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Catalonia: Hardliners vote to quit divided Catalan separatist government

Catalonia found itself plunged into political uncertainty Friday after the hardline JxCat party decided to pull out of the separatist coalition running the wealthy northeastern region of Spain.

Catalonia: Hardliners vote to quit divided Catalan separatist government
Catalan regional president Pere Aragonès talks to the press in front of the Palacio de las Cortes congress in Madrid on April 21, 2022. (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO / AFP)

The decision to abandon the regional government came after a vote by party activists in which some 55 percent said they wanted to leave, compared with 42 percent who wanted to stay.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, speaking on the sidelines of an EU summit in Prague, called for “stability” at such a “complex time” for Catalonia.

But the decision will not bring down the Catalan administration, at least not in the short term, with regional leader Pere Aragones saying he won’t call early elections.

Instead, his left-wing ERC will govern with a minority. “We will not abandon the citizens in complicated moments like this, that is why we must continue to govern,” Aragones assured late Friday.

Aragones could seek the support from Sanchez’s socialists in the Catalan parliament in order to pass key measures such as the regional budget.

READ ALSO: No regrets, says Catalan ex-minister on referendum anniversary

The ERC “will absolutely need to seal an agreement with the socialists”, said Gabriel Colome, political science lecturer at the Autonomous University of Barcelona.

Sanchez on Friday said his party “will always reach out for dialogue… for the general interest of Catalonia”.

‘Failed government’

Since 2016, JxCat has served in various ruling coalitions with ERC, with this latest lineup taking shape in May 2021.

Although both parties are in favour of Catalonia gaining independence from Spain, they have been sharply at odds over how to achieve it.

READ ALSO: Why does Catalonia have its own ‘embassies’ abroad? 

JxCat is headed by former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont who played a key role in staging the October 2017 referendum banned by Madrid and the failed independence bid that followed, sparking Spain’s worst political crisis in decades.

Puigdemont fled abroad to escape prosecution while others who stayed in Spain were arrested and tried. Nine were handed heavy jail terms by the Spanish courts but later pardoned.

The failed independence bid triggered a bitter rift between the two separatist parties that has never healed.

ERC backs a negotiated strategy via dialogue with Madrid, while JxCat prefers a confrontational approach on grounds that Spain has ruled out any new independence referendum.

READ ALSO: Why Catalan separatists are in crisis five years after independence vote

Tensions between the two parties came to a head last week when JxCat threatened to call a vote of no confidence, prompting Aragones to sack his deputy Jordi Puignero, the hardline party’s top official in the Catalan government.

Laura Borras, speaker of the Catalan parliament and a JxCat MP, called Aragones’ administration “a failed government” more concerned with making agreements with the Spanish socialists than with reaching consensus within the regional coalition.

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DROUGHT

Drought-hit Catalonia to open hotel swimming pools to the general public

Town halls in Catalonia will be able to decide whether private swimming pools belonging to hotels and residential complexes are classified as “climate refuges” that are open to the general public, as the Spanish region prepares drought measures for the summer.

Drought-hit Catalonia to open hotel swimming pools to the general public

Catalonia’s Generalitat government will give town halls the power to decide whether private swimming pools in their municipalities can be filled up with water in the midst of an ongoing drought in the region of 8 million inhabitants.

The measure was announced on Tuesday by government spokesperson Patrícia Plaja, after explaining that the Catalan government has approved a decree to create a census where each municipality will introduce its so-called “climate shelters” during what is expected to be another summer of sweltering heat.

Catalonia has been experiencing a drought for several years and there are already restrictions in place across the region

Recent heavy rain over Easter was welcome but it didn’t do enough to fix this long-term problem.

Town halls will therefore decide which hotel, sport complex and residential community pools are considered climate shelters and will establish the conditions of use, such as access pricing or free access, capacity requirements and the need for a lifeguard.

If mayors judge that there aren’t enough municipal pools nearby for residents, they are likely to force hotel and residential pools paid by communities of neighbours to open to the general public. 

If private owners refuse to do so, they will not be allowed to fill up their swimming pools. 

“This summer we will see hotel pools closed because they do not meet the minimum requirements to be a climate shelter,” Plaja concluded. 

Hotels will also have to control guests’ water usage, from 90 to 115 litres per person, depending on the drought emergency level.

There is no indication that the measure will affect individuals with swimming pools in their properties.

READ ALSO: Barcelona to send letters to 24,000 residents who use too much water

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