The president of the Generalitat, Artur Mas, has seen his two trips to Brussels in the past three months bear fruit with the European Commission yesterday saying that Catalunya had "made budget cuts of unseen proportions" following "an enormous effort" (read article in Catalan here, Avui). It was the first time the EC had made such a recognition and follows Mas's efforts to improve the image of the Catalan government's finances. While the Euro-commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, Olli Rehn, this week criticised some Spanish autonomous communities regarding their efforts at cutting spending, and called on Spanish prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero to take more control over regional finances, yesterday Rehn's spokesperson Amadeu Altafaj said that the Generalitat had done its homework and that it's the other communities who need to be reined in. "All the autonomies have the same obligation to fufil the agreed objectives, but the efforts being made are different," has admitted the EC. Altafaj said that to reduce the Generalitat budget by 10 percent in one year would be an achievement that would be valued in Brussels.
The Japanese writer Haruki Murakami, this year's winner of the 23rd Premi Internacional Catalunya (International Catalunya Prize), used his acceptance speech last night as a platform to speak out against nuclear power (read article in Castilian here, El Periodico). During his discourse, Murakami called for collective self-criticism by the Japanese people regarding the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, which he blamed on a search for profits. Although he started his speech in a comic tone, saying "Bona nit Barcelona, as Lady Gaga would say," he continued in a much more serious way. During his talk, Murakami said that the earthquake prior to the nuclear accident had destroyed "the basis of life for many people: families, friends, homes, belongings" and also the desire to live for some of the survivors, but he added that being Japanese meant "living with natural disasters such as typhoons, volcanic activity and earthquakes." The writer also made reference to a possible devastating earthquake that could hit the region in Tokyo at any time in the next 20 years. However, his speech wasn't completely pessimistic and he said that Japanese people accept natural disasters as inevitable but that they always pick themselves up afterwards. Murakami reserved more criticism for those who had built the Fukushima plant, saying they hadn't taken into account the possibility of such a large tsunami (as the one that hit Japan following the earthquake), neither when it was built or in the following years of operation; he added that what had happened there had profoundly affected Japan's ethics and model. He pointed out that with the nuclear bombs of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, Japan had now suffered its second nuclear misfortune, but that Fukushima was different because it had brought the incident on itself.
Convergència i Unió (CiU) and the Partido Popular (PP) have reached an agreement to govern together at the Diputació de Barcelona, which is in charge of the province of Barcelona (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). This is the most important such pact that the two parties have reached to date and was finalised yesterday by five representatives from the parties. The agreement will see the two groups govern on an equal basis and undertake a significant plan of austerity, in line with the policy being followed across the region, in an institution that has always enjoyed financial abundance and political opacity. As such, the pact has established the reduction from 13 departments to five in the Diputació, which for the first time in 32 years won't be run by the Catalan Socialist Party or Iniciativa per Catalunya Verds.