Copyright - British Embassy in Spain
Prince Charles visits Spain
The prince is pictured with Esperanza Aguirre, the president of the Community of Madrid
The Generalitat's economy minister, Andreu Mas-Colell, yesterday claimed that the Spanish government is trying to force the Catalan government to achieve budget cuts of at least 20 percent rather than the 10 percent originally announced (read article in Castilian here, El Periodico). Mas-Colell ruled out such a dramatic budget cut and implied that the Spanish finance ministry was inviting the falsification of figures to give the impression that the required spending restrictions were being met. "I don't believe that the Finance Ministry is serious about these requirements," he commented, "and as such, I have to conclude that they're inviting us to 'disguise' the numbers." The Catalan minister made his protest following the decision of the Spanish finance minister, Elena Salgado not to transfer €1,350 million to Catalunya that had been agreed for a competitiveness fund. Without this and other help, Mas-Colell says that it will be impossible for Catalunya to reduce its deficit by the required 1.3 percent.
During an official visit to Spain by Prince Charles and his wife, the heir to the Spanish throne, Prince Felipe, has called for an end to the dispute over Gibraltar between Spain and the UK (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, are on a three-day visit to the country and attended a gala dinner last night with the prince and his wife, Letizia, Princess of Asturias. It was at this event that Felipe called on the British and Spanish authorities to put an end to the years of dispute over Gibraltar, saying that it was time to find a solution to the "contentious bilateral history that is still pending", deemed a clear reference to the small territory whose ownership is claimed by both countries. Apart from this reference, the dinner was a friendly affair with both princes describing the ties that unite the two royal families as well as the good relations between the two countries. Other guests at the dinner included the Catalan politician Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida, the musician Jordi Savall and the bullfighter Javier Conde.
The Spanish prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, has announced harsher penalties for anyone found to be claiming unemployment benefit while they are also working (read article in Castilian here, El Periodico). Speaking to members of the Spanish Congress yesterday, Zapatero said that the new plan that his cabinet is due to approve in April to deal with illegal working arrangements, where the employee is not officially registered and is paid cash in hand to avoid taxes, will include reasonable incentives to encourage employers to register their workers.Those businesses and workers who don't take advantage of these will face higher fines than currently. "There will be tougher consequences for those people who claim unemployment benefit and are paid for an illegal job at the same time," he added. Zapatero insisted that the measures don't count as an amnesty for fraudsters.