The coronavirus pandemic has put the politics of Catalan independence on hold.
Talks about transferring more power to the region, which Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez promised in return for the support of Catalonia’s Republican Left, were postponed when COVID-19 broke out in March and have yet to be rescheduled.
So do snap regional elections Catalan president Quim Torra called for in January.
Torra, whose center-right Together for Catalonia rules in a coalition with the Republican Left, was disappointed when the other separatists agreed to enforce a ruling by the electoral commission to strip him of his status as lawmaker.
The electoral commission found that Torra had violated rules on government neutrality by hanging a banner from his palace in Barcelona during the last election that demanded the release of nine prominent separatists who are in prison for leading a failed independence bid in 2017. Read more “COVID-19 Has Put Catalan Politics on Hold”
Tourism in Spain has come virtually to a standstill as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
For many residents of Barcelona, Spain’s top tourist destination, it is a relief.
The city welcomed 9.5 million tourists last year, up from under two million in the 1990s. That’s almost six times its population (1.6 million).
Most come during the summer, when I normally avoid the old medieval city and Barceloneta beach. (The beaches north of the Olympic Harbor, which were created for the 1992 Olympics, are usually less crowded but still busy.)
Now Barceloneta is actually nice. Cops constantly check to make sure sunbathers keep two meters distance, so crowding is impossible. The xiringuitos (tapas bars on the beach) have free tables. La Rambla, which is otherwise so packed it’s impossible to get through, is now pleasant for a stroll. Read more “Barcelona Without the Tourists”
Catalan president Quim Torra’s suspension as a parliamentarian has divided the Spanish region’s ruling separatists.
In a session of the regional parliament on Monday, Speaker Roger Torrent of the Republican Left warned Torra, who leads the center-right Together for Catalonia, that his vote would not be counted in accordance with a ruling by the Spanish electoral commission. The entire Together for Catalonia delegation then abstained from all parliamentary business in protest.
The electoral commission has ordered Torra to step down as lawmaker for violating regulations on political neutrality. During the last election, he refused to remove a banner from his government’s palace in Barcelona that called for the release of nine separatists who were imprisoned for leading a failed breakaway from Spain in 2017. Among them is the Republican Left party leader, Oriol Junqueras.
On the same day Europe’s highest court ruled in favor of the imprisoned former Catalan vice president and separatist leader Oriol Junqueras, who has been prevented by Spain from taking his seat in the European Parliament, the Catalan High Court banned the region’s president, Quim Torra, from public office for refusing to remove separatist symbols from government buildings during the most recent election campaign.
Torra is appealing the decision to the Supreme Court and will remain in office until it has ruled.
Junqueras remains in prison, but the European ruling gives hope to self-exiled Catalan politicians Toni Comín and Carles Puigdemont, who like him were elected to the European Parliament in May but haven’t been allowed by Spain to take their seats.
Since I moved to Barcelona and started writing about Catalan independence three years ago, I’ve worried that Spain’s refusal to engage with the movement would radicalize it and hollow out the middle in Catalan politics.
Maciej Szpunar, an advocate general at the European Court of Justice, has argued in favor of Catalan politicians who were elected to the European Parliament in May but have been prevented by the Spanish government from taking their seats.
Former regional president Carles Puigdemont and former regional health minister Toni Comín, both of the center-right Together for Catalonia party, have been living in self-imposed exile in Belgium since 2017 to avoid arrest for leading a failed independence bid that year.