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SPANISH POLITICS

Catalonia’s separatist parliament speaker suspended over corruption charges

The speaker of Catalonia’s parliament was suspended Thursday, two days after a court in the northeastern region of Spain ordered the hardline separatist to stand trial for misdirection of public funds.

SPAIN-CATALONIA-CORRUPTION
Public prosecutors are calling for Borràs to be sentenced to six years in jail and to be banned from holding public office for 21 years. (Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP)

The decision by the assembly’s governing table to temporarily suspend Laura Borràs as both speaker and a lawmaker in the Catalan parliament has fuelled tensions in coalition which governs the region.

It was backed by all the parties with representation on the table, except for her “Together for Catalonia” (JxC) party.

Borràs is accused of awarding contracts worth around €300,000 ($295,000) to a colleague when she headed the Catalan Institute of Letters, a regional body charged with promoting Catalan language and literature.

A top court in Catalonia on Tuesday ordered her to stand trial for malfeasance and forgery.

Public prosecutors are calling for her to be sentenced to six years in jail and to be banned from holding public office for 21 years.

Borràs denies the allegations, arguing they are part of the “judicial persecution” of Catalan separatists.

After she was suspended she repeated these arguments — and lashed out at the other separatist parties which voted in favour of it.

“My suspension only benefits those who have bet on a dirty war, but it also makes complicit those who executed it,” she said.

Borràs belongs to the same party as former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium after Catalonia’s failed 2017 independence bid to avoid arrest

Her JxC governs Catalonia in a coalition led by the more moderate ERC party which backed her suspension, as did another smaller separatist formation, the CUP.

She has been speaker of the Catalan parliament since March 2021.

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ENERGY

VIDEO: ‘Take your ties off’, Spain’s PM says in bid to save energy

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has made a bizarre callout by asking office workers across the country to follow his lead in ditching their ties as a means of using less air-conditioning, and thus saving energy.

VIDEO: 'Take your ties off', Spain's PM says in bid to save energy

In a move some might be surprised was even necessary given Spain’s famously hot climate, Sánchez urged office workers to follow his own tie-free lead.

“As you can see, I’m not wearing a tie,” said Sánchez, smiling broadly, pointing to his open neck shirt during a news conference in Madrid on Friday.

Click on the play button below to watch the video:

Feeling a little more comfortable would save energy if it resulted in less air-conditioning being used, he said.

“This means that we can all save energy,” he argued, adding that he had asked all ministers and public officials to stop wearing ties and hoped the private sector would also follow suit.

The Spanish government is on Monday set to adopt a set of “urgent” energy-saving measures, Sánchez said, “in line with what other European countries do”, without elaborating.

Following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, the European Commission released in mid-May a €210-billion plan aiming to boost renewable energies and reduce energy consumption to put an end to dependency on Russian gas.

In response, Spain has adopted several measures including encouraging remote work and the limiting of air conditioning in offices in summer and radiators in winter.

 
The 27 EU states also agreed on Tuesday “to reduce their gas demand by 15 percent compared to their average consumption in the past five years, between August 1st 2022 and March 31st 2023, with measures of their own choice,” the European Council said in a statement.

Several German cities said this week they would step up efforts to save energy, with Hanover in the north announcing plans to only offer cold showers at public pools and sports centres and Berlin switching off spotlights illuminating its historic monuments.

 
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