June 17, 2024

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That the ‘Procés’ is behind us is an indisputable reality that not even the pro-independence supporters dare to dispute. Another thing is that enormous wounds remain to be healed on various levels. Firstly, that of a whole generation of first and second-rate politicians committed to the cause who have yet to find out how their personal future and their political careers will be resolved. The amnesty law, agreed by the pro-independence groups with the Socialist Party in exchange for joining the majority of Sánchez's investiture, will be decisive in resolving the long trail of the ‘procés’.

Silvia Angulo, 1 January 2024

Catalan politics has left behind the ‘procés’ stage // Xavi Jurio

Education, drought and the definition of a prosperous and sustainable growth model are the main challenges facing Catalan politics, in which the ‘procés’ is now in the past.

That the ‘Procés’ is behind us is an indisputable reality that not even the pro-independence supporters dare to dispute. Another thing is that enormous wounds remain to be healed on various levels. Firstly, that of a whole generation of first and second-rate politicians committed to the cause who have yet to find out how their personal future and their political careers will be resolved.

The elections that Catalonia will face at the end of 2024 or at the beginning of 2025 will test the change of course that Catalan society and the pro-independence political parties that have contributed with their favourable vote to the investiture of Pedro Sánchez in the Government are experiencing. Junts’ change of course with the possible return of Carles Puigdemont to the party’s leadership, the competition with ERC for the pro-sovereignty space and the role of the PSC, with polls that are favourable to it, will set the pace of Catalan politics, where pre-electoral airs are already in the air. The first tasks of the year will be to agree on budgets that ERC, with only 33 MPs, takes for granted, but which need the support of the PSC.

The year of amnesty

The amnesty law, agreed by the pro-independence groups with the Socialist Party in exchange for joining the majority of Sánchez’s investiture, will be decisive in resolving the long trail of the ‘procés’. The year 2024 will be, above all, the year of the amnesty. But, assuming that this operation will come to fruition and can decide which political leaders – now disqualified – can run in the next elections, Catalan politics has to face an extensive and difficult agenda on the ground.

Drought, the first front

To begin with, the most urgent, the drought. It is astonishing to note that the hydrological year on the Peninsula has been better than the previous one. This has been the case, except in the eastern regions and in particular in Catalonia, where the hydrological reserves of the internal Catalan basins, those that affect the provinces of Barcelona and Girona, are at 17%. When they reach 16%, these territories will enter an emergency situation with a severe impact on agriculture and the service sector.

No one with any common sense can hold the Generalitat and the local councils responsible for the lack of rain, but it is true that they have not implemented a policy in line with the threat of structural drought, which year after year is one of the effects of climate change. The impact on the agricultural sector – stressed and unhappy for this and other reasons -, on the tourism sector and on new industrial investment will fall on local governments, but especially on the Generalitat.

The mirror of education

The latest PISA report, which places Catalan students among the worst-prepared in comparison with other Spanish and European regions, has dealt a severe blow to the Government. Criticism of the results has been voiced by the opposition and the education community, who are urgently calling for a change of model. The government of Pere Aragonès has one year to reverse the poor results, which show that state-subsidised schools outperform public schools by almost two years in maths, reading and science. A difference that occurs with a left-wing government that has increased the education budget, but has still failed in this area.

Immigration management

Catalonia reached eight million inhabitants in 2023. A population record, driven by immigration. One out of every five new Catalans is a foreigner, and immigrants now number 1.65 million people, according to Idescat. Jordi Pujol’s slogan “Som 6 milions” (We are 6 million) is one to remember. The management of immigration and how to integrate the newcomers is one of the great challenges facing Catalonia. Especially at a time when ultra-nationalist political parties are blaming immigrants for insecurity, loss of identity, weakening of the language, unemployment, and so on…. A discourse that is not the only one to be heard from Vox alone. Junts is being breached on the right flank. Aware of this, in the national council to be held in January they will address the issue in the scenario that Aliança Catalana, in the local government of Ripoll, will run in the elections. The latest CEO barometer showed that 64.5% of Junts’ voters consider that there is an excess of immigration. Mayors of the Maresme party have come out in protest at the insecurity in their municipalities and have linked it to migrants in an attempt to wear down ERC and the Department of the Interior. There is concern in the post-convergence ranks, and in negotiations with the Socialist Party, ex-president Puigdemont has demanded the transfer of powers in immigration. The PSC has come to the aid of the post-Convergencia politicians, in the towns around Ripoll, to prevent the “phenomenon from spreading”.

Housing and inequality

Rents have risen sharply this year, putting a strain on the finances of many families. In Barcelona, the average rent now stands at 1,171 euros a month, 10% more than a year ago, according to the Agència de l’Habitatge. But rent inflation is not exclusive to the metropolitan area, and also affects towns in the Pyrenees or tourist areas where residential renting is being replaced by tourist or temporary renting. The Government has pushed through the decree thanks to a pact with the PSC to curb the proliferation of tourist flats that take away housing from the residential market. A decree that does not have the approval of the business lobbies and the most touristic cities. In the end, the measure will only be applied in 140 municipalities – it was planned to be applied in more than 200 – which will have the power to set the number of tourist dwellings that are allowed.

The take-off of renewables

In the last ten years, Catalonia has suffered from a paralysis in the processing of projects and insufficient development in the field of renewable energy. In addition to this, there has been strong social and political opposition in the region, making it difficult for the country to meet future electricity demand. To make up for this lack of foresight, there is a private plan on the table to set up three corridors of very high voltage lines (HVL) from Aragon, which clashes with the imaginary of what many believe should be Catalan energy sovereignty.

The year 2024 will be a pre-electoral year in which eating matters will carry more weight than the discourse on identity.

https://www.lavanguardia.com/politica/20240101/9485960/catalunya-cambio-rasante.html

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