The President of the Generalitat, Quim Torra, wants to remove powers from the State to eliminate fines that the authorities may place on the Catalan National Assembly (ANC). To this end, it has commissioned an opinion to the Council for Statutory Guarantees (CSG)) in order for this body to be the one to issue who has to issue the complaints of the Catalan employer, Fomento del Trabajo, against the ANC in order to launch a ‘strategic consumption’ campaign (supported from a website) whose ultimate purpose seemed to be to make a boicot to Spanish products and companies.
Torra’s initiative was approved at the Govern meeting on Tuesday. According to the Generalitat, this is “a preliminary step in the approach of a positive conflict of competences before the Constitutional Court, having not received a response from the State on the incompetence request filed on April 15th”. What the Generalitat is asking is for the Catalan Competition Authority (ACCO) to deal with the matter, not the National Commission on Markets and Competition (CNMC). This agency depends on the Generalitat and its General Director is Marc Realp, put by Torra in 2016.
What the Generalitat is asking is for the Catalan Competition Authority to take the matter, not the CNMC. That agency depends on the Generalitat
In other words, the Catalan president is on the institutional clash to control the records of the ANC, which has actually been the tool used by the independence political parties and by the Govern itself to manage and mobilize the streets of Catalonia in favor of the ‘procés’. Torra’s decision is not ballad: fines to the ANC for its bad arts can involve him from a few hundred thousand euros to almost five million euros (depending on how many people in the ANC dome are involved in the subject). With the ACCO controlling the record, Torra has a political tool to smooth the issue and avoid sanctions on Govern’s ‘friends’.
There are, however, two reasons for the CNMC to take the case. The first is that this lawsuit involves companies whose scope of action exceeds Catalonia and its effects can be noticed outside the Catalan territorial area, so the CNMC would be the ideal instrument to settle the issue, since the ACCO has no authority outside Catalonia. Secondly, there is another point to keep in mind: the CNMC opened an ex officio investigation last September, as communicated by the lawyer for Fomento to the commercial court which is covered by the case. Interestingly, it has not been so far that the Govern and the ANC mobilize. And, as time is pressing, they have chosen institutional confrontation as a method of paralyze the research.
A campaign to reward ‘indepes’ companies
The conflict began in November 2018, when the ANC launched a campaign in which it purportedly wanted to encourage ‘strategic consumption’. But the organization’s bad arts became crystal clear when the objectives of the initiative were revealed: for Catalans to buy only from companies “committed to the economy of Catalonia and the creation of the republic”. Instead of a consumer campaign, it was a political campaign. The Govern itself also acknowledges in his internal documents that the campaign “promoted the procurement of goods and services to companies related to the independence cause“. In this way, it explicitly recognizes the politicization of the campaign, far from its consumerist objectives.
In July 2019, the Catalan employer denounced the ANC to the Administration. On the one hand, he filed a complaint with the ACCO, requesting the withdrawal of the website and a fine of 60,000 euros for each of the legal representatives of the ANC in the campaign. But, on the other hand, in September he filed a complaint with the 11th commercial court in Barcelona, in which he accused the separatist organization of attacking free competition, among other things. The court decided shortly thereafter to apply precautionary measures: it closed the ANC website and prohibited it from developing the ‘Strategic Consumption’ campaign. Days later, independence cloned the website of ‘Consum Estrategic’ on another website called consumeticcatala.com and continued to disseminate the same messages, circumventing the court ruling and precautionary measures applied. There’s still no judgment on the case.
But now the ANC is on the attack and says That Fomento’s actions “are an attack on responsible and close consumption and represent a clear violation of the ANC’s freedom of expression.” In addition, it links the current health crisis situation with its initiative (although when it launched the campaign, coronavirus was not even known) and twists the arguments to adapt them to his speech: “The situation that the country is experiencing today highlights the seriousness of the denunciation of Labour Promotion in the face of the need to defend and promote local production and consumption to overcome the crisis generated by covid-19 in the Catalan economy.” Of course, I’m obvious that Fomento filed the complaint six months before the coronavirus crisis.
Torra legal report
For now, Torra has a report of its legal services that says that the file against the ANC has to be taken over by the ACCO “according to Article 154 of the Statute of Autonomy” and not by the CNMC, as agreed by the agency. “According to the statutory rule, it is the Catalan administration that has recognized the competences in terms of promotion and defense of competition and the internal market in the exercise of economic activities that take place in the territorial area of Catalonia”, says the Generalitat. With that report and the associated solid argument, confrontation is served.
The ANC, for its part, takes the matter into the political arena and victimizes the situation. It thus states that “it is apparent that the Spanish State wishes to ignore, once again, the powers of the Generalitat to be able to punish ANC in an exemplary way“. The organization teaches independence says that “through administrative means, the Spanish State tries to keep the demand that Fomento del Trabajo filed with the ACCO to secure a resolution against the Assembly in a further display of economic repression that seeks to wipe out the independence entities”.
It is the fact that, a few days ago, Fomento del Trabajo denounced to the CNMC the existence of another website that promotes the boicot to Catalan products during the covid-19 crisis. Its intention was to expel Catalan companies from the market, so it may engage in unfair competition and distortion of free competition. This website, however, has already been deactivated.