imperfect Spanish – looking for some help. The conversation was not entirely productive:

Continue reading

Euro 2016 draw

The draw for the Group Stage of the UEFA Euro 2016 competion took place today in Paris.

England find themselves in Group B with Russia, Wales and Slovakia, while reigning champions Spain join Czech Republic, Turkey and Croatia in Group D.

The full draw can be seen above on the official UEFA graphic.

The tournament starts on 10 June, with hosts France facing Romania.