Despite repeating on various occasions that the make-up of the Spanish Constitutional Court should not be changed while it is still debating its sentence regarding the Catalan Statute, yesterday Spanish prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero allowed his government to make an about-turn and it will now re-open the process to renew the members of the court, four of whom saw their mandate run out in December 2007 (read article in Castilian here, El Periodico). Coinciding with the appearance of the Catalan president, José Montilla, in the Spanish senate yesterday to call for an urgent review of those who are sitting on the court, the governing Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) said that today it would recommence the procedures for designating the magistrates who will substitute the four whose mandate has expired. A vote could take place regarding the new members within a month and the PSOE has indicated that it may not veto the sole two candidates proposed by the opposition Partido Popular party, as a way to ease the change. The Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), which has been carrying out negotiations with the PSOE regarding the matter during recent weeks, was very happy with news and showed itself particularly satisfied that it came about on a day that Montilla was in Madrid, and that the Catalan opposition leader, Artur Mas had decided not to accompany the president to the Senate, leaving the full spotlight of success to fall on the Catalan leader.
The number of people applying to be a taxi driver in Barcelona rose 50 percent last year, but there has been a significant drop in those passing the licence exam, down to 40 percent compared to 90 percent in 2000 (read article in Castilian here, El Periodico). With the rise in unemployment caused by the ongoing financial crisis, people are looking for new ways to earn their keep and this has contributed to the dramatic rise in applications, according to a representative from a school that gives classes to potential taxi drivers. In 2009, 2,203 people took the exam and it is expected that by the end of this year, 3,000 people will have sat the test in Barcelona. However, there are currently only 10,480 licences available and already more than 12,000 professional taxi drivers working. There has been a large rise in the number of foreigners looking to get a taxi licence, particularly men from Pakistan and Morocco (50 percent of applications now come from foreigners), although in some cases, their lack of Castilian can cause problems both with the exam and, once they have their licence, in offering a good level of service to clients, according to the taxi school spokesman. “We give more classes in Castilian than in taxi driving, and that holds back the others,” he said, adding that if they are not familiar with Barcelona, it can cause problems when trying to find the destination that clients want to go.
Two ministers in the current Catalan government, Joaquim Nadal and Antoni Castells, have been implicated in the so-called Caso Pretoria, which is investigating corruption amongst various Catalan and local council politicians (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). According to a summary of the case, two of those accused of corruption, Lluís Prenafeta and Macià Alavedra, who were close advisers of Catalan President Jordi Pujol when he was in office, tried to get help for their respective businesses from Nadal (in charge of Territorial Politics) and Castells (Economy), and later sold information about these political contacts to make commissions. Details about the interactions with the ministers were gathered from telephone conversations and e-mails, as well as personal documents and notes that have been collected by the Guardia Civil as part of the Pretoria Case operation.
Also in the news: Flights cancelled between Barcelona and Heathrow due to BA strike (read full article in Catalan here, Avui); Delay agreed in debts permitted for local councils (read full article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia); New traffic law comes into force offering ‘express’ payment of fines (read full article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia).