The European Commission has finally officially confirmed that it will make the Mediterranean route in a pan-European freight train network a priority, although it also committed itself to the other Spanish routes that the current Madrid government wanted (read article in Catalan here, El Punt-Avui). While the EC won't spend money building a line through the Pyrenees, which was the suggested continuation of the central route to pass through Madrid and Zaragoza. "Not everything has to pass through the centre," said the Euro Commissioner for Transport, Siim Kallas; he dismissed the plan for the central route as being "unrealistic" and "extremely expensive", as well as "worrying for the environment and security". However, the EC's plan is for the Mediterranean line to split at Tarragona; while one branch will then continue down the coast to Almeria (not stopping at Cartagena) and on to Sevilla via an inland route through Granda, the other branch will run to Zaragoza and Madrid—ie. following part of the central route that the Spanish government had promoted—arriving at Algeciras via Cordoba. As such, the final version, which should make all parties happy, will see products arriving from north Africa at the French border having passed through both Barcelona and Madrid.
The ratings agency Moody's has reduced its rating for Catalan long-term debt, as well as for that of eight other Spanish autonomous communities (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). In addition, Moody's has reduced the rating for two Basque provinces, three public companies and five public institutions, all between one or two grades and giving them all negative future prospects. Of this series of downgrades, one that stands out is that concerning the debt of Castilla La Mancha, whose rating fell from A3 to Ba2, giving it the qualification of 'junk bond', according to a press release from the agency. This move comes scarcely 24 hours after the reduction from Aa2 to A1 of Spanish sovereign debt, which was also given negative future prospects, due to the vulnerability of the country to market tensions and the forecasts of moderate economic growth in the future.
The Spanish government has still not paid the Generalitat the €759 million that the prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, promised to Catalan president Artur Mas at a meeting in February this year (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). This money, which has been owed to Catalunya since 2008, is to cover pending investment in local infrastructure. The Generalitat is counting on the money as income for 2011 but has yet to see it, according to a report this morning on the radio station RAC1. The February 7th meeting was the only one that the two leaders have had, and one of the few commitments that Zapatero made to Mas during the encounter was the payment of this outstanding debt; the fact that the transfer of money has not been made has been given as one of the reasons that the Generalitat has been unable to prepare its 2012 budget, because it doesn't know whether it will have this money available.