Spain is known for its tapas and wines and is one of the largest wine producing countries in the world.
Official language: Spanish
Passport and visa: A Finnish citizen needs a passport or identity card as a travel document.
Time difference to Finland: -1
Agriculture and fishing
More than half of Spain’s area is agricultural land. In the southeast there are extensive crops of fruit (including mandarins, oranges and peaches) and vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, lettuce and more), which are mostly exported to Northern Europe. Spain is the world’s largest producer of olive oil and also belongs to the world’s leading wine producers, with Rioja as a leading wine district. They also breed livestock, mainly pigs, for meat exports.
- CountryAAH: Comprehensive import regulations of Spain. Covers import prohibitions and special documentation requirements for a list of prohibited items.
For several decades, Spanish agriculture has been modernized and the proportion of employed in the sector has fallen sharply. Nowadays, more and more migrant workers are hired from outside. Just over 4 percent of the total labor force was employed in agriculture in 2016, which contributed 2.6 percent to the country’s GDP in the same year.
With the exception of fruit and vegetable crops, which are dependent on irrigation, agriculture yields lower yields in Spain than in most other EU countries. The causes are nutrient-poor soil, extensive erosion (soil degradation) and too little rain inland and in the southeast. Agriculture also partially suffers from competition problems and overproduction and is highly dependent on government subsidies and EU subsidies. Thanks to these, Spain has a net income from agriculture. The agricultural products also contribute to the important food industry, which also provides an income surplus. About 80 percent of agricultural exports go to other EU countries. For Spain defense and foreign policy, please check relationshipsplus.
More than a third of the country’s area is covered by forest, which is largely owned by the state and municipality. Chopping, forest fires and soil destruction have tarnished the tree population. Nevertheless, forestry is increasing as a result of the EU-backed tree replanting in recent years.
Spain has the EU’s largest fishing fleet and the Spaniards are among the world’s largest fish consumers. Local fishing is concentrated in the Atlantic ports of Galicia in the north-west, where you mostly fish with small vessels. But just over two-thirds of the total catch is taken by large trawlers that stay outside the Spanish waters.
FACTS – AGRICULTURE
Agriculture’s share of GDP
2.6 percent (2018)
Percentage of land used for agriculture
52.6 percent (2016)
- Abbreviationfinder.org: Offers how the 3-letter acronym of ESP stands for the state of Spain in geography.
Spain exports military equipment to Venezuela, despite embargo
Spain will export parts of tanks to Venezuela, despite the arms embargo imposed by the EU against the South American country. It approves the Intergovernmental Council that controls Spanish arms exports. According to an article in El País, the deal must have been settled before the sanctions were introduced in November 2017, but the political decision was made after that.
A refugee boat with over 300 on board may enter the Spanish port
A ship carrying 311 migrants aboard the port of Crinavis, near Algeciras in the south, after being denied entry in Italy and Malta, and Libya, France and Tunisia opted not to respond to a request from the Spanish organization Proactiva Open Arms that migrants should get ashore there. However, a woman and her newborn child have been picked up by helicopter to Malta, and a 14-year-old girl has been taken care of in Italy. The 311 migrants, rescued off the Libyan coast on December 21, come from 19 different countries (including Somalia, Syria and Ivory Coast). 139 of them are minors. It is the first time since August 2018 that Spain has allowed a rescue vessel operated by a charity to anchor in the country. Later, the port authorities prevent the ship from leaving the port of Barcelona where it has gone to obtain new supplies. The decision is justified by the fact that the ship does not comply with several international rules regarding rescue operations at sea.
The Government proposes a new age limit for reporting child abuse
The Spanish government presents a bill that, among other things, allows a person who has been subjected to physical, mental or sexual abuse as a child, can report these crimes until the year they reach the age of 30. Today the limit is 18 years. According to children’s rights organizations, it often takes many years for a victim to be ready to report such crimes, which, under current legislation, makes it difficult to prosecute suspected offenders. The bill also includes crimes that occur online, among other things, to persuade someone to commit suicide, perform sexual abuse or encourage eating disorders.
Government meeting in Barcelona raises protests
At least 60 people, including 35 police officers, are injured and about 10 people arrested, protesting that the Spanish government is holding its weekly meeting in Barcelona. The aim is to reduce tensions between Madrid and Barcelona, but some Catalans see the meeting as a provocation, as it is held exactly one year after the regional elections announced by the then PP government. 40,000 people gather for peaceful protests against the Spanish government, while smaller groups throw stones at police and try to break through the police’s barricades. The grassroots organization The Committees for the Defense of the Republic (CDR) had, prior to the meeting, invited its supporters to park their cars to prevent traffic in Barcelona. That same evening, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and Catalonia’s regional president Quim Torra meet for deliberations.
Madrid is investing € 7 billion on new military equipment
The Spanish Social Government gives the go-ahead for the purchase of new military equipment at a cost of over € 7 billion. These include an order for five new frigates from the state-owned company Navantia. Just over EUR 2 billion will go towards the development and construction of new armored vehicles. In addition, the Spanish government has ordered 73 new combat plans from Eurofighter. Meanwhile in opposition, the PSOE criticized Spain’s rising defense costs. Now Minister of Defense Margarita Robles justifies the investment by creating more than 7,000 jobs over nine years in regions such as Galicia and Asturias where unemployment is high. According to the NATO military alliance, Spain put the equivalent of 0.93 percent of GDP on defense in 2018.
The Spanish government raises the tone for Catalonia
The Spanish government raises the tone against Catalan authorities. This has happened since the Catalan police, Mossos d’Esquadra, did not intervene against the roadblocks set up by the Grassroots Organization Committees for the Defense of the Republic (CDR) on a highway between the Mediterranean coast and France, or when they opened the barriers at a toll station and bypassed motorists who thus did not have to pay to drive on the highway. Unless Mossos intervenes, Madrid will assume responsibility for security in the region, the government writes. At the same time, Mossos has criticized the Catalan government for intervening against CDR activists who tried to prevent people from a right-wing organization from demonstrating. However, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is dependent on support from Catalan independence parties, not least when the budget is to be adopted in January, and therefore cannot go too hard on the Catalonia issue. At the same time, analysts believe that the Socialist Party’s decline in the Andalusian regional elections earlier this month is partly due to dissatisfaction with the government’s Catalonia policy.
The penalty in the La Manada case is fixed
The Navarra High Court sets the penalty for the five men sentenced last spring to nine years in prison for sexual abuse of a woman in Pamplona (see April 2018). The court disagrees, two out of five judges want to convict the men of rape which would have given a higher penalty. A lawyer representing four of the five men says they should appeal the verdict. This also applies to the lawyer representing the vulnerable woman. The case, called La Manada, has attracted considerable attention in Spain.
Setback for PSOE in Andalucia
The Socialist Party PSOE becomes the largest party in the regional elections in Andalusia with just over 28 percent of the vote, ahead of the Conservative People’s Party (PP) which gets just over 21 percent, Ciudadano’s almost 19 percent, Forward Andalusia just over 16 percent and the right-wing extremist Vox about 11 percent. The turnout is just under 59 percent. Although the PSOE becomes the largest party, it appears to lose government power in Andalusia for the first time in 36 years.
Imprisoned separatists initiate hunger strike
Two incarcerated Catalan Independents, Jordi Sánchez, former leader of the ANC grassroots organization and Jordi Turull, former Puigdemont government spokesman, launch a hunger strike to mark the Court of Appeal’s slow handling of their appeal, preventing them from moving their cases to Europe. In order to do so, they must have exhausted all possibilities of appeal at home. Later, two more incarcerated Catalan politicians, Josep Rull and Joaquim Forn, join. The four belong to the group of 18 Catalan political leaders who will face trial in early 2019 for unilaterally proclaiming Catalonia as independent (see October 2018). They risk imprisonment of up to 25 years. Nine of the 18 are in custody, some of them for over a year, without trial.
Spain is promised more influence over Gibraltar ether Brexit
Ahead of the EU summit last weekend in November, Prime Minister Sánchez is threatening to suspend the UK Brexit agreement unless Spain gains greater influence on issues related to Gibraltar. He thus succeeds in getting the British to agree that Spain should have a say in the team on the future of British territory. Spain has previously proposed to govern Gibraltar with the United Kingdom.
Court orders Catalan separatists to pay for “referendum” 2014
The Spanish Court of Auditors has ordered former Catalan leader Artur Mas to reimburse almost € 5 million, which was spent on paying the “referendum” or “consultation” held in Catalonia in 2014 (see November 2014). According to the court, Mas has overall responsibility for the repayment but nine others, including Joana Ortega, Irene Rigau and Francesc Homs must also contribute.
Arrested on suspicion of murder plan on Prime Minister Sánchez
Catalan police say they have arrested a 63-year-old man suspected of planning to kill Prime Minister Sánchez. The man, who works as a security guard for a private company, should be dissatisfied with the government’s plans to excavate the ex-dictator Franco’s remnants. In the man’s apartment in Barcelona you will find a variety of advanced weapons. He should have written about his plans in social media groups.
At least 17 dead when migrant boats capsize
At least 17 people are killed and 17 are then missing a boat with migrants capsized in the Gibraltar Sound, near Barbate in the province of Cádiz. 22 people, of whom 13 minors survive the accident. On the same day, 13 people were found dead in another boat near the Spanish exclave Melilla. It is unclear what caused their death. Even in this case, some of the boat’s passengers survive.
Legislation should prevent the relocation of Franco’s remains to the cathedral in Madrid
The Spanish social government is preparing a law amendment to prevent the former dictator Franco from being re-buried in a family burial in the Cathedral of La Almudena in Madrid, as his family wishes. Earlier this autumn, Congress decided that Franco’s remnants would be moved from El Valle de los Caidos (Valley of the Fallen) (see September 2018). According to data in El País, the PSOE plans to change the law so that the remains cannot be buried in a place that is accessible to the public. Several organizations representing the victims of the dictatorship have threatened street protests if Franco’s remnants are relocated to La Almudena.
Puigdemont forms a new party
Former Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont forms a new party, the National Call (Crida Nacional) from his exile in Belgium. The purpose of the new party is to continue to push for Catalonia’s independence. Puigdemont can be found via video link when the party is founded in the city of Manresa, in the central part of Catalonia. However, several of his former allies have not joined the new party.
Ready for trial against Catalan separatist leaders
The Supreme Court gives a clear sign that 18 Catalan political leaders, including ERC leader Oriol Junqueras, three former Catalan regional ministers, Joaquim Forn, Jordi Turull and Raül Romeva, will face trial for unilaterally proclaiming Catalonia as independent. The charges are “rebellion, embezzlement of public funds and disobedience”. The prosecutor’s office requires a prison sentence of between seven and 25 years in early November. The longest sentence, 25 years, for Junqueras, which is also prohibited from holding any political office for a 25-year term. Spain’s counterpart to the Chancellor of Justice, Abogacía del Estado, does not go as far, and wants to change the criminalization of the crime from rebellion to rioting, with a maximum penalty of twelve years for Junqueras and eleven years for the others. The trial is expected to start in early 2019 and last for at least three months. It is therefore unlikely that it will be completed before the regional elections in May 2019.Amnesty International has called on Spanish authorities to release two leaders of grassroots organizations, Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart, who have been incarcerated since October 2017, because such a length of detention is disproportionate to the crimes they are accused of.
200 migrants enter Melilla
One person dies and several are injured when about 300 migrants cross the fences of the Spanish exclave Melilla in North Africa. 208 migrants manage to enter Spanish territory, of which 55 are sent back to Morocco after a day (140 people seek political asylum, ten are cared for their injuries and three are minors). The Spanish government has promised to remove the barbed wire at the top of the six meter fences but has not yet done so. The deceased man is believed to have had a heart attack during his attempt to get over the fence. So far in 2018, almost 49,000 migrants and asylum seekers have made their way to Spain, but most of them have come by sea.
Britain and Spain agree on Gibraltar’s role after Brexit
Prime Minister Theresa May and her Spanish colleague Pedro Sánchez agree that they will be able to solve any possible problems between them regarding Gibraltar’s post-Brexit position. A special protocol to be added to the exit agreement should already be clear, and will not pose a problem in the ongoing Brexit negotiations. The two countries are also ending several bilateralGibraltar agreements on taxes, environmental cooperation, cigarette smuggling and the rights of those working in the UK, but they are not part of the Brexit settlement. However, some disputes remain, including around the airport in the territory, which the Spanish government wants Spain and Gibraltar to run jointly, which Gibraltar does not want. The Spanish Government must have given guarantees that it does not intend to take this opportunity to pursue the issue of Spain’s demands on Gibraltar, or to make the lives of those living in and around the territory more difficult.
The Socialist Government concludes budget agreement with Podemos
The Socialist Government and Podemos conclude an agreement on the content of a new budget, including several social initiatives, in particular an increase of the minimum wage of 22 percent to EUR 900 a month, as well as new investments in education and research and housing. The proposal also includes an increase in unemployment benefits. But in order for the budget to be approved in Congress, approval is also required from several smaller regional parties, including the Catalan separatist parties. Brussels is also said to have objections to the Spanish government’s intention to spend more money.
The crack in Catalan regional government is growing
The gap within the Catalan regional government is widening, as Together for Catalonia and the ERC have different strategies on how to deal with the six regional parliamentarians who have been suspended in court from parliamentary work. These are in detention or have gone into exile. The ERC has appointed alternates for its two members, while Together for Catalonia has rejected the court’s decision and insists that their members, including Carles Puigdemont, should be able to continue to participate in the work of the regional parliament. The ERC is now doing a joint thing with the opposition and voting to abolish the four Catalonia members together for their right to vote. It also means that the independence parties are in the minority in the House.
Regional elections in Andalucia in December
Andalusia’s head of government, Susana Díaz, of the Socialist Party (PSOE), announces regional elections until December 2, three months earlier than planned. She is considered to take this opportunity when the socialist government in Madrid has good opinion figures. If things are going well for the PSOE in Andalusia, it is likely that Spanish Prime Minister Sánchez will make the congressional elections too soon. In polls, 34 percent of voters support the PSOE in Andalucia, with Ciudadanos in second place, and PP as number three with 20 percent. But a corruption scandal in Andalusia, where the Socialist Party played a big role.
An increasingly pressured Torra puts the ultimatum to Sánchez
Catalan regional president Quim Torra puts an ultimatum to Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez. Unless, within a month, Sánchez makes a proposal for a legal referendum on Catalan independence, Torra’s party PDeCAT will withdraw its support for the Spanish social government, which in that case will lead to new elections as the Socialist Party has only 84 out of 350 seats in Congress. At the same time, Torra has faced increasingly harsh criticism from more independent Catalans. The grassroots organization The Committees for the Defense of the Republic (CDR) and the left-wing Cup demand that he not resign then for a sufficiently radical policy to advance the Catalan cause, while the Union parties feel that he, through his statements, prayed for the violence that erupted in connection with two demonstrations in Barcelona, September 24,
Separatists clash with the riot police in Catalonia
In several parts of Catalonia, independence is gathered to mark the one-year anniversary of the disputed referendum on Catalan independence. In Barcelona there are about 180,000 protesters. The protests are organized by the Catalan grassroots organization the Committees for the Defense of the Republic (CDR). In many places, CDR activists are temporarily blocking roads and railways. When a group of protesters try to get into the regional parliament, it leads to clashes between them and the police. Concerns also occur at the National Police Office in Barcelona. Some CDR leaders have previously demanded the Catalan regional president Quim Torra will resign, with reference to the fact that a few days earlier he had used Catalan police against CDR protesters, and for not doing more to protest against the Madrid government. Some protesters are now scanning “show disobedience or resign”.
Three euro millionaires in the Spanish government
The Spanish government publishes a list of the financial assets of ministers and former ministers. This is done as part of attempts to increase the transparency of politicians’ business in order to combat corruption. Three people, Foreign Minister Josep Borrell, Education Minister Isabel Celaa and the Minister of Science, astronaut Pedro Duque, top the list, with assets of more than € 1 million. Duque has, however, ended up in blustery weather after accusations that he did not pay taxes in connection with a house purchase in 2005. He denies that he has done anything wrong. Justice Minister Dolores Delgado has also been criticized for a lunch meeting in 2009 with a former police chief accused of bribery and other forms of corruption.
Belgium does not release the rapper Valtònyc
A Belgian court decides that rapper José Miguel Arenas, best known as Valtònyc, should not be extradited to Spain. Arenas fled there since the Supreme Court sentenced him in February to over three years in prison for defamation of the royal house, glorification of terrorism and threats posed in song lyrics (see also March 2018). It is not yet clear if the decision will be appealed.
Madrid changes foot in arms deals with Saudi Arabia
The Spanish Socialist Government changes its arms deal with Saudi Arabia and clears the sale of 400 laser-controlled robots, a deal concluded between Riyadh and the former Conservative government. Defense Minister Margarita Robles had just announced a few days ago that she would not lose because of the risk that they will be used by Saudi Arabia in Yemen (in May, 10 civilians were killed, including 22 schoolchildren in a Saudi bomb board in Yemen). Also in the balance is a contract where Saudi Arabia has ordered five warships from Spain, a deal worth EUR 1.8 billion for the Navanti shipyard in Cadiz. Spanish companies have also been awarded contracts to build a high-speed rail link between Mecca and Medina. Later, Prime Minister Sánchez defends the decision, which he believes is necessary to avoid conflict with the Gulf state. According to an article in El País, it turns out that the Spanish defense supplied the laser-guided robots from the army’s own reserves, and that these must now be replaced. The whole deal now appears to have been a political marker where the Rajoy government secretly wanted to support the Saudis in the conflict with Yemen. At that time, it was thought that the Saudi-led operation in Yemen would soon be over, but just over three years later the war is still ongoing and has demanded thousands of civilian casualties. Question marks are now being put around why the robots were not delivered even though the Saudis paid for them already in January 2015. and that these must now be replaced. The whole deal now appears to have been a political marker where the Rajoy government secretly wanted to support the Saudis in the conflict with Yemen. At that time, it was thought that the Saudi-led operation in Yemen would soon be over, but just over three years later the war is still ongoing and has demanded thousands of civilian casualties. Question marks are now being put around why the robots were not delivered even though the Saudis paid for them already in January 2015. and that these must now be replaced. The whole deal now appears to have been a political marker where the Rajoy government secretly wanted to support the Saudis in the conflict with Yemen. At that time, it was thought that the Saudi-led operation in Yemen would soon be over, but just over three years later the war is still ongoing and has demanded thousands of civilian casualties. Question marks are now being put around why the robots were not delivered even though the Saudis paid for them already in January 2015.
Clear sign of relocation of Franco’s remains
Congress approves the government’s decision to move former dictator Franco’s remnants from El Valle de los Caidos (Valley of the Fallen), a mausoleum about five miles north of Madrid. 172 members voted for the decision, two voted against and 164 members from PP and Ciudadanos abstained. The government suggests that the move, which Franco’s family opposes, will take place before the end of the year.
A demonstration of independence brings together a million people
About one million people gather in Barcelona to celebrate La Diada, Catalonia’s national day, and demand Catalan independence. The protesters also demand that the Catalan separatist leaders arrested after the 2017 referendum be released.
The government issues decrees to move Franco’s remnants
The Spanish government issues a decree to move former dictator Francisco Franco’s remnants from El Valle de los Caidos (Valley of the Fallen), a mausoleum about five miles north of Madrid. Franco’s relatives, including seven grandchildren, oppose a move. They are given two weeks to tell them where the remains are to be moved, if they do not, the government will have “a worthy place”. Also on the site are 37,000 soldiers who died during the civil war of 1936 – Buried in 1939. It is both soldiers who fought for the Franco side and those who fought for the Spanish Republic. Many of the latter were buried there without their relatives’ consent. The decree must also be approved by Congress, where it is supported by most of the parties. PP and Ciudadanos have said that they do not intend to give their support to the decree. The PP says that the party should turn to the Constitutional Court to have it examined whether the Socialist Government has the right to amend the legislation through a decree.
Amnesty criticizes expulsion of migrants from Ceuta
Spain sends 116 migrants back to Morocco. These had the day before forced the fence and entered the Spanish exclave Ceuta in North Africa. According to Spanish authorities, everyone should have been informed about the right to seek asylum, but none of them should have done so. This is criticized by Amnesty who believes that the process has gone too fast and that the people have not been given the individual process they are entitled to. At the end of July, about 600 migrants entered the exclave in the same way. Since then, Moroccan authorities have forced hundreds of migrants from northern Morocco to locations in the southern part of the country.
EU compromise on refugee boats
After a refugee boat is again refused to enter port in Italy (see also July 2018) it is received by Malta. After that, Prime Minister Sánchez, through negotiations, succeeds in getting several EU countries to share the responsibility for the 141 migrants / asylum seekers who are on board the boat and 100 others between them. Spain will receive 60 people, France 60 people, Germany 50 people, Portugal 30 people and Luxembourg 5 people.
Ready for a new migration center
The Spanish government decides to set up a new migration center to coordinate the reception of migrants / asylum seekers. Since the turn of the year, almost 24,000 people have traveled by sea to Spain. The increase has come after other countries, not least Italy, have started restrictive policies. Prime Minister Sánchez announces a new crisis plan, in which the government is investing EUR 30 million, to improve the reception of migrants / asylum seekers. Almost the same amount of money gets Spain from the EU to deal with the situation. According to media reports, people have been allowed to sleep under the open sky because there was no place on any repositories. Spain will also start talks with Morocco for action against refugee smugglers.
Puigdemont again in Belgium
Former Catalonia regional president Carles Puigdemont returns to Belgium and says he will continue the fight for independence (see July 19, 2018). Puigdemont appears in a press conference with his successor Quim Torra, who calls him Catalonia’s “legitimate president”.
The People’s Party elects a new leader
The People’s Party (PP) chooses arch-conservative Pablo Casado as new leader after Mariano Rajoy. Casado has taken a tough stance on the crisis in Catalonia, saying that it is not worthwhile to enter into a dialogue with the Independents. Assessors believe that the party through the election of Casado gets a clearer right profile. He wants, among other things, to introduce more restrictive abortion legislation and also pleads for new electoral laws that would give the party that wins an election extra mandate (similar to the system that exists in Greece) so as to reduce the risk of minority governments becoming dependent on small regional portions.
The arrest warrant against Puigdemont is withdrawn
Spain’s highest court revokes the arrest warrant against former Catalonia president Carles Puigdemont and five of his associates. All six are abroad. However, the charges against them remain and they are arrested if they return to Spain. Puigdemont is charged with, among other things, rebellion.
Puigdemont can be extradited from Germany
A German court has ruled that former Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont (who was arrested in Germany in March) can be extradited to Spain, but that he can only be tried for misappropriation of public funds and not for insurgency. A couple of days earlier, the Supreme Court of Spain has ordered Puigdemont and five other separatist leaders who have fled Spain to be deprived of their seats in the Catalan parliament. Thus, they can no longer participate in parliamentary work through agents.
The Socialist Government wants to appoint a Truth Commission
The Spanish Social Government announces plans to set up a Truth Commission to investigate the crimes committed during the Civil War of 1936 to 1939 and the subsequent dictatorship that continued until Franco’s death in 1975.
Sánchez meets Torres for dialogue
Prime Minister Sánchez meets with Catalan regional president Quim Torra for talks. It is the first time in two years that a Spanish Prime Minister will meet a Catalan leader. Both leaders promise to continue a dialogue to try to reduce tensions. They agree to resurrect the working commissions that previously served as instruments in the Madrid-Barcelona contacts, but were closed down by the conservative Spanish government.
Separatist leaders are moved to prisons in Catalonia
Six of the nine Catalan separatist leaders in custody following the referendum in Catalonia in the fall of 2017 will be moved from Madrid to prisons in their own region. It informs the Home Office. This includes former Vice President Oriol Junqueras, Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart the leader of two Catalan organizations working for independence. The government of Catalonia sees the nine as political prisoners, while the government of Madrid and the Supreme Court believe that they have broken the law. The message comes a week before a scheduled meeting between Prime Minister Sánchez and Catalan regional president Quim Torra.
Spain receives new refugee boat
59 people are rescued from the sea off the Libyan coast by Open Arms, a vessel belonging to a Spanish NGO. Both Malta and Italy refuse to accept the ship and the migrants and refugees that are on board, while Spain agrees that it may go into port in Barcelona. It was later reported that another 60 people were rescued from the Mediterranean Sea further west, near Gibraltar. Opinion polls indicate that most Spaniards are positive about the new government’s more generous refugee policy.
EU agreement on migration
The EU countries agree after lengthy negotiations on a compromise that will allow EU countries to form special reception centers for migrants coming via the Mediterranean. In addition, it is necessary to investigate whether similar centers can be formed outside the EU in North Africa. However, many issues are left unresolved after the EU meeting. It is unclear whether there are any EU countries willing to host reception centers. Several North African countries, including Morocco and Libya, have refused to allow such centers to be located on their territory. There is still disagreement among EU countries about how asylum seekers who are deemed to have asylum reasons should be distributed among Member States. The EU countries also agree on a payment of € 3 billion to help refugees in Turkey and to strengthen the EU Africa Fund. The new Spanish PSOE government has so far chosen a more generous line in migration policy than the previous Conservative government, and has received two rescue vessels that are not allowed to go into port in Italy and Malta. At the EU summit, Spain (and Greece) will also agree with the German government to repatriate asylum seekers who applied to Germany, but which were previously registered in Spain.
Spain’s population is growing for the second year in a row
Spain’s population is growing for the second year in a row, thanks to immigration, according to official statistics. From January 1, 2017 to January 1, 208, the number of inhabitants increased by over 132,000. As a result, Spain now has almost 46.7 million inhabitants. Most of the immigrants come from Venezuela, Colombia, Italy and Morocco. Fewer new immigrants than before come from Ecuador, Romania and the United Kingdom. At the same time, statistics showed that death rates in Spain were higher than birth rates. Between 2012 and 2015, the country had negative population growth.
“Franco’s remnants to be moved”
The new social government announces plans to move former dictator Franco’s remnants from El Valle de los Caidos (The Valley of the Fallen), a mausoleum northwest of Madrid, and instead create a place for reconciliation. The granite monument was erected between 1941 and 1959, and the work was carried out to some extent also by José Antonio Primo de Rivera, leader of the right-wing Falangist Party that supported Franco is buried in the same place.
The king’s brother-in-law begins to serve his prison sentence
King’s brother-in-law Iñaki Urdangarín arrives in Brieva prisons in Avila to serve his prison sentence of five years and ten months for tax evasion and embezzlement. Urdangarín appealed the original judgment to the Supreme Court the week before the sentence was reduced from six years to three months.
The Minister of Culture is leaving
Minister of Culture Maxim Huerta resigns after revealing that he, through a shell company, had tried to avoid paying taxes of over 200,000 euros between 2006 and 2008. In 2017, a court ordered the author and TV personality to pay 360,000 euros in tax, and the sum was considered be guilty, plus interest and fines.
Spain receives refugee boat
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez says that Spain is willing to receive the rescue vessel Aquarius with 629 people aboard to avoid “a humanitarian disaster”. Both Malta and Italy had previously denied the ship to add to ports in their countries. According to the SOS Méditerranée organization, the people on board had been picked up by Aquarius from smaller boats in six rescue operations off the coast of Libya. THE COUNCIL OF EUROPEwelcomed the Spanish government’s decision and stressed that states are obliged to assist people in need at sea. On board the ship are 123 unaccompanied children from Eritrea, Ghana, Nigeria and Sudan. Later, the Spanish government promises that everyone on board will receive free health care and have their asylum reasons tested. It is allowed to stay in the country for 45 days. The French government has also promised to assist the migrants.
Tens of thousands of Basques demand a referendum on independence
More than 175,000 people in the Basque Country form an over 20-mile human chain to demand a referendum on independence. The event has been organized by the group Gure Esku Dago (In our own hands). Opinion polls suggest that only 15 percent of the Basques want independence, but a majority of the population in the region believes they should have the right to vote on the matter.
Madrid raises financial restrictions on Catalonia
The new PSOE government announces that financial restrictions on Catalonia should be lifted and that the Catalan government can now make its payments without Madrid’s sign. The government’s spokesman for Education Minister Isabel Celaá says it is a step towards normalizing relations between the Spanish government and that of Catalonia. Prime Minister Sánchez also spoke with Catalan regional president Quim Torra on the phone.
Several women on heavy positions in the new PSOE government
New Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez appoints Carmen Calvo as new Deputy Prime Minister. She is also given the responsibility for gender equality, which seems to be a profile issue for the new government. Several other women are given important ministerial posts. Finance Minister becomes María Jesús Montero who was previously Minister of Finance in Andalusia, while Nadia Calviño, until now Head of Budget in the European Commission, is appointed Minister of Finance, Dolores Delgado, Prosecutor specializing in the Minister of Justice, Terrorist Minister Margarita Robles and Teresa Ribera. The post of Minister of the Interior goes to Fernando Grande Marlaska and party veteran and Catalan Josep Borrell as new Foreign Minister. It is considered to give a hint that the new government will also take a tough line against the aspirations of independence in Catalonia. The appointment of Borell immediately provokes criticism from Carles Puigdemont, former Catalan regional president. Eleven of the 17 ministers are women. Some of the ministers are members of the Socialist Party, others not.
Rajoy resigns as PP leader
Mariano Rajoy announces that he will step down as leader of the PP. He also announces that he intends to leave the top policy. He takes the opportunity to give a nod to the successor of the Socialist Party’s Pedro Sánchez by saying that Spain will now be led by someone who has never won a election. However, Rajoy remains on the post until a successor is appointed.
New regional government in Catalonia, Madrid’s direct government abolished
The new Catalan regional government under Quim Torra will formally take office. It is paving the way for the government of Catalonia to be taken over again by the regional government in Barcelona. However, criticism is directed at Torres for anti-Spanish writing six years earlier, both in an article and in several Twitter posts. Critics include Rajoy and his successor as Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez. Sánchez, who held a firm line against Catalan separatists in the fall of 2017, is now making statements in a more conciliatory direction and is instead talking about building bridges for the new Catalan regional government.
Rajoy loses distrust
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy loses a distrust vote in Congress. 180 members vote against Rajoy, while 169 support him. A member casts his vote. It is the Socialist Party (PSOE) that has announced the vote of no confidence and it will be PSOE leader Pedro Sánchez who will take over as prime minister for the time being (he is formally appointed head of government on June 2, he will then become the first Spanish prime minister to swear the oath without a Bible or a crucifix). Sánchez PSOE wins the vote with the help of votes from Unidos Podemos and several regional parties, while PP is supported by Ciudadanos. It is corruption judgments against several PP politicians in May that get the government on the case.
New Catalan government may break deadlock
Catalan regional president Quim Torra replaces several of his ministers, where the separatist politicians who are in custody or in exile are no longer present. His hope is that the Spanish government will now repeal Article 155 and return the rule of Catalonia to the regional government in Barcelona. Torra has been partially pressured to this by forces within his own separatist camp seeking to find a more reconcilable path.
500 migrants are rescued on the Mediterranean
In a few days, Spanish rescue authorities rescue over 500 people who are about to cross the Mediterranean from North Africa to Spain in 15 small boats. Three of the boats are in such bad condition that they sink immediately after the passengers have been put in safety. Almost 7,000 people have so far this year been rescued on the sea off the Spanish coast, according to IOM.
The PSOE issues a statement of no confidence in the government of Rajoy
The Socialist Party (PSOE) makes a declaration of mistrust against the Spanish government as a result of the judgments in the big corruption affair surrounding the PP. Podemos supports PSOE in this. Ciudadanos calls on Prime Minister Rajoy to announce new elections, otherwise the party will support the declaration of confidence. Opinion polls suggest that Ciudadanos could become Spain’s biggest party if elections are held now. In the surveys conducted in May, the party has a voter support of almost 30 percent, while PP, PSOE and Unidos Podemos are all just under 20 percent. One reason why Ciudadanos is doing so well is the party’s tough stance in the Catalonia crisis.
Long prison sentence in corruption scandal surrounding PP
24th of May
Several people with links to the PP government are sentenced to long prison sentences for corruption in what goes by the name of the Gürtel affair (gürtel is the German word for belt), reports the Spanish newspaper El País. The Special Court Audiencia Nacional sentenced Francisco Correa to 51 years in prison for his role in the deal in which a network collaborated with party representatives in PP governments from 1999 to 2006. PP’s former treasurer, former senator Luis Bárcenas is sentenced to 33 years in prison and EUR 44 million in fines for withholding more than 11 million in tax, money laundering between 2000 and 2009and for receiving over € 1 million in bribes from various businessmen in exchange for public contracts. Bárcenas has played an important role to the full extent of the scandal. In 2017, PP leader Rajoy became the first Spanish prime minister to testify in a criminal case, but he has not himself been charged with any crime (see July 2017). The court sentenced a further 27 people, most of them politicians or businessmen related to the PP, of 37 accused to prison for corruption crimes. PP is also ordered as a party to pay just over EUR 245,000 in fines.
The Spanish state budget is finally approved
Congress finally approves the government’s budget for 2018, with 177 votes in favor and 168 against. It is done with the help of Ciudadanos, Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) and other regional parties. For a long time it was unclear whether PNV’s five members would give their support because of the ongoing crisis in Catalonia, especially as the Madrid government retains control of the region. PNV had previously demanded that Madrid repeal Article 155 for the party to approve the budget. Now the Senate also needs approval, but PP has its own majority there. The budget includes, among other things, higher pensions, promises to create new jobs and investments in new infrastructure in the Basque Country worth half a billion euros. According to the government’s forecast, the Spanish economy will grow by 2.7 percent in 2018. Some criticism included that healthcare spending decreased in relation to GDP.
Iglesias wins poll among Podemo’s grass roots
Podemo’s leader Pablo Iglesias ends up in blustery weather after announcing he has taken out a loan of over half a million euros to buy a luxury home in Galapagar north of Madrid. He is accused of hypocrisy when he previously criticized such extravagances and made a big deal that he understands how people who are struggling with the economy are doing. However, Iglesias and his partner Irene Montero, who is Podemo’s parliamentary spokesman, win the vote they have announced among the party’s grass roots on whether or not to stay on their posts. Just over 68 percent of the 190,000 who vote for Iglesias and Montero to retain their positions
Judges and prosecutors on strike for increased independence and better working conditions
Spanish judges and prosecutors shut down the work for a day to demand both greater independence and better working conditions. Seven organizations that bring together these professions say in a joint statement that they object to how the judiciary has been neglected.
Madrid retains control of Catalonia
Despite the fact that Catalonia has now elected a new regional president, Quim Torra, the Madrid government does not appear to be on its way to hand back control of the region to a Catalan government. Torra’s decision to include four former ministers, two of whom are detained in detention and two are in exile in Belgium, on his list of members of the new cabinet is seen by Madrid as a “provocation”. The Spanish government refuses to give Torra’s cabinet legitimacy by not publishing the names of a government bulletin, Diario Oficial de la Generalitat de Cataluña, which means the new Catalan government cannot take office.
Belgian court does not extradite Catalan politicians
A Belgian court does not accept the Spanish government’s request to extradite three former Catalan ministers located in the country. It refers to the vagueness of the request and the errors in it.
Quim Torra is elected new Catalan regional president
Quim Torra is elected new regional president of Catalonia. 66 of the members of the regional parliament voted for him and 65 against and four abstained. In the May 12 vote, an absolute majority was required, while in the second vote a simple majority was sufficient. His victory is expected the radical left-wing Cup already the day before promised to abstain. Torra has previously worked for the insurance company Winterthur, operated a book publishing company and has only been politically active for a few months. He is seen as a hard-line Republican. Upon taking office, he promises to continue working for an independent Catalan republic, but also makes some more conciliatory statements. The day after, Prime Minister Rajoy scheduled meetings with the opposition leader Pedro Sánchez. Later in the week, he also scheduled a meeting with Ciudadano’s leader Albert Rivera.
Quim Torra loses vote to become new Catalan regional president
A new and unsuccessful attempt is made to appoint a new regional president in Catalonia. This time the candidate is named Quim Torra, who was hand-picked as a candidate by former regional leader Carles Puigdemont. Torra needs 68 votes to win but only gets 66.
ERC says no to Puigdemont’s candidacy
Together for Catalonia (Junts per Catalunya) makes a new attempt to launch Carles Puigdemont as a candidate for the post of new regional president in Catalonia, but this falls in opposition to the leftist ERC. Representatives of the ERC, according to reports in El País, want to avoid both new elections and breaking the legislation. Their main goal now is to regain control of the region from Madrid. If you do not succeed in appointing a new regional president by May 22, you cannot avoid new elections. The week before, despite the opposition’s strong opposition from the opposition, the separatist parties voted for a law change that would allow Puigdemont to be elected. The ERC now claims that the change in law is likely to be annulled by the Constitutional Court, which will also happen on May 9.
The Separation Movement ETA has been dissolved
The Basque separatist movement ETA announces that the organization has now completely dissolved. This is done via a letter, dated April 16, to several Spanish organizations that are also published in the online newspaper El Diario Norte. The letter also states that the “conflict” between the Basque Country and Spain and France is not over. “The conflict did not start with ETA and will not end when ETA’s journey ends.” Spain’s Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido says it will continue to investigate unsolved crimes for which ETA is suspected.
Protests against the La Manada case
26th of April
Five men are sentenced to nine years in prison for sexual abuse of a young woman during a festival in Pamplona 2016. The three judges do not agree, one of them wants to acquit the men completely. The ruling triggers protests that gather tens of thousands of people in several Spanish cities against the men not being convicted of rape, which the prosecutor has demanded (and which had given the men up to 22 years in prison). At the same time, campaigns for the defense of women in social media are under the heading #jagtrorhenne. The case, called La Manada, has attracted considerable attention in Spain. Later, a statement by Justice Minister Rafael Catalá raises one of the judges’ competence’s sharp criticism from organizations representing judges and prosecutors who believe that it is wrong for Catalá to rule on a case. They demand that he resign.
Madrid’s Prime Minister resigns, setback for PP
Cristina Cifuentes, Prime Minister of the Madrid region, is leaving after surveillance photos from 2011 show that she has been caught with a mockery. Cifuentes, who belongs to the ruling party PP, was previously questioned because of allegations that she lied that she had taken a master’s degree at a University of Madrid.
ETA apologizes for acts of violence
The Basque separatist movement ETA apologizes for the suffering it caused during its campaign for an independent Basque country. From 1960 until 2011, when ETA announced a ceasefire, around 800 people, politicians, police and ordinary citizens were killed. Representatives of ETA emphasize that the victims bear no blame for what has happened and that they realize that they have caused people great pain that cannot be repaired. It also appears that ETA will be dissolved as an organization in May. A peace conference is scheduled to be held in the town of Cambo-les-Bains in southwestern France on May 4 and 5. At the end of April, ETA hands over a wealth of weapons and ammunition as a confidence-building gesture.
The Supreme Court affirms terrorist judgments against ETA members
The Supreme Court dismisses the appeal that two ETA members, Liher Aretxabaleta Rodriguez and Alaitz Aramendi Jaunarena, filed against the Special Court Audiencia Nacional’s judgment against them. The Special Court had sentenced the men to a total of 535 years in prison for terrorist offenses. Aramendi is currently serving an 18-year prison sentence in France, and Aretxabaleta was extradited from France to Spain in 2011.
Catalans demand that prison leaders be released
More than 300,000 Catalans demonstrate in Barcelona, demanding the release of imprisoned Catalan leaders. Camil Ros, the leader of the Catalan union UGT, says that the majority of Catalans, regardless of opinion on the issue of independence, feel that it is not right to imprison them before trials have been held against them.
Prosecutions against Catalan activists are mitigated
The charges against Tamara Carrasco that were arrested earlier in April (see below) are mitigated by the judge of the Special Court Audiencia Nacional, and are now referred to as violations of public order and not rebellion and terrorism that was prosecutor-side crime. The crime can be punishable by imprisonment for between six months and three years. She is released but must report regularly to the court. Tamara Carrasco belongs to the Catalan grassroots organization Committees for the Defense of the Republic (CDR).
Election of Catalan regional president postponed
A new attempt to elect a new Catalan regional president is halted when the proposed candidate Jordi Sànchez, former leader of the ANC, was not allowed to attend the regional parliament session. Judge Pablo Llarena rejected Sànchez’s request that he be temporarily released or allowed to participate via video link.
Long punishment for terrorist plans
The Special Court Audiencia Nacional sentenced ten members of an Islamist terror cell to prison for between eight and twelve years for planning terrorist acts in Barcelona. The men who were arrested in 2015 are between 22 and 48 years and were not previously convicted of any crimes.
Woman arrested on terrorism charges
Tamara Carrasco, en woman belonging to the Catalan grassroots organization The Committees for the Defense of the Republic (CDR) are arrested and charged with “rebellion” and “terrorism”. The woman is accused of recording and distributing a sound recording in which she calls on supporters of vandalism during Easter week. During that period, activists erected blockades on several of the largest roads in Catalonia. At the same time, activists tried to occupy the offices of government representatives, which led to violent clashes between them and the police. The court is also looking for a man who has not yet been arrested. The investigation is handled by the Audiencia Nacional Special Court. CDR was formed in 2017 ahead of the referendum on Catalan independence on October 1, and there are today about 300 committees in Catalonia.
Crisis for PP
The problems are hoped for by the Spanish government party PP and overshadow the party conference which will be a starting point for the regional and municipal elections to be held later in the year. It’s not just about voter support increasing for PP’s bourgeois competitor Ciudadanos. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy receives criticism for how he has handled the crisis in Catalonia. The Madrid government has also failed to get Congress to approve the Spanish budget. Furthermore, Cristina Cifuentes, the head of the Madrid region, is accused of having obtained his master’s degree on false grounds. She has so far refused to resign, but the question is whether she can remain there as it seems Ciudadanos is withdrawing her support.
German court releases Puigdemont against bail
The Schleswig-Holstein court has released former Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont on a bail of € 75,000 pending a possible extradition to Spain. Puigdemont must stay in Germany pending its decision. The German court will only decide on the crime “corruption” in connection with the referendum in Catalonia and not “rioting” for which Puigdemont was also prosecuted in Spain, since this crime classification is not in German law. The Court argues that it cannot examine whether Puigdemont has been guilty of high treason, citing that under German law, an element of violence or threats of violence had been required. On the same day, three other former Catalan ministers, Meritxell Serret, Antoni Comin, Lluis Puig, are also released against the bail of a Belgian court. Josep Lluis Trapero, former chief of the Catalan police force Mossos d’Esquadra. Judge Carmen Lamela says there is evidence that he belongs to a “criminal organization” that tried to break Catalonia out of Spain. Two other police officers and an employee of the Catalan Ministry of the Interior are also prosecuted.
Spain expels Russian diplomats
Spain expels two Russian diplomats as a result of a nerve poisoning attack on a Russian former spy and his daughter in the UK in early March. It is taking place in concerted action with some 20 countries, mainly in the EU, in solidarity with the British government accusing Russia of being behind the attack. In total, over 100 Russian diplomats are expelled, 60 of whom are from the United States. Moscow denies all involvement in the poison attack and threatens with countermeasures. At the end of March, Russia responds with the expulsion of two Spanish diplomats.
Puigdemont is arrested in Germany
Former Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont is arrested in Germany, traveling from Finland to Belgium. This leads to widespread protests in Catalonia, where about 90 people are injured. However, none of them sustained any serious injuries. According to media reports, Puigdemont intended to surrender to Belgian authorities upon his return to Belgium. However, the arrest could pose new problems for the Spanish government. According to a source in the newspaper El Mundo, the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) is considering not participating in negotiations with the PP on the Spanish budget. PNV President Andoni Ortuzar expresses his support for Puigdemont via facebook and calls for the imprisoned Catalan leaders to be released. Iñigo Urkullu, The Basque region president, expresses concern over the situation and criticizes how law and politics are mixed together. A former Catalan minister, Clara Ponsati, who is also wanted internationally, is in Scotland, reports to Edinburgh police a few days later. She opposes an extradition to Spain. Two police officers from the Catalan police force Mossos d’Esquadra, as well as a history professor who was in the same car as Puigdemont in Germany, are arrested in late March by Spanish police when they return to Spain.
Prosecution should be brought against 25 Catalan politicians
Spanish judge Pablo Llarena decides that charges will be brought against 25 Catalan politicians. For 13 of them, the prosecution concerns rebellion, which can result in up to 25 years in prison, while the others await, among other things, charges of embezzlement and disobedience to the state. As a result, another five Catalan politicians are arrested and denied bail, among them Jordi Turull, who the day before failed to be elected Catalan regional president, the former Catalan parliament president and three former ministers of the former regional government. However, ERC Secretary-General Marta Rovira chooses not to appear in court, but to travel to Switzerland. This means that nine Catalan politicians are now in custody. Pablo Llarena also reactivated the international arrest warrants previously issued for Carles Puigdemont and four other former members of the former regional government. Thousands of people gather in Barcelona, Vic and Tarragona to protest the arrests.
Jordi Turull new candidate for Catalan regional president
A third candidate for regional president in Catalonia is launched: Jordi Turull, former spokesman for the Puigdemont government. However, it is uncertain if he can be elected, as he also risks prosecution for, among other things, insurgency. He was arrested in the fall of 2017, but was later released on bail. But Turull does not succeed in being selected, because of opposition from the left-wing Cup. 64 members voted for him, and 65 against. The vote was premeditated because Turull and some 20 other Catalan politicians were ordered to appear in the Supreme Court on March 23, when a formal prosecution will be brought against them.
Protesters demand higher pensions
Tens of thousands of Spaniards demonstrate in many parts of Spain to demand higher pensions. Spanish pensions are calculated at 0.25 percent per year, which is significantly lower than inflation of just over 1 percent. The dissatisfaction among the pensioners is a cause for concern for the PP government, which has its strongest support among older voters. At the same time, the country’s largest trade union Comisiones Obreras (CCOO) is criticizing the government for trying to get more people to obtain private pension insurance at the same time as the state system is being eroded.
Amnesty criticizes law: “threat to freedom of speech”
the 13th of March
Spain is criticized by Amnesty Internationalin a new report. The Human Rights Organization argues that a law clause (578) prohibiting “glorification of terrorism” and “humiliation of the victims of terrorism” restricts freedom of expression in the country with reference to national security. Anyone who violates the law can be sentenced to fines and imprisonment and denied employment in the public sector. The law clause was further tightened after the terrorist attacks in Paris 2015. The number of people charged with crimes against section 578 has increased rapidly since 2016. Around 70 people have been convicted of such crimes over the past two years, compared with a convicting sentence in 2011. In most of the cases, these are texts relating to domestic groups such as the Basque separatist group ETA and the left group Grapo. A rapper, Pablo Rivadulla, with the artist name Pablo Hásel, was sentenced in early March to fines and imprisonment for two years and a day for opinions he expressed on twitter and in a song text posted on youtube. In February, the Supreme Court upheld a prison sentence of more than three years against another rapper, José Miguel Arenas, best known as Valtònyc, for defamation of the royal house, glorification of terrorism and threats posed in song lyrics. However, the Supreme Court acquitted a woman who was sentenced in a lower court for a twitter message that was about ETA’s murder of a Spanish prime minister in the 1970s. glorification of terrorism and of threats expressed in song lyrics. However, the Supreme Court acquitted a woman who was sentenced in a lower court for a twitter message that was about ETA’s murder of a Spanish prime minister in the 1970s. glorification of terrorism and of threats expressed in song lyrics. However, the Supreme Court acquitted a woman who was sentenced in a lower court for a twitter message that was about ETA’s murder of a Spanish prime minister in the 1970s.
Vote on new Catalan regional president postponed
the 12th of March
The Catalan Parliament is suspending a planned vote on a new regional president. It is since the Supreme Court ruled that the proposed candidate Jordi Sànchez may not leave prison to take part in the vote. The process of appointing a new regional president is postponed until further notice.
Strike on Women’s Day
More than 5 million women, according to the trade union movement, take part in a 24-hour strike on International Women’s Day, to draw attention to the lack of gender equality. Striking campaigns, among other things, cause around 300 trains to stand still and the Madrid subway is also affected. Ten unions have announced the strike, which will be supported by several leading female politicians. Feminist groups have urged women not to waste any money and not to do housework. According to EU statistics, public-sector women in Spain earn 13 percent less than men, and private employees 19 percent less.
Puigdemont withdraws from attempts to be re-elected as Catalan regional president
Carles Puigdemont announces that he does not intend to seek re-election as regional president of Catalonia. He justifies this, as he is today, he would not have the opportunity to create a new regional government. Instead, he has proposed Roger Torrent, President of the Regional Parliament, to propose Jordi Sànchez, leader of the ANC organization, as new regional president. This is despite the fact that Sànchez is in custody and despite strengthening the crack at the ERC, the other major party on the independence side, that wants its leader, Oriol Junqueras, who is also in custody pending trial.
Support for independent Catalonia is falling, according to a survey
Support for Catalan independence is the lowest since 2014, according to a survey by the Catalan Center of Opinion Studies (CEO). Nearly 41 percent of those surveyed say they want an independent state, while just over 50 percent oppose this. In a similar opinion poll in October, nearly 49 percent of those polled asked for independence, while nearly 44 percent opposed this. At the same time, Catalan police are reported to have arrested 14 people who chained themselves outside a Barcelona court to protest against Spanish “oppression”.
ETA about to be dissolved?
The leaders of the Basque separatist movement ETA are planning a vote among their members on whether to disband the organization fully this summer. This happens after a multi-month debate. ETA dropped its weapons in 2011, following a 43-year-long campaign for an independent Basque country, which claimed over 800 lives. The majority of ETA members (more than 300 people) are in prison.
Several Catalan politicians are heard by the Supreme Court
Marta Rovira from the left party ERC, and Marta Pascal, from PDeCAT, are heard by the Supreme Court about the role they played in the process that led to Catalonia’s declaration of independence last fall. Rovira admits before the court that she has participated in meetings where the referendum on independence was planned and where decisions were made before the declaration of independence. Rovira and Pascal portray it all as a political manifestation without legal repercussions. Pascal is released for the time being, but does not have to pay any bail, while Rovira has to pay 60,000 euros with reference to the risk of her relapse. Anna Gabriel, from the small independent CUP far out on the left, who would also be heard during the week, announces from Switzerland that she does not intend to appear in court, but reference to the fact that she does not believe she will receive a fair trial. Later, the Supreme Court issues an arrest warrant for Gabriel, but it only applies in Spain.
“Annoying problems around Gibraltar must be solved”
Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis promises that daily life in Gibraltar will not change after Britain’s exit from the EU, but he also points out that some “minor and annoying” problems must be solved, including what will happen to Gibraltar airport which is located on land that Spain did not hand over to the British in 1713, and Spanish claims for tax information.
At the same time, Dastis expresses concern over security at the country’s southern border, at a time when he fears members of the Islamic State (IS) terrorist movement are seeking refuge in Libya and the Sahel countries. As a result, Spain has strengthened its presence in Mali, where 292 Spanish soldiers (against 140 previously) train the Malian military as part of the European peacekeeping force there.
Voting for regional president is postponed in Catalonia
30th of January
Roger Torrent, President of the Catalan Parliament, postponed the session in which the House would have voted on who would become the new regional president. It happens after the Supreme Court’s decision that Carles Puigdemont must be present in Barcelona in order to be elected, as well as having a judge’s permission to stand. The message exposes cracks in the independence camp between ERC on the one hand and Puigdemont’s Junts per Catalunya and CUP on the other.
Court: Puigdemont can only be elected on the spot
If Carles Puigdemont is to be eligible for Catalonia’s regional president, he must himself attend the regional parliament when the vote is taken. This is stated by the Constitutional Court of Spain in a preliminary decision. This means that Puigdemont cannot participate in a parliamentary session via video link. According to the court, no other person can also appear in his place. If Puigdemont returns to Catalonia, he is likely to be arrested and at risk of being sentenced to a long prison sentence. The Constitutional Court also says that those members of the regional parliament who defy the verdict will be prosecuted for it. According to sources quoted by the Financial Times, discussions are under way to replace Puigdemont, which, however, encounters opposition within his party. Unless a new regional president is in place within two months, new elections will be announced.
Spain’s ambassador is forced to leave Venezuela
Since the EU countries have imposed sanctions on seven high-ranking Venezuelans, Venezuela calls its ambassador from Madrid, declaring that Spain’s ambassador to Caracas is “persona non grata” and thus must not remain the country.
Catalan President: Puigdemont sole candidate for the post of regional president
Roger Torrent, President of the Catalan Parliament, says that, after talks with the political parties, he has only one candidate for the post of regional president of Catalonia: Carles Puigdemont. Torrent claims to have contacted Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy for talks on the situation in the Catalan Parliament. At the same time, Puigdemont leaves Brussels and travels to Denmark, and Spanish prosecutors request that the Supreme Court issue a new international arrest warrant for the Catalan politician. However, the Supreme Court decides to wait for such.
The ERC wins the Catalan parliament’s presidential election
The new Catalan regional parliament meets for the first time since the December elections. Roger Torrent from the ERC separatist party is elected new president. However, it takes two rounds of elections to get there, since neither Torrent nor his main competitor José María Espejo Saavedra from Ciudadanos gets enough votes to win already in the first round. The election of a new regional president is expected to be even more complicated, but that vote will be delayed until the end of January.
CDC politicians are convicted of bribery
A Catalan court convicts CDC for bribery. According to the court, the € 6.6 million that CDC, which PDeCAT was named until 2016, received from the company Ferrovial from 1999 to 2009 is to be considered bribery. The company should have donated the money in exchange for Ferrovial receiving several large public assignments. A sum must have been paid to the Palau de la Música Foundation, which after taking its part, transferred the rest of the money to the CDC. The party is now ordered to repay the entire sum. Twelve people are sentenced to prison. These include CDC’s former treasurer, Daniel Osàcar, sentenced to four years and five months in prison for, among other things, money laundering and the foundation’s chairman, Fèlix Millet, and his closest husband, Jordi Montull, who are sentenced to nine years and eight months, respectively seven years and six months for embezzlement.
Rajoy: Madrid retains power if Puigdemont is re-elected from exile
The Spanish government says that if Carles Puigdemont is re-elected as Catalan regional president and tries to exercise his office from Brussels, Madrid will retain control of Catalonia. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy emphasizes that Puigdemont must be present in Barcelona in order to be elected. A representative of the ERC says that they are now investigating the possibility of legally choosing the PDeCAT leader.
Migration problems in focus for EU countries in the south
Leaders of seven EU countries in southern Europe (except Spain, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta and Portugal) gather for a summit in Rome. There, they make a joint statement expressing their support for the EU’s common migration policy. They have agreed that the EU needs to strengthen its external border guarding, fight human smuggling and do more to address problems in migrants’ home countries. They call on all EU countries to do more to help those countries receiving the most asylum seekers / migrants.
Separatist parties want Puigdemont as regional president
The Alliance Together for Catalonia and the ERC presented Carles Puigdemont as its candidate for regional president in Catalonia, despite being in self-elected exile in Belgium. Inés Arrimadas, the leader of Ciudadanos in Catalonia, who became the biggest party in the regional elections in December 2017, rejects the idea that Puigdemont will be able to control the region from Brussels.
Mas resigns as leader of PDeCat
Catalonia’s former regional president Artur Mas resigns as leader of PDeCat. A Catalan court ruled in March 2017 that Mas would not be allowed to hold any public office for a two-year term.
“Comeback” for Juan Carlos on his 80th birthday
Former King Juan Carlos’s 80th birthday is celebrated in the Royal Palace in Madrid. For the first time in several months, King Felipe VI appears in a public context with his father. Several observers interpret it as a way to show agreement in a time of political crisis.
Ciudadanos appears in opinion polls
An opinion poll indicates that new winds are blowing in Spanish politics. According to figures from Sociométrica, Ciudadanos would win 54 new seats if elections were held now, while the ruling PP would lose 40 seats. The survey indicates that the PP, Ciudadanos and the Socialist Party (PSOE) are equally strong in terms of the proportion of votes, with 24.1 percent and 23.9 percent and 22.5 percent respectively. However, Podemos backs, and only gets support from just under 17 percent of those surveyed. Also in another opinion poll, conducted by Celeste-Tel, Ciudadanos and PSOE are progressing, but not as much in, but in Sociométricas. Here, PP is still by far the largest party supported by almost 30 percent of respondents, before PSOE of just over 25 percent, Ciudadanos of nearly 19 percent and Podemos of just under 17 percent.
Junqueras remains in custody
The Supreme Court rejects ERC leader Oriol Junquera’s request to leave the detention so that he can take his place in the regional parliament on January 17. The three judges reject his request, citing that the criminal investigation into his role in the Catalan independence movement is still ongoing and that there is a great risk that Junqueras, if released, will return to crime.
Unemployment is falling, but getting new full-time jobs
In 2017, unemployment fell to just over 16 percent, according to new figures from the Ministry of Labor. This means that 3.4 million people were unemployed, almost 300,000 fewer than the year before. However, representatives of the union union UGT say that the consequences of the economic crisis are still noticeable to many Spaniards, and that more and more people are only getting temporary employment, often part-time.
High economic price for Catalonia’s independence aspirations
The political crisis in Catalonia has cost the region € 1 billion. This is stated by Spanish Finance Minister Luis de Guindos. It is the highest number ever entered so far. According to de Guindos, economic growth in Catalonia has fallen from 0.9 percent to 0.4 percent during the fourth quarter of the year.