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INDEPENDENCE

Spain turns to court to block Puigdemont’s Catalan comeback bid

The Spanish government on Friday turned to the courts to try to stop Catalonia's ousted separatist leader Carles Puigdemont from returning to power despite facing arrest.

Spain turns to court to block Puigdemont's Catalan comeback bid
Catalan parliament speaker Roger Torrent holds a press conference at the Catalan regional parliament in Barcelona on January 26th. Photo: AFP

Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium after the Catalan parliament declared independence in October, was earlier this week chosen as its candidate to lead Catalonia again after December elections saw separatist parties win an absolute majority of seats.

Catalonia's regional parliament is scheduled to debate and vote on Tuesday whether to reinstall Puigdemont, who faces arrest for rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds over his attempt to break Catalonia from Spain as soon as he comes back.

But Spain's conservative central government on Friday filed a legal challenge with the country's Constitutional Court against Puigdemont's bid to return to power, on the grounds that as a fugitive of justice, he cannot be elected.

“A person who is wanted in national territory for such serious crimes cannot try to be sworn in as head of the Catalan government without having faced up to his responsibilities with the law,” Spain's Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said after announcing the appeal.

“The government must use every tool made available by the laws and the constitution to make sure that a fugitive, someone who is on the run from the law and the courts, cannot be illegitimately be sworn in.”

The court will meet on Saturday to study the government's challenge. If it agrees to take up the case, the parliamentary session to swear in Puigdemont would be automatically suspended while the court considers legal arguments.

“If the speaker of the parliament obeys, he cannot call the investiture session,” said University of Barcelona constitutional law professor Xavier Arbos.

The newly elected speaker of the Catalan parliament, Roger Torrent, said Puigdemont remains the sole candidate to head the new Catalan government although a final decision will be taken once the court makes it ruling.

“Everything is in the hands of Mr. Torrent. To obey or not,” added Arbos.

Catalonia's ousted separatist government pushed ahead with an independence referendum on October 1st despite it having been banned by the Constitutional Court.

How Puigdemont can return to power remains a mystery as he needs to be physically present in the regional parliament to be sworn in, and Spanish authorities have vowed he will be arrested as soon as he returns to Spain.

He has said he could be sworn in remotely from Brussels, a plan Spain's central government opposes.

Puigdemont has also said he would rather return to Spain, but without any risk of arrest.

The government turned to the court even though the Council of State – its top consultative body which advises on serious issues — advised against the move late on Thursday, saying a “preventative challenge” was banned by the constitution.

But Saenz de Santamaria said that while the government respects the body's “legal criteria”, its opinion “is not binding for the government”.

Yolanda Gomez, a constitutional law expert at Spain's distance-learning university UNED, said the government was using all legal tools it has “because the situation in Catalonia has boiled over” and the separatist camp always stayed one step ahead of it.

“The legal situation is absolutely chaotic, no one legislates thinking that a top official would do what” Puigdemont is doing, she added.

Catalonia's independence declaration on October 27th was short-lived as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy moved to stop the crisis in a region deeply divided over secession.

He imposed direct rule on the semi-autonomous region, sacked its government including Puigdemont, dissolved its parliament and called snap elections.

Several days later, separatist leaders were charged for their attempt to break from Spain via a banned independence referendum, but by then Puigdemont and several of his former ministers were already in Belgium.

Deposed vice president Oriol Junqueras, however, remained in Spain and was jailed along with others pending a probe into their role in the independence drive.

But in a major setback for the central government, separatist parties won 70 of the 135 seats in Catalonia's regional parliament — two less than in the 2015 election — during last month's snap election.

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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 are 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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