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SPANISH POLITICS

Spain’s PM wants to update sedition law to ‘defuse’ tensions with Catalonia

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said Thursday his government would present a bill to reform the criminal code by updating the offence of “sedition”, bringing it in line with European norms.

pedro sanchez sedition law
“I think it will be an initiative that will also help to defuse the situation in Catalonia,” Spain's PM Pedro Sánchez has said. (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

The law garnered attention following the failed Catalan independence bid of October 2017, when Spain rounded up those involved in organising a banned referendum and charged them with a string of offences — including sedition.

In an interview with La Sexta television, Sánchez said his Socialist party and Podemos, its hard-left coalition ally, would present the initiative to parliament on Friday in a move that would “defuse” tensions in Catalonia.

“We are going to present a legislative initiative to reform the crime of sedition and replace it with an offence comparable to what they have in other European democracies such as Germany, France, Italy, Belgium and Switzerland,” he said.

The move would be “a step forward”, he said, revising a crime dating back to 1822.

“I think it will be an initiative that will also help to defuse the situation in Catalonia,” Sánchez added.

Sedition would be renamed an “aggravated public disorder”, with penalties similar to those “set out in the penal codes of European democracies”.

Separatists in the wealthy northeastern region have long clamoured for independence from Spain, but remain deeply divided over how to achieve it.

The failed independence bid sparked Spain’s worst political crisis in decades, with then-Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and several others fleeing abroad to escape prosecution.

However, a dozen people were put on trial, and nine were convicted of sedition among other charges and sentenced to heavy jail terms. They were later pardoned.

Spain still wants to try Puigdemont and two others, and the proposed bill would not change that, Sánchez said.

“The crimes committed in 2017 will continue to be present in our penal code, although no longer as crimes of sedition… but as a new type of crime called aggravated public disorder,” he said.

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STRIKES

Doctors, teachers and taxi drivers strike across Catalonia

Wednesday is due to be a difficult day in Catalonia with planned stoppages across three different sectors in health, education, and taxi services.

Doctors, teachers and taxi drivers strike across Catalonia

Medical staff

The union Metges de Catalunya has called for five days of strikes for doctors and medical staff across Catalonia on Wednesday, January 25th and Thursday, January 26th, as well as February 1st, 2nd and 3rd.

They are demanding more resources and personnel for the Catalan public health system and between 25 to 28 patient appointments per work shift of 12 minutes each.

READ ALSO – Key dates: How planned health service strikes in Spain could affect you

After an unsuccessful meeting on Tuesday, January 24th to try and resolve issues and further talks on Wednesday morning that didn’t lead to any resolution, 25,000 health professionals from health centers and hospitals across the region have been called to strike. They have not demonstrated en masse like this in Catalonia since 2018.

Some 500 nurses and midwives also took to the streets on Tuesday, January 24th to ask for better working conditions. Their protest continues this Wednesday, when both nurses and doctors have gathered to march to Sants train station, where they are due to arrive at midday. 

The regional government has agreed to guarantee urgent health care as well as that of the neonatal units and vital chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments.

Teachers

Teachers and other educational professionals have also been called to strike with two days of planned walkouts on Wednesday, January 25th and Thursday, January 26th.

After a series of unproductive negotiations with the Minister of Education, Josep Gonzàlez-Cambray, the unions Ustec, CCOO and UGT decided to go ahead with the stoppages.  

The unions have said that the simultaneous strikes in education and health make perfect sense as they are “two pillars” of society that should be a priority for the government.

The union Ustec demands that the regional government should invest 6 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in public education as established by the Education Law of Catalonia. They are also asking to reduce the ratios in the classes and improve the working conditions of educational professionals. 

Schools will remain open during these days, however, and minimum services have been established such as guaranteeing 50 percent of the staff in special education centers and nurseries.

Taxi drivers

Taxi drivers have also joined in the protests and will stage a four-hour strike on Barcelona’s Gran Via this Wednesday, against driver apps such as Free Now, Uber and Bolt.

Negotiations between The Elite Taxi union and the city council broke down last week and the union has called drivers to gather from 10am to 2pm on Gran Via with Plaza Tetuán and on Passeig de Gràcia.

Taxi drivers will also be voting on whether to protest during the Integrated Systems Europe (ISE) and Mobile World Congress fairs. ISE will be held from January 1st to February 3rd and Mobile World Congress from February 27th to March 2nd.  

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