Snow3March 8th, 2010 - snow falls unexpectedly on Barcelona
Spain will today begin the process of repatriating from the Libyan-Tunisian border 4,000 Egyptian refugees; they have fled from the fighting in Libya but don't have sufficient resources to make their own way back to their country (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). The Spanish Agency of International Cooperation for Development (Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarrollo) has planned for three daily flights during at least one week in response to calls made from Egypt for help with evacuating its nationals from the border between Libya and Tunisia, where many refugees have found themselves trapped in recent days, following their escape from the fighting between elements loyal to the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and revolutionaries trying to oust the dictator. The Agency will send a plane today from the Air Force base at Torrejón de Ardoz (Madrid) with around 30 tonnes of humanitarian aid to the border area; once unloaded, the plane will be used to start airlifting Egyptians out of the area.
Snow has started falling today on lower ground in Catalunya, with some places that are 500 metres above sea level being covered with a layer of snow (read article in Castilian here, El Periodico). Most of the areas affected are in Central Catalunya, such as Espinelves in the county of Osona, and Coll de Revell in La Selva (Costa Brava), with both these places seeing five centimetres of snow this morning. Other areas, including Terrassa to the north of Barcelona city, have seen snow fall but not settle, according to the Catalan meteorological service, which has activated the Neucat plan to deal with the potential adverse effects of snowfall. The snow arrives five days before the one-year anniversary of the major snowstorm that brought chaos to Catalunya and left a large number of homes on the Costa Brava and in the Girona region without electricity for a week.
The Generalitat's department for territory and sustainability has insisted that the price of train tickets will not be reduced in Catalunya from next Monday, despite the order from the Spanish ministry of public works to cut the cost of travelling by public transport by five percent, leading to a major row between the Spanish and Catalan governments (read article in Catalan here, Avui). Joaquim Nadal, spokesman for the Catalan Socialist Party in the Catalan parliament and former minister for public works in the Generalitat, ignited the controversy on Tuesday when he said that the cost of reducing the price of tickets on the local and medium-distance train services (Rodalies) would be paid for by the Spanish government, as is laid out in the agreement to transfer the responsibility for the Rodalies services from the Spanish state to the Generalitat. However, the Spanish minister for public works, José Blanco, said yesterday that this wasn't the case and demanded that the governments of Catalunya and Madrid (this community is also proving reluctant to cut its train prices) explain to its citizens why they won't take this action at a time when it is necessary to make cost savings on energy spending. "We will happily do it if the Spanish state pays," explained Lluís Recoder, minister of territory and sustainability for the Generalitat. The cost of reducing the train ticket price by five percent is some €26 million. Recoder said that the Spanish government had already cut its contribution to the cost of public transportation in the Barcelona metropolitan area by 22.5 percent, and noted that of the €4 billion that was due to be invested in Rodalies in Catalunya between 2008 and 2015, so far only €306 million had been spent. The situation is also more complicated in Catalunya because a reduction in the train fares would also see metro and bus fares affected because of the integrated ticket system that is used here.