The subject for today is the way Article 155 is meant to take control of Catalonia, its economy and its guiding institutions, including the media. What problems will there be implementing 155?
Today’s El Pais reports that businesses in Barcelona have been suffering huge losses since the separatist crisis began, with as much as a 30% downturn in business. For example, the Liceo theatre alone has lost 400,000 Euros in ticket sales in the two months from the beginning of September. Situated in la Rambla right where the terrorist attack took place in August, the Liceo suffered a few days of losses after the attack, then sales of tickets returned to normal. In contrast, the separatist fiasco has demolished its business.
Even the takings in the nearby traditional flower stalls in la Rambla are 30% down, and this is typical of businesses across Barcelona and the wider Catalan region. The uncertainty that has seen a thousand businesses leave Catalonia for other parts of Spain has been reflected in drastic cuts in consumer spending. And when we see the businesses still planning on leaving, it looks potentially catastrophic, as shown by the news that the SEAT car maker, one of the biggest employers in Barcelona is now considering a move to another location in Spain.
I now turn my attention to the way that Article 155 will be implemented and what is likely to happen when the Spanish government physically takes control of the autonomous institutions at the end of this week, particularly TV3 and the other Catalan media.
“If the (Spanish) government persists with the application of 155, people will come out onto the streets and peaceful defend the legitimate (Catalan) government and autonomy.” These words from Joan Tardá (see La Vanguardia report) the spokesman of the ERC the Catalan left party in Congress show the way that the independentists will play their hand. Without legitimacy they will turn it into a physical battle on the streets. A Spanish think tank, the Instituto Elcano suggests a possible “Maidán catalán” after the street battles that ocurred in Kiev four years ago.
Update 13.30 Wednesday 25/10/17
Implementing Article 155 if going to be almost as practically impossible as was the inept plan for Catalan independence. Both schemes are fraught with serious risk and in some areas resemble one of the “cunning plans” of Private Baldrick in Blackadder. (Apologies to Spanish readers for an obscure comic reference.) The next big question after Catalan president Carles Puigdemont is dismissed – at the end of this week or the beginning of next week – is how the Catalan media will respond to orders from functionaries sent from Madrid. This particularly focuses on the workers at TV3 who have already responded to the idea by having a meeting and defiantly rejecting control of the television station during the 155 operation.
They have sent out a clear signal en masse that they do not recognise any authority imposed by Madrid. See El Confidential 23/10/17
Nearly all the Spanish press has been clear on the role of TV3, the main Catalan television service: it is virtually an agitprop arm of the nationalist independence movement, but using public money (including taxes paid by non-nationalist Catalans and Spanish taxpayers) for secessionist propaganda. Shutting it down is not an option but changing its management is certainly part of the interpretation of Article 155 that the Madrid government proposes.
Update 14.15 Wednesday 25/10/17
I will continue my exploration o f the TV3 problem shortly. Meanwhile, breaking news regarding the early part of this blog post, on the economy: Luis de Guindos, the Minister of the Economy (effectively the equivalent of the British Chancellor), has made a statement that the Catalan PIB will collapse by 30% after a putative independence. Not only that, but the Spanish economy will suffer too, after three years of hard-won recuperation. I shall also add myself that the Spanish people have suffered in this period through cuts to services and also high unemployment. Now that the economy is clearly picking up in Spain, the prospect of a downturn due to the stupidity of the Catalan nationalist disaster. It is unsurprising that Spanish flags are now flying from private houses in protest: people have had enough of an unnecessary political and financial crisis and want the Madrid government to solve it quickly.
Tomorrow: Thursday 26 October may go down as a serious date in modern Spanish history. The Senate meets in Madrid to debate the use of Article 155. The Catalan Parlament meets at 10.00 (UPDATE… Changed to 17.00) to discuss their opposition to it; and possibly lea into a declaration of independence. It is all highly choreographed political brinkmanship that the Spanish always did so well in the days of the Second Republic in the 1930s. And we know where that led. In the 21st century some have not learned their history and are condemned to repeat the mistakes.
Next live blogpost on Catalonia tomorrow Thursday 26/10/17
I attended a book launch in Benidorm Town Hall this evening: my friend, the historian Don Francisco Amillo Alegre was presenting his book on Benidorm during the Republic and the Civil War.
Good audience: the auditorium in Benidorm town hall was packed. As I walked through the teeming streets of Benidorm after the event I was amazed at the number of people still out at ten o’clock at night in October, eating ice cream and sitting outside in T-shirts. Oblivious to the history of Benidorm and probably unaware that Spain is in a political crisis as great as 1936.
Oh well who’s for a beer, a tapa and some history?
22.00 Next update on Catalonia will be tomorrow morning as I have packed too much into my schedule today and I must prepare Geography lessons for tomorrow (!)