Behind us we have a week when most European news services have focused on the weather; cancelled flights because of snow chaos in Germany and the UK, sad record numbers of homeless people freezing to death in Poland and severe traffic problems as close as la Jonquera in the northern part of Catalonia. Here in snowless Vilanova we do not have much to complain about, but temperatures actually go down to +/- 0ºC in the night and that makes us freeze in our non-insulated houses with single-pane windows.
Well, during the weekend we have seen the sun again, after many days with a cold rain. It was raining last Tuesday evening, January 5, as well, but for once that did not make people stay at home – it seemed as if the whole of Vilanova had gone out to welcome the three wise men (els reis mags d’Orient), who paraded through the town. My two small sons were just as excited as the Catalan children, although I had made it clear that our big celebration is Christmas and that the reis would only bring something small. In the end, our oldest son was almost as content with the reis as with Santa Claus since this time he received ‘Bakugans’ - apparently one of the hottest toys for a six-year-old right now. The little one, on the other hand, reminded me how unpredictable the behaviour of children can be: he preferred the little Gaspar figure which he found in our rosca dels reis (a special cake) to the stupidly expensive Ben Ten miniatures which I had bought for him.
EU, Spain, planetary events and hackers
In Spain, some leading socialists are so carried away by the attention they now receive in Europe that they talk about a “historic event which will happen on our planet” when the two progressive leaders Obama and Zapatero run the world together. Funnily enough, these high expectations were expressed in the same week as a hacker managed to enter the official web-page of the rotating presidency and replace the face of the Spanish prime minister with that of Mr. Bean. Naughty, naughty!
EU, Spain and a common economic vision
Zapatero himself is determined to hit back at those who doubt that Spain - with an unemployment rate twice as high as the EU average - can lead the work on a new common agenda for competitiveness. “It is like stopping the UK from participating to reform the financial system because they have suffered a stock market collapse”, was his witty remark.
The strategy which Spain now outlines is to create some kind of a binding common economic vision for the whole of the EU. Can it be that PSOE hopes for the EU to suggest the liberalisation of the labour market which many believe that Spain needs, but which the Spanish socialists themselves do not dare to propose?
Spain and its quaint libro de família
To make the administration more efficient, the Spanish government has decided to replace the libro de família with a computer based register. For Swedes - where since 1947 National Identification Numbers (personnummer, in Swedish) are given to everyone being born or entering the civil registry of the country - it is hard to understand that newborns in Spain still today have their identity confirmed through a handwritten little book and that only when they reach the age of 14 is it compulsory to apply for a DNI (national identity document). To me, this reform seems totally correct and I just hope that the new digital version will be available for us foreigners as well, like it is in Sweden.
Spain and Catalonia’s next government
Meanwhile, in Catalonia, those who have hoped that question about independence would die out with the relatively low turnout December 13, will most likely be proven wrong. The platform movement will continue to organize non-official referenda, but I would bet that the traditional parties will now take the lead with a view to the autumn elections to the parliament of Catalonia. ERC is a key party of the sitting tripartit government and it is highly likely that they will demand an official referendum as a condition to join another one. That would be hard to accept for PSC, which might be pressured from Madrid to instead give passive support to a government formed by CiU (the opposition) in Catalonia, if CiU commits to do the same for PSOE on the Spanish level. These is at least what the Economist thinks might happen and boringly pragmatic people like I would not disapprove.
Catalonia, its political parties and Barça’s Laporta
However, there is a dark horse who can turn all old fashioned tactics up-side down, and that is Joan Laporta, sitting president of F.C. Barcelona. This week he declared that he feels tempted to join a new independentist party, something that provoked all the established ones. EUiA – one of the groups which can be absolutely sure to never win him as a member – went the furthest and first made a reference to the world of football by saying that they do not buy players in the winter market and then added that they see Laporta as a Catalan Berlusconi.
Personally, I am convinced that this is a man who has the charisma and international recognition to, if not make the world side with an independent Catalonia, so at least make it listen. After all, that is why Joan Carretero declares that his Reagrupament is prepared to adapt to present Laporta as its top candidate, rather than expecting the first one to make concessions. Without Laporta, Reagrupament and ERC will risk ending up fighting about a limited group of voters. With him, on the other hand, Catalan independentism will get the broader and sexier appeal it needs to convince above all CiU voters to switch party. That, in turn, could cause a friction between the CiU federation partners (CDC and UDC) and possibly result in a radicalisation. A radicalisation of CiU would certainly benefit PSC, which could then present itself as the only sensible alternative and is not seny the virtue of which Catalans are the most proud? Assuming that I am right, you will understand how nervous the strategists of the old parties now are and by postponing his final decision to April, Laporta will try their patience.
Catalonia and the Vegueria Penedès
While there are many politicians who want to lead the fight for an independent Catalonia, it is primarily historians who seem to burn for the so called vegueries. While all catalanista parties agree that vegueries should be re-established as administrative units, there is a lot of internal tension within CiU and, even more, PSC about where the boundaries are to be and which municipalities are to be capitals.
Since the politicians (of all colours) have not prioritized the issue, it is almost clear that the proposal will reach the parliament only after the autumn elections. The new structure will have direct implications on us here in the Penedès area. Like most people in Vilanova, I love Barcelona, but fear that our town, in terms of influence, will disappear in its huge Metropolitan Area. While we await the coming resolution, the Penedès will continue to be treated as peripheral in all administrative planning. So it need not be – with a separate vegueria, democratic decision-making would come closer to the residents.
Catalonia, Vilanova i la Geltrú and a new hospital
I often feel that the PSC does not get the leverage on PSOE which they deserve for the many parliaments seats they deliver to Zapatero’s government. Likewise, I have felt that PSC Vilanova is poorly rewarded for the good work it does for the same party on the Catalan level. I believed to have discovered a lack of interest in our town, when our Mayor Joan Ignasi Elena - a man who should and is said to have a strong position in PSC - promised a new hospital in his campaign before the latest municipal elections, but later had to face the fact that the Generalitat did not mention this in its public health plans.
However, I am now delighted to have been wrong. Last week, Marina Geli, the Catalan minister (consellera) of public health, signed an agreement according to which a new hospital will be built here, while the current one, Sant Camil in Sant Pere de Ribes, will be reserved for long-term patients.
Until last Friday, I was of the opinion that we had better develop Sant Camil hospital further rather than splitting scarce resources between this and a “branch” in Vilanova. What is now going to happen – the, in fact, logical idea to move the main hospital to the place where most people live - goes one step further and beyond what I dared to hope for. These are great news, not only for us in Vilanova. By the way, Sant Camil will always have a special place in my heart. That is where our second son was born and my wife was very pleasantly surprised with the good care she received in that public hospital.
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Sources and inspiration:
ENG: BBC – Travel Chaos in Germany
SPA: LaVanguardia – La nieve complica la movilidad
SPA: YouTube – Leire Pajín habla de acontecimiento histórico planetario
CAT: Avui – El somni de Leire s’envaeix
SPA: LaVanguardia – La foto de Mr. Bean a la web de la presidencia
SPA: LaVanguardia – Zapatero y la autoridad de España
ENG: BBC – Gavin Hewitt on ‘Europe’s Economic Chill’
ENG: BBC – Spain seeks binding economic goals for EU
SPA: LaVanguardia – La reforma del registro civil
SPA: Wikipedia - DNI
ENG: Economist – Catalonia’s big role in Spain’s politics
SPA: LaVanguardia – ERC y el referendum sobiranista
SPA: LaVanguardia –Laporta i la Generalitat
SPA: LaVanguardia – Reacciones de los partidos catalanes
CAT: El Punt – Què passarà amb la llei de vegueries
CAT: El Punt – Demanen que no s’oblidi del Penedès
CAT: VilanovaDigital – L’alcalde sobre el nou hospital
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Technorati tags: Barcelona, Barça, Catalonia, CiU, Independence, Penedès, PSC, PSOE, Spain, Vilanova