CRISTINA FARRÉS / MARÍA JESÚS CAÑIZARES, 6 May 2022
The President of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès; the President of the European Commission, Úrsula Von der Leyen (2i); the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez (2d); and the President of the Círculo de Economía, Javier Faus (d) / CdE
The last meeting of Javier Faus’s lobi tackles the whole spectrum of Spain’s challenges, including the social one, and closes with a victory for Feijóo over Sánchez in convincing the audience.
The dynamism that Madrid achieves in the face of an increasingly self-absorbed Barcelona has been overshadowed in the last three days. Those that the Círculo de Economía has needed to tackle the country’s great economic debate from the Catalan capital. With all the breadth of vision of this statement.
The last meeting of Javier Faus’ presidency has ended with the agreement of those present that Spain was once again very attentive to what has been said in the halls of the Hotel W. All kinds of debates have been addressed. From the need to digitalise (well), to holding a serious debate on the energy transition, the challenge of undertaking sustainable projects over time and even a section sometimes forgotten in forums of this profile, the key issue at the present time is the social impact left by the last four world crises that have been experienced in a row.
Von der Leyen, the most applauded speaker
It has been discussed with leading figures from the Spanish business and financial scene, but also with the presence of the President of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen. The German politician was coming to Barcelona for the first time, and it was President Pere Aragonès who was in charge of showing her the key sites of the city from the terrace of the Hotel W. “The fact that she is here means that the page has been turned definitively on the procés”, assured socialist voices present in the final part of the meeting. In fact, the pro-independence debate has taken a back seat.
The business community of the Círculo recalled his speech and applauded, both in the room and outside it, the vindication of Europeanism as the great vaccine against radicalism. Very much in line with the institution’s latest opinion piece.
War in Ukraine and new fiscal adjustment
For the second consecutive year, Faus has opted for a hotel that, beyond facilitating the deployment of security devices, is the only one that offers the skyline of the Catalan capital in reverse to the way it is usually represented. This issue did not go unnoticed by the attendees and was even used as a paradigm for the debate that took place within the walls. The question of where a society with ever greater uncertainties is heading.
The most important of these is when the war in Ukraine will end and the real impact it will have on the economy since, for the moment, international supply chains have not been stopped. It is taken for granted that the European Central Bank (ECB) will raise rates, but in the most pessimistic scenarios a maximum of one and a half percentage points is possible. “If we go further, things will be more complex”, has been commented in the corridors. It is also taken for granted in some quarters that Brussels will demand a new fiscal adjustment from the Spanish government by the end of the year, the other side of the coin of the Next Generation and the Iberian energy exceptionality.
Feijóo passes his hand over Sánchez’s face
The political impact it could generate is also part of the analysis, as the Catalan economic elite (like any other) is allergic to instability. And the first speech that the new leader of the PP, Alberto Núñez-Feijóo, has launched to the Catalan business community has been a panacea in the face of turbulence. The Galician has gained followers, especially because of the contrast between his speech and that of the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez.
“Aplomb” was the word used by several of the attendees to refer to the Galician’s speech, in line with the stability and unity that Faus called for in the inaugural session. The same session in which the Mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, lashed out, without being asked, against a grand coalition between the PP and PSOE. The structural reforms demanded by businessmen require large majorities, hence the fear of the leader of the Commons. But while the president of the Popular Party made a negative diagnosis in this regard, Sánchez pointed to the good moment that the Spanish economy is going through and the great opportunity that the Next Generation funds represent in this regard. If businessmen were hoping that Sánchez would let go of the burden of independence, he was disappointed. On the other hand, Feijóo was tougher on the socialist’s servitude to ERC and Podemos.
The Minister of Economy, Jaume Giró, in whose speech he reduced the pro-independence sophistry of the previous edition, called for the management of European aid and, above all, less centralism. The big question, not answered by Giró, was whether his future involves being a candidate for the presidency of the Generalitat. His moderation supports this possibility. The future will tell if he becomes the sovereigntist rival to fight Aragonès, whose photo with Sánchez was the most sought-after. The two leaders spoke for only a few minutes, just enough to demonstrate that their relationship is not at its best, but that there is a will to redirect the crisis generated by the Pegasus case. They called for a meeting, which Sánchez did not arrange.
For yet another year, the Círculo’s sessions were closely linked to current affairs. And maintaining the recently rebuilt bridges between the government and the Generalitat was one of the main demands of the partners of the Catalan lobby.
Security of the Moncloa vs. the Royal House
Another of the things that will be remembered from the Círculo meeting that closed at midday is the nervousness of the Moncloa security staff. Sánchez’s strolling around in a cloud of journalists and bodyguards, who were swarming all those around him, was the general tone.
The Royal Household’s security arrangements were much calmer and more relaxed. In fact, those attending the economic conference also applauded both the King’s presence and the fact that the monarch made an appearance at the informal lunch organised on the second day and chatted with those present without being in too much of a hurry. “These are small details that are appreciated,” said one of the members.
Headed towards the elections
With the conference now closed, Faus will immediately get involved in Meridia Capital’s agenda. He will begin the next day with a working trip to the fund he created and to which he has dedicated the last few years, and will return to Barcelona on Thursday 12 May to chair the last meeting of its board, which will be dissolved at the end of the meeting.
It will be at that moment when the formal starting shot will be fired for the first elections of the Círculo de Economía. Those that will pit Rosa Cañadas and Jaume Guardiola against each other in a close election in which many details have yet to be defined. The campaign will be short, as it will be held around 12 July.