News from Spain, Catalonia, Barcelona – from a Vilanova i la Geltrú perspective
Zapatero's PSOE government was able to pass its 2011 state budget thanks to support from the Basque PNV. Finance Minister Helena Salgado describes the content as “austere” since the target is a budget deficit of 6%. The public sector is to save 7.7% overall and 16% on the level of individual ministries. The salaries of civil servants will be reduced by 5% and government spending in infrastructure by 30%. These cuts will be experienced in different ways among the autonomous regions and the Balearic Islands, Euskadi (Basque Country) and Madrid are among the least affected.
Although the trade unions say it was a success, the September 29 General Strike cannot be alleged to have "shut down Spain", as intended, and the government has announced that it will not change its plans to make the Spanish labour market more flexible and less divided between employees with fixed versus seasonal contracts.
The credit rating institute Moody's has, as expected, downgraded Spain's sovereign rating from AAA (maximum) to Aa1, because of the weak prospects of future growth. Interest rates on the Spanish government bonds fell slightly after the announcement, because the market had feared a bigger reduction.
The court proceedings in one of the biggest corruption affairs of Spanish history - Operación Malaya - have begun. Among the 95 defendants we find two former mayors of Marbella, Julián Muñoz and Marisol Yague, and also Juan Antonio Roca, a former city planning manager in the same municipality.
Spain is the fourth least multilingual country of the EU - among adults (25-64 years) 46.6% claim that they do not master any foreign language, compared with the EU average of 38%. The countries which are worse off are Romania, Hungary and Portugal. At the opposite end we find Lithuania, Latvia and Sweden, where less than 5% do not speak any foreign language.
According to statistics from Hoteles.com Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Seville are the most popular local destinations for Spanish tourists. Among foreigners coming here, Barcelona is the preferred destination, followed by Madrid, Sevilla, Alicante, Valencia, Palma de Mallorca, Marbella, Torremolinos, Málaga and Lloret de Mar.
The French daily Le Monde has published an article on questionably spent public funds in Spain and, as an example, points out the new airport in Ciudad Real, which has cost Euro 500 million to build but where Ryanair is the only operator with three flights per week, and that at subsidized landing fees. Ciudad Real has 75.000 inhabitants and no surrounding urban areas to increase the passenger flow.
Castellers de Vilafranca were, as expected, superior to the competition in the human tower championship, Concurs de Castells (held in Tarragona every two years) and won for the fifth consecutive time – “Objective V” (Objectiu V), as the team itselves called it, where the V represented the number 5 as well as victory. The constructions 4de9 amb agulla (completed/descarregat), pilar de 8 (crowned/carregat) and 5de9 (completed) gave them 4.795 points. Historically, Castellers de Vilafranca have now won this competition eight times, as many as Colla Vella dels Xiquets de Valls. Colla dels Joves Xiquets de Valls came second with 3.067 points, since they completed 3de9 and 4de9 plus crowned a 5de9. Colla Vella dels Xiquets de Valls had yet another difficult day this year, and ended in a third position with 2.163 points after having crowned a 5de9 and completed a 3de9.
According to a poll by radio station RAC1, 49% of Catalans would vote for independence from Spain, while 41.4% would vote against.
Catalonia's Minister of Justice (Consellera de Justicia) Montserrat Tura will be PSC's second name in the Barcelona province - following President José Montilla – in the Catalan November elections. Tura is one of the current government's most appreciated ministers, but also a woman (PSC wants mixed lists) and, perhaps above all, belongs to the Catalan-minded and, so far, underrepresented wing of the party.
The documentary film "Bicicleta, Cullera, Poma" ("Bicycle, Spoon, Apple") by Carles Bosch has had its premier at the Film Festival of San Sebastian. Its about Pasqual Maragall - former Mayor of Barcelona and President of the Catalan Generalitat - and his life after having been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.
After the snow chaos of last winter, especially severe in the province of Girona, Catalonia's Ministry of Interior will require that the electricity suppliers take part in all coordination of emergencies caused by the weather.
The poet Joan Triadú has passed away at the age of 89. During the Franco dictatorship, Triadú was one of the most famous defenders of Catalan culture.
FC Barcelona has lost two vital points in the liga through a 1-1 draw in a Camp Nou home game against R.C.D. Mallorca (Lionel Messi made the goal for Barça). David Villa was not allowed to play, as punishment for his attack on Gurpegui during the match against Athletic Club Bilbao.
Xavi Hernández did not play, either, and will need to rest for two weeks due to a doublesided Achilles tendinitis.
Josep Guardiola and Mallorca's Danish coach Michael Laudrup know each other well, because they both played in Barça's so-called Dream Team, coached by Johan Cruyff.
The riots between police and masked members of so-called alternative movements (antisistema) made the September 29 General Strike in Barcelona go down in history as a day of extensive vandalism. Mayor Jordi Hereu (PSC) estimates the damage to Euro 262.500.
Barcelona is the world's 31st most expensive city (six positions lower than last year). At the top of the list we find Oslo, Zurich, Geneva, Tokyo, Copenhagen and New York.
To improve the street situation on la Rambla, the kiosks were they previously sold pets are to be transformed into handy crafts shops, restaurant terraces are to receive a unifying design and the number of living statues will be limited to fifteen.
With 1.4 million people in 500 different activities, the Festa Major de la Mercé of Barcelona attracted a smaller crowd than last year, but then the celebration lasted for one more day and had a bigger budget.
Ángeles González Sinde, Spanish Minister of Culture, has announced that Barcelona will have the largest state library of Spain - a glass palace of 18.000 square meters, in 2012 to be built adjacent to Estació de França.
The 2013 World Championships in Swimming will be held in Barcelona, after Dubai, where the games originally were to take place, has pulled out due to economic problems. The fact that Barcelona successfully organized the 2003 event helped it defeat rival candidates Hamburg, Moscow, Sydney and Seoul.
Cirque du Soleil is negotiating with the Ajuntament de Barcelona about creating a year-around stage in the city, something which they, until now, only have in Las Vegas, New York, Orlando, Macau and Tokyo.
Vilanova i la Geltrú - Garraf - Penedès
The biggest September 29 General Strike demonstrations of Penedès was held in Vilanova i la Geltrú, where 2.500 people participated in the demonstration called by CC.OO. and UGT, and 500 in the syndicalist alternative.
Last week, mussel fishing was temporarily banned in Vilanova i la Geltrú and the beach Ribes Roges was closed for swimming, since the heavy rains had washed out bad, previously stagnant, water.
During October 7-17, Sitges celebrates its annual horror film festival. The parade of people dressed up as living dead, the Zombie Walk, will be organized on Saturday October 9.
Ajuntament de Sitges is committed to have Aigadolç classified as part of the town centre, which would mean that the 230 people who live there, would be able to stay on after their license on 50 years expires in 2018. The apartments here measure from 20 to 50 square meters.
Ajuntament de Sitges will grant the Swimming club Club Natació Sitges a credit of 4.5 million euros to ensure its survival.
While Castellers de Vilafranca won the Concurs de Castells, the other two teams from Penedès ended in the 10th and 12th place, respectively (out of 12 the teams which had qualified). Xicots de Vilafranca got 804 points for completing a 4de8 and 5de7 plus crowning a torre de 8. Nens del Vendrell did not succeed with their big challenge for the day, i.e. to build a torre de 8, but reached 722 points for completing 4de8, 5de7 and torre de 7.
The 29th edition of the cava week (Setmana del cava) offers the new concept AVE-Cava! To promote the drink, Madrid's mayor Alberto Ruiz Gallardón will propose a goodbye toast and his counterpart in Barcelona, Jordi Hereu, a welcome toast for some 400 Madrid based celebrities who will make a one-day visit to Penedès by the high speed train AVE.
The German supermarket group ALDI has opened a logistic centre in Masquefa (Anoia) from where it will serve 13 provinces in the North-Eastern part of Spain.
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This news summary covers the period from my last text of this series until Thursday September 23. If there are news which you think that I have missed, I ask you to leave a comment and, even better, include links. All news that I consider to fit into this context will be added as up-dates.
Find here an overview of the Catalan political parties and their equivalents on the Spanish level.
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BBCNews.com: Spain's government approves 2011 austerity budget
LaVanguardia.es: Las cuentas más austeras penalizan la inversión
Expansión.es: España da la espalda a los sindicatos
BBCNews.com: Moody's downgrades Spain's credit rating
LaVanguardia.es: Madrid y Barcelona, los destinos turísticos más populares
Concurs de Castells: Classificació 2010
Avui.ElPunt.cat: Els Castellers de Vilafranca guanyen el concurs de Tarragona
LaVanguardia.es: Maragall presenta 'Bicicleta, cullera, poma' en el Liceu
Avui.ElPunt.cat: Mor el poeta i pedagog Joan Triadú
MundoDeportivo.es: 1-1: Un Barça, con dos caras, empata ante el Mallorca en el Camp Nou
LaVanguardia.es: Guardiola: "Xavi no podía más"
LaVanguardia.es: Competición sanciona con un partido a Villa
Avui.ElPunt.cat: Barcelona és la 31a ciutat més cara del món
LaVanguardia.es: Barcelona limitará a 15 el número de estatuas humanas de la Rambla
LaVanguardia.es: De la Mercè al cielo
LaVanguardia.es: El Cirque du Soleil negocia instalarse de forma estable en Barcelona
Avui.ElPunt.cat: Barcelona, seu del mundial de natació del 2013
Vilanova i la Geltrú – Garraf - Penedès
Avui.ElPunt.cat: Vilanova centralitza el moviment obrer del Garraf
Avui.ElPunt.cat: Prohibeixen banyar-se a les platges de Ribes Roges i Adarró
Avui.ElPunt.cat: Sitges vol redefinir la línia de costa
Avui.ElPunt.cat: Un crèdit de 4,5 milions salvarà el Club Natació
El3deVuit.cat: L'AVE Cava! viatja de Madrid a Barcelona
AnoiaDiari.cat: Entra en funcionament el centre logístic d'Aldi a Masquefa