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INDEPENDENCE

Catalan politicians give green light to controversial independence plan

UPDATED: Catalan MPs on Monday voted in favour of a resolution that would see the region becoming independent from Spain within just 18 months. Spain's central government will challenge the vote in court.

Catalan politicians give green light to controversial independence plan
The non-binding resolution is expected to be challenged in Spain's Constitutional Court. Photo: AFP

All 72 separatist lawmakers – the majority in the northeastern region's parliament – voted for the resolution aimed at creating an independent republic by 2017.

A total of 63 MPs voted against the nine-point motion which includes a solemn declaration calling for “the beginning of the creation of an independent Catalan state in the form of a republic”.

The resolution has the backing of Catalan president Artur Mas' Together for Yes coalition and the smaller far-left separatist CUP party, which together have a majority in the regional assembly with 72 seats of the 135 seats.

But Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his staunchly anti-independence Popular Party (PP) have the backing of the main opposition Socialists and new, popular centre-right group Ciudadanos.

“I was born in Catalonia and I want to keep living here,” said Xavier García Albiol of the ruling PP party during a debate before Monday's vote.

“While you are spending your time and efforts to break up Catalonia from the rest of Spain, 600,000 Catalans go out on the street every day to look for work,” said the politician born to a Catalan mother and an Andalusian father, referring to pro-independence lawmakers.

“While you are dedicating your time to creating state structures, 1.5 million Catalans live in precarious conditions.”

There have long been demands for greater autonomy in Catalonia, a region of 7.5 million people with its own language that accounts for a fifth of Spain's economic output.

These calls have intensified in recent years, in tandem with the country's economic crisis.

A 2010 decision by Spain's Constitutional Court to water down a 2006 statute giving the region more powers has added to the growing pressure for secession.

Rajoy said on Monday afternoon his government would challenge in court the vote by Catalonia's parliament.

He told reporters that after an emergency cabinet meeting on Wednesday, “I will sign a recourse (to the Constitutional Court) of unconstitutionality and will ask for… the immediate suspension of this initiative and all its possible effects”.

If the court accepts the government's appeal as is expected, the Catalan resolution will be automatically suspended until judges hear arguments and make their decision.

Rajoy's government in September boosted the powers of the Constitutional Court to allow it to quickly suspend leaders who disobey its orders, in a move aimed directly at Catalonia.

The government has also raised the possibility of invoking article 155 of the Spanish constitution, which allows Madrid to supersede the authority of a regional government that is acting outside the law or cut off its funding.

But those who crafted the declaration had anticipated this, and the resolution states that the secession process will not be subject to decisions made by Spanish institutions, including the court.

While not legally binding, the text calls on the regional assembly to start working on legislation within 30 days to create a separate social security system and treasury, with a view of complete independence as early as 2017.

“With this resolution, we are solemnly kicking off the construction of a state,” Raul Romeva of Together for Yes told regional lawmakers on Monday.

Catalonia tried to hold an official referendum on independence last year, but judges ruled it was against the constitution, arguing that all Spanish people have the right to decide on matters of sovereignty.

The region pressed ahead anyway and held the referendum, although it was purely symbolic in nature.

Turnout was 37 percent, of which over 80 percent voted in favour of independence.

“A referendum would be the ideal tool, but the Spanish government blocked it. We have no other option but unilateral action,” CUP lawmaker Albert Botran told news agency AFP.

While Catalan separatist parties won a majority of seats in the regional parliament in September polls, they failed to win a majority of all votes cast – a fact emphasized by their opponents.

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CATALONIA

14 Barcelona life hacks that will make you feel like a local

Barcelona is a popular city for foreign residents in Spain thanks to its coastal location, many international companies and great lifestyle. However, navigating life here can take some getting used to, so here are our top Barcelona life hacks to help make things easier for you.

14 Barcelona life hacks that will make you feel like a local
Barcelona life hacks. Image: Michal Jarmoluk / Pixabay

Invest in a good water filter

Barcelona tap water doesn’t taste the best, particularly in the areas around the Old Town such as El Born, the Gothic Quarter, Barceloneta and Raval. The water is also very hard, meaning that it leaves limescale on appliances such as your kettle.

Using a good water filter can improve the taste and make sure that limescale doesn’t build up. It’s also much more economical and healthier than buying bottled water every time you want a drink.

Use the Rodalies trains to get across the city faster

Many people when they first move to Barcelona just use the metro and don’t bother using the Rodalies trains. While it’s not always necessary, for certain journeys it can make getting across the city much faster.

For example, if you need to get from Sant Andreu or Clot to Sants to connect to one of the intercity trains, it’s only two or three stops on the Rodalies, as opposed to more than 10 on the metro, as well as changing to different lines.

Don’t try and get anything important done in August

This is probably true of most of Spain, but if you need to get anything important done, whether official paperwork or renovations on your apartment, don’t try and get them done in August.

The whole city goes on holiday for the month of August, including office personnel, builders and handypeople. If you need to get any of this done, it’s best to get it done before the holidays or to wait until September.  

Don’t buy drinks from sellers on the beach or in the park

You’ll find many people selling drinks on the city’s beaches and in the main Ciutadella Park. While it can be tempting to buy these, especially when it’s so hot, you need to be aware that these cans of drinks are often stored inside drains or under manhole covers, meaning that they’re not the cleanest.

A few years ago, El País took the mojitos sold by hawkers on the beaches to a local lab. The results came back a few days later to show that they contained high levels of fecal matter and bacteria in them.

Barcelona’s Chinese supermarkets are a great source of ingredients

Although you can now find many more foreign ingredients in local supermarkets than you could just a few years ago, there are still many that you may miss from back home, particularly South East Asian and Indian ingredients.

Barcelona has several excellent Chinese supermarkets, where you can find a range of ingredients, everything from sesame oil and Thai curry paste to Indian spices and affordable peanut butter.

Don’t take valuables out with you to certain areas, particularly at night

Unfortunately, bag snatchings and pickpockets are still commonplace in Barcelona. While the thieves mainly target tourists, foreign residents often find that they are targets too.

The trick is to blend in like a local, look like you know where you’re going and don’t take valuables with you to areas such as the Gothic Quarter, Raval or the Rambla, especially at night. Bag snatchings in El Born have also increased in recent years, so keep your wits about you around there too. 

Find your favourite beach outside of the city

Barcelona’s beaches may have been one of your prime reasons for moving here, but you’ll find that you actually prefer the beaches outside of the city.

Overcrowded, dangerous and a lot dirtier than other beaches in the area, the beaches in Barcelona are unfortunately not all that they’re cracked up to be. You’ll often find that after you’ve been for a swim, your valuables will not still be on the sand where you left them. Head just 15 to 20 minutes outside of the city however and you’ll find the beaches are far nicer and safer.

Find a beach outside of the city centre to go to. Photo: makunin /Pixabay

Try to join several different clubs or groups

Barcelona is a very transient city, meaning that people are moving here and leaving all the time. As a result, you’ll often find that most of the friends you made when first moving here have now moved away and you’ll constantly need to make more. If you join several clubs and groups, you’ll find that making new friends all the time is a lot easier. 

Don’t buy a single transport ticket

It’s never really worth buying a single transport ticket in Barcelona, because you’ll end up spending much more money per journey than you would if you bought the T-Casual (10 journeys) or the monthly T-Usual metro card instead.

You can also buy 10-journey bono tickets for the Rodalies trains, which will also save a lot of money if you’re making regular journeys out of the city. 

Try and avoid shopping at Port del Angel on Saturdays

Port del Angel is Barcelona’s main pedestrianised shopping street. While it’s great and has all the high-street fashion shops you want, it can be a nightmare shopping here on Saturdays.

If you do need to shop on a Saturday, try Rambla Catalunya or one of the shopping malls instead, which won’t be so crowded.

Be prepared for festivals and events

Barcelona holds so many festivals and events that it can be hard to keep up. In normal (non-Covid) years, there is one every other week.

Because of this tickets sell out quickly and there are many fun cultural events that you might miss out on. Keep your calendar up to date, so you know what’s going on, and make sure to book tickets for anything you want to see, well in advance.

Tipping isn’t necessary at all bars and restaurants

Tipping isn’t all that common in Barcelona, unless perhaps if it’s a particularly nice restaurant or if there’s a large group of you that the waiter has had to look after.

You’ll find that it’s not expected either, except maybe at some of the city’s very touristy restaurants.  

READ ALSO: Why do Catalans have a reputation for being stingy?

Do lots of research before renting an apartment and if it sounds too good to be true, then it is

Unfortunately, there are lots of property scams in Barcelona, so try and do as much research as you can beforehand. Never pay money upfront before you’ve seen the property and received the keys.

Also, be aware that many landlords will not return your deposit at the end of your stay.

Many people get around this by not paying the last month’s rent, but this can also make things difficult for the good landlords who may genuinely need to deduct something for damages, so speak with your estate agency on the best thing to do in this situation.

READ ALSO: What you should know about renting an apartment in Barcelona

Hire a gestor or lawyer to help with immigration and tax issues

You’ll save yourself a lot of time and hassle with immigration and tax issues if you hire a professional to help you in Barcelona, where getting a cita previa (appointment) for official matters can often be difficult, in part because these law firms often bulk book them.

However, there are certain processes that you won’t need an immigration lawyer for such as getting a residency certificate if you’re from an EU country or exchanging your green residency certificate for a TIE if you a British and moved here before the end of 2020.

READ ALSO: BREXIT: How to apply for a TIE residency card in Spain

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