The Spanish government will start its fourth day of negotiations with trade unions today about changes to the public pension scheme, which have been held up over the contentious issue of raising the retirement age here (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). Despite intensive talks that took place throughout the weekend, no agreement has been reached by the two sides over whether to raise the standard age of retirement to 67 from 65, as the government insists is necessary. Meetings were held on Friday, Saturday (with talks lasting 14 hours) and Sunday but it is proving difficult to find common ground on the subject—sources say that they are still "very far apart". The Spanish government is planning to present its plans for pension reform on January 28th, in which the pensionable age will rise to 67, although there will be some flexibility built into the policy.
The number of people from non-EU countries with the right to vote in municipal elections here will be considerably more in upcoming local elections compared to previous years thanks to the recent introduction of reciprocal agreements between Spain and other nations (read article in Catalan here, Avui). Previously, Norwegian citizens who were registered at their local town hall here were the only non-EU nationals who could take part in council elections. However, when the next local elections take place here on May 22nd, nationals from eight other countries will potentially also be able to take part, providing they have registered (empadronat) with their town hall. The countries are: Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, New Zealand and Iceland. This makes a new group of voters of some 70,400 people around Catalunya, and brings to 338,000 the number of voters without a national identity card (it isn't necessary to have residency papers to be able to vote in these elections), which is more than 6 percent of those eligible to take part.
Today, one of three FC Barcelona players will be awarded the prestigious Balón de Oro award, as, for the first time, all the finalists for the prize come from the Catalan team (read article in Castilian here, El Periodico). Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta and Leo Messi are competing for the title of best footballer in the world as decided by the magazine Football France, which for the first time this year has been combined with the FIFA World Player award. FC Barcelona is only the second team, after Milan, that is guaranteed to win the prize after all three of the finalist spots were filled by three players from the same team. However, unlike when three Milan players were up for the title, first in 1988 and then in 1989, the Balón d'Oro is now voted for not only by journalists but also by national team coaches and captains, and is open to players from around the world, not just Europe. In addition, it is significant for the coaching style of Barça, which uses its youth team training system to such effect that it has produced these three world-class players, amongst many others currently playing for the first team. FC Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola is nominated for best team manager, and other members of the side, including Carles Puyol and Gerard Piqué, are nominated for the FIFA Best Eleven.