Following yesterday's publication in El Periódico of photos showing prostitutes providing sexual services in Petritxol street in the centre of Barcelona (a street that they weren't previously using), the city's mayor has responded by saying that he wants to increase the pressure on the clients of prostitutes by fining them (read article in Castilian here, El Periódico). With the images raising both the matter of the legality of prostitution in Spain and the use of public spaces by prostitutes to provide their services, Trias responded to the issue by saying in a radio interview that he wanted to focus on those people who seek out sexual gratification in this way. Speaking later, however, the first deputy mayor, Joaquim Forn, highlighted the difficulty in fining anyone who offers, solicits, negotiates or accepts sexual services in exchange for money on the street, as is allowed for in municipal regulations. "To be able to fine clients, it's necessary to catch them in flagranti," which is very difficult, Forn said. Both Trias and Forn said that the move of prostitutes to spaces that they had not previously occupied for their activities was a result of increased pressure on them by the authorities, which has seen a rise of 98 percent in official complaints by the Guardia Urbana. They two men both also said that until there were changes at a legislative level, which takes precedence over municipal regulations, in particular regarding repeat offenders and immigration, that there was little that could be done about this "unacceptable problem" that Barcelona has, as Trias described it.
According to leaks from the European Commission (EC) in Brussels, the decision regarding the route for a goods train line to connect much of Europe will be in favour of the Mediterranean option, to the benefit of both Catalunya and the Valencian community (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). It seems that the EC has discarded the alternative route that would have seen the train run through Madrid and across the Pyrenees, and which had received the backing of the Spanish and French governments, in favour of the coastal route that will start and finish in Cartagena, according to reports from various MEPs. The Euro Commissioner for Transport, Siim Kallas, won't make the final decision public until October 19th but in the Euro Chamber, members have already been able to see the list of future priority projects (of which this is one). Despite pressure from the Spanish government, with the minister of public works José Blanco having carried out a campaign in Paris for the other route, Brussels has thrown out the plan that would have meant tunnelling through the Pyrenees to connect Madrid and Zaragoza with France, and avoided Catalunya. If the Mediterranean plan comes to fruition, by 2030, the ports of Catalunya and the Valencian community will be connected by goods train with the centre and north of Europe. The EC is planning to finance the Mediterranean and Atlantic routes (through the Basque country) with around €32 billion, between 2014 and 2020, with an additional €10 billion extra in cohesion funds (although the Spanish government will need to hurry up and get works completed before 2015, if they want to get the money apportioned it).
The question regarding the 'pacte fiscal' [the tax agreement that the governing Convergència i Unió (CiU) wants to negotiate with the Spanish government in the hope of getting a better financial arrangement for Catalunya in terms of the taxes it pays to Madrid and the funding it receives back] will be on the table as one of the main issues of the upcoming Spanish general elections, but it has also become the epicentre of a dispute among Catalan politicians (read article in Catalan here, El Punt-Avui). The result of this could be that it becomes even more of a hot potato as the November 20th election day approaches. The calendar of the Catalan parliamentary commission that is debating the matter has established October 31st as the day for reaching its conclusions, which is just four days before the start of the official election campaign. Such proximity between the two key dates is something that both the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) and the Partido Popular in Catalunya (PP) want to avoid, with both parties opposing the plan to create a financial agreement similar to the concert that the Basque country already enjoys. However, 75 percent of citizens are in favour of such a model (according to the latest poll by CEO), which has also seen a new understanding created between CiU and the party Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC). Indeed the relationship between the two parties saw the recent approval, during last week's debate on general policy, of a resolution in favour of a system of financing that would see the Generalitat collect and manage all Catalan taxes.