12/07/2019 – 21:32h
The Catalan employers are reinforced by the incorporation of lobbyists, freelancers and sports associations
The unexpected victory of pro-independence segments in the elections to the Chamber of Commerce, held last May, was experienced as an earthquake in much of the Catalan business community. “It woke us all up”, admits an entrepreneur privately, who admits that nobody has accorded great importance to elections in this type of institutions to date. The taking of the epicenter of the Catalan business establishment by a candidacy of the ANC forced the rest to react and take on a new scenario: if they did not act, the independence movement would begin to set the agenda in the business world.
The new situation has forced the rest of business organizations to move. Some have chosen to strengthen their structure with new signings and try to add new partners. Others have advanced the elections to their Board of Directors to prevent the independence movement from repeating an operation similar to the one it carried out in the Chamber. Nobody wants to acknowledge in public that these are reactive movements to the victory of the ANC, but in private the consulted businessmen accept that the pro-independence breakthrough has pushed the rest to move.
Apart from the Chamber of Commerce, in Catalonia there are three outstanding business organizations. One is Foment del Treball, the main Catalan employers’ association. The others are PIMEC – which brings together small and medium-sized companies – and the Cercle d’Economia, a think tank that organizes the annual meeting in Sitges where the political and economic elite of the country meet. Relations between these organizations have not always been good -especially between Foment and PIMEC- but the last actions taken by the ANC have managed to create a common front.
The so-called “campaign for strategic consumption” of the pro-independence sector, which has a search engine for local companies committed to independence, generated the unanimous rejection of Foment and PIMEC. “It is totally irrational and goes against the interests of citizens and consumers of Catalonia”, said the president of Foment, Josep Sánchez Llibre. From PIMEC they added that such campaigns meant “shoot yourself in the foot” and both employers associations were willing to use “all mechanisms at their disposal” to fight against the ANC campaign.
Changes in Foment and in the Cercle d’Economia
The most restructured employers have been Foment and the Cercle d’Economia. Foment, whose new president took office last November, has recently incorporated four prominent ex-politicians as public affairs advisers. They are the ex-spokesman of the PDeCAT in Congress, Carles Campuzano; the ex-MP of CiU and State Attorney, Manuel José Silva; the ex-MP of the PP in the Congress between 1993 and 2016, Vicente Martínez-Pujalte, and the former Minister of Labor and ex-MP socialist, Valeriano Gómez.
“As the environment changes, institutions have to adapt”, says Virginia Guinda, vice president of Foment. “We see all this renewal as an opportunity”, adds Guinda, who rejects that the changes in Foment have anything to do with the pro-independence breakthrough.
The changes in Foment are not reduced to the transfer of ex-politicians as lobbyists. The five vice-presidencies have been expanded to 14 to incorporate the presidents of provincial employers ‘organizations as well as the Catalan employers’ association Cecot. The intention of Foment is to add younger entrepreneurs to their institution and give greater prominence to the territorial employers. “In the program of our president was already the intention that Foment would become the big house of Catalan businessmen”, says the vice president of the entity.
Foment has also joined to its membership the Association of Autonomous Workers, which represents 61.4% of Spanish self-employed workers, and has robbed the independence movement of one of its main objectives to continue penetrating civil society: it has reached an agreement with the Union of Sports Federations of Catalonia, which has more than 8,000 clubs and 675,000 federated athletes.
“It seems that everything is a reaction to what happened in the Chamber”, explain ANC sources. “Our victory raised many criticisms to the business community for not having been attentive to what was happening on the street and now they have awakened”. From the pro-independence entity they deny that its “campaign for strategic consumption” is a boycott of non-secessionist companies and believe that the reaction of employers has been exaggerated. Despite criticism, both from the ANC and the Chamber they point out that the willingness to work from these organizations has been good from the start.
The irruption of the ANC also altered the plans in the Cercle d’Economia. The think tank was scheduled to hold elections at the end of the year, but it has finally advanced them to July 24. Although from the Cercle it is said that what happened in the Chamber has not had anything to do, there are several employers who say that the elections were carried out with two objectives: preventing the ANC from having time to prepare a candidacy, and avoiding coincidence of elections with the ruling of the Supreme Court about the independence leaders.
The succession of Juan José Bruguera -current president of the Cercle- is foreseen to be totally peaceful due to the fact that only one candidacy has been presented to succeed him, headed by the ex-president of Barça Javier Faus. Faus’ candidacy also seeks to have a transversal role and includes profiles of all kinds: from the philologist Jordi Amat to the Penguin Random House CEO, Núria Cabutí, and the former Barcelona Mayor, Jordi Hereu (PSC); the president of the Port of Barcelona, Mercè Conesa (PDeCat); former Secretary of Culture with Mariano Rajoy, José María Lasalle; the chairman of Seat, Luca de Meo and the executive director of BBVA, José Manuel González-Páramo.