Spanish prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapetero spoke yesterday to the German chancellor Angela Merkel about the effects of the 'cucumber crisis' arising from the current E.coli outbreak (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). During the conversation, for the first time, the German leader expressed her regret for the damage done to the Spanish agricultural sector for the erroneous and hasty declaration by the Hamburg health authorities about the origin of the E.coli infection in the north of Germany, which has now cost 17 lives with hundreds more people taken ill, many seriously. Merkel promised that the issue of financial compensation for the Spanish farmers affected by claims that the disease originated with Spanish cucumbers would be examined via the European Union (EU); however, Merkel also said that the action of the Hamburg health authorities had been in line with German law. Details of the phone call were released by the office of Zapatero, which also said that the two leaders would remain in touch during the coming days and with the EU authorities to seek a solution to the issue.
The candidature of deputy prime minister Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba to take over from Zapatero at the head of the Spanish Socialist party (PSOE) has resulted in a positive bounce for the party in the latest opinion poll (read article in Castilian here, El Periodico). According to a survey carried out by the Gabinet d'Estudis Socials i Opinió Pública (GESOP) for El Periodico three days after Rubalcaba officially commenced his campaign for the position during a meeting of the federal committee of PSOE, the latter has closed the gap with the opposition Partido Popular (PP) by five points. If an election were held today, the PP would still win by a significant margin, taking 44 percent of the votes, which would give them between 176 and 180 seats in the Congress, an absolute majority. The Socialists would have 35.3 percent of the vote, which translates into between 133 and 137 seats. This is a very different scene from the results of the last general election in 2008, when the PSOE took 164 seats and 42.59 percent of the vote, while the PP won 37.71 percent of votes and 148 seats.
The Barcelona mayoral candidate for Unitat per Barcelona in the recent municipal elections, Jordi Portabella, has said that he won't be standing for the presidency of Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) (read article in Catalan here, Avui). Portabella has said he thinks there needs to be a new generation of leaders in the party and added that he believes all the current directors of ERC should step aside. "The people have clearly told us 'no'," he writes in an article published today in Avui, referring to the poor showing of ERC in both the municipal elections (where he stood in Barcelona together with Jordi Laporta and the political group Reagrupament on an independence-based ticket) and the November 2010 Generalitat elections. Portabella will continue as a city councillor and made himself available to any "renewal" candidate who might stand for the leadership of ERC and who would help the party learn from recent "mistakes". This is seen as a nod to a tandem candidacy by the MEP Oriol Jonqueras and Portabella's own right-hand-man Oriol Amorós.