Spanish prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, will take part in his final 'state of the nation' address in congress today (read article in Castilian here, El Periodico). The annual debate gives the government and the opposition the opportunity to discuss the events and achievements of the past 12 months; this year's debate takes place in the midst of a European crisis due to the Greek situation, while Spain's own financial situation continues to be regarded as vulnerable. The opposition leader, Mariano Rajoy of the Partido Popular (PP), is likely to make political gain out of Greece's complicated status. Other factors that Rajoy will probably focus on include the almost five million unemployed people in Spain and the country's poor rate of growth. He will point to a perceived lack of confidence from international financial markets in Spain, which he will argue would evaporate if Zapatero were to call early general elections (currently due to take place next March); in recent polls, Rajoy was shown as the clear victor if advance elections were to be held. However, Zapatero is expected to defend his government's handling of the financial crisis and the decisions he's taken with the aim of avoiding Spain having to apply for an EU bailout, as has happened not only in Greece, but also Portugal and Ireland. Zapatero can argue that he has moved forward with various reforms (including those of labour conditions, pensions, the restructuring of savings banks and budget cuts) without the help of the PP, whose members have abstained in the majority of the parliamentary debates over these changes, except the one on budget cuts, which they argued hurt pensioners, and pension reform.
The public water companies Agència Catalana de l'Aigua (ACA) and Aigües Ter-Llobregat (ATLL) will this year have to pay €64 million in interest incurred on around €2.2 billion of debt (read article in Catalan here, Avui). The information was revealed as part of the debate of the Generalitat's budgets for this year—that is currently taking place in the Catalan parliament—highlighting the precarious situation that these public agencies find themselves in. The budget documentation also shows that the two companies will this year pay only €45.8 million in salaries to personnel. As well as the financial needs of the companies, they have both admitted that they owe money to creditors in the form of private companies and local councils: ACA owes around €299 million and ATLL, €41.8 million. In addition, ACA will see its budget cut this year by 16 percent, around €60 million, due to the Generalitat's austerity measures and cuts in spending on services such as hygiene and sanitation inspection for the coastline.
Spain will see temperatures remain high today as the current heatwave continues (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). A total of 17 provinces are on alert due to the risk of particularly high temperatures, which could reach 40 degrees in the centre and south of the country, according to the National Meteorological Agency. In contrast, the agency believes that temperatures could fall by up to 10 degrees in some northern parts of the peninsula, with rain a possibility in Cantabria and the Pyrenees. Madrid, Zaragoza and Toledo are on orange alert (high risk) while Navarra, Huesca, Zamora, Salamanca, Guadalajara, Granada and Sevilla will also experience high temperatures and are on yellow alert (risk).