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Protestors clash with police and block roads in Catalonia

Catalan pro-independence groups blocked roads and clashed with baton-wielding police on Friday in protests against a Spanish government cabinet meeting in Barcelona which separatists branded a provocation.

Protestors clash with police and block roads in Catalonia
Catalan regional police force Mossos d'Esquadra are confronted by a protestor as they try to keep protesters behind crowd control barricades. Photo: AFP

The weekly cabinet meeting usually takes place in Madrid but Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's Socialist government decided to hold it in the Catalan capital as part of its efforts to reduce tensions in Catalonia.   

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It appeared to have the opposite effect in some of streets of the capital of the northeastern region, which last year made a failed attempt to break away from Spain.

AFP reporters saw lines of riot police lashing out with their batons as they charged a crowd of protesters who tried to breach a police barrier a few hundred metres (yards) from where the meeting was taking place.   

Sanchez and the head of Catalonia's separatist government, Quim Torra, have expressed commitment to an “effective dialogue” to try to resolve the dispute over the wealthy region's status within Spain.   

The government was aiming to use the cabinet meeting to approve a 22 percent increase in the minimum wage, a pay hike for public workers and announce investments in infrastructure projects in Catalonia.   

But separatist leaders said the timing of the meeting was provocative: a year to the day after Madrid held snap elections in the region after blocking its move for independence.

Spain's wealthiest region, Catalonia is home to some 7.5 million people and has its own language.

 'Ungovernable'

A radical separatist group, the Committees for the Defence of the Republic (CDR), blocked a dozen main roads from around dawn on Friday, regional transport authorities said.

“We will be ungovernable on December 21,” the group repeatedly tweeted.   

A grassroots separatist organisation, ANC, urged supporters to block the streets of Barcelona on Friday with their vehicles.   

About 20 pro-independence groups, including the ANC, called on their supporters to march through the streets of Barcelona at 6pm (1700 GMT).   

The Spanish government sent police reinforcements to Barcelona and Catalan leaders repeated their call for protests to be peaceful.   

The regional police force said at least one demonstrator was arrested for carrying material that could make an explosive or incendiary device.

Divergent positions

Catalonia declared independence in October 2017 after pushing ahead with a banned independence referendum, but Spanish authorities stifled the attempt.

Several Catalan independence leaders were detained and charged.   

Sanchez took office as prime minister eight months later after winning a surprise vote of no-confidence against the previous conservative government with the support of Catalan separatist parties.

Sanchez initially adopted a more conciliatory tone towards Catalonia than his conservative predecessor but the effort to ease tensions with the region hit a wall.

The two men held talks in Barcelona on Thursday night, drawing fire from Sanchez's political opponents.

READ MORE: Spanish PM pledges fresh dialogue with Catalan separatists

The leader of the conservative opposition Popular Party in parliament, Dolors Montserrat, branded the meeting “shameful” and “a betrayal of Spain”.   

Catalan separatists also announced that they would not vote in favour of Sanchez's 2019 budget after public prosecutors in November called for stiff prison sentences for 18 pro-independence leaders facing trial over the failed secession bid.

Sanchez adopted a harder line after far-right and anti-separatist party Vox won seats for the first time earlier this month in a regional election in Andalusia, a Socialist stronghold.

During a recent debate in parliament, he compared Catalonia's breakaway movement to Britain's campaign to leave the European Union. Both were built on “a tale of invented grievances, magnified by manipulation”, he said.   

His tone changed again after his meeting with Torra, although the solutions to the Catalan conflict proposed by the two leaders remain distinct.   

Sanchez has proposed giving Catalonia more powers while Torra wants a legally binding referendum on independence.   

“We know that the initial positions are very divergent,” Catalan government spokeswoman Elsa Artadi said. “But we have to see how we can advance.”

 

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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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