Luis Mauri. 7 March 2021
Image: EFE/QUIQUE GARCÍA
A decade has needed the Catalan business community to sound the alarm. A decade: it is said soon, but it takes its time. There has been no lack of reasons during this period for the bosses to make their voices heard. First, a few years of recklessness. Then, others of irresponsibility and madness. Finally, others more of paralysis. But at this time there was only silence, if not that fickle patrician indolence that, for example, allowed the lumpen businessmen of Waterloo to take over the command bridge of the Chamber of Commerce.
Sadly, it took a mournful pandemic, an economic catastrophe of biblical proportions and two weeks of looting in a burning city for businessmen to decide to raise a clear voice against the decline of Catalonia after a decade of ‘procés’.
Catalonia, Spain, the whole of Europe face the greatest challenge in many decades. After the shameful performance in the Great Recession, the EU is reunited with its founding spirit and launches an unprecedented domestic cooperation plan. The Next Generation fund is made up of 750,000 million euros in non-refundable grants and loans, of which 140,000 million correspond to Spain. The European program may represent, in addition to saving the economies of the countries most affected by the pandemic, the embryo of an eventual European fiscal integration. Little joke.
Next Generation will not pay for roundabouts, variants, or other patches. That time passed. The recovery challenge in Europe is industrial, green and digital.
This same week, within a few hours of each other, two industrial decisions of capital importance for Catalonia have been formalized. The German group Volkswagen is unreservedly committed to Seat to create its electric car platform in Spain and, by extension, in southern Europe: manufacture of batteries, development of industrial and mobility infrastructures, and manufacture of electric vehicles. The project will generate an investment of 5,000 million, according to government estimates, and can save the automotive sector in Catalonia, sick with hemorrhagic fevers at Nissan and Bosch.
The second decision is Renfe’s. The company is going to award the largest contract in its history: the manufacture of 211 commuter trains for almost 2,500 million euros. Of this order, 152 trains will be manufactured by Alstom at its Santa Perpètua factory, the most modern of the French group in Europe, for almost 1,500 million.
There is a pulse in the Catalan industrial vein. But while all this is happening, Seat, VW, Renfe, Alstom, the alert against decadence … while this is happening, what is the independence government up to? Avoiding the state visit in which VW staged its electric commitment to Seat. As if a whole decade of recklessness, irresponsibility, madness and paralysis had been in vain.
The ominous decade is reluctant to end. Hopefully we don’t have to see something worse still, something like the squandering of this unique opportunity for recovery.