José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero will offer José Montilla, 'Institutional loyalty' to develop the Catalan Estatut but warned that there were points that did not fit within the Constitution (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). According to sources at the Palacio de la Moncloa, Zapatero will offer assistance but will also make it clear that in some cases the Court had been categorical and that some of the cuttings from the Estatut will not be recovered. However, the government has declared itself willing to "explore all avenues" to restore the issues that the TC annulled or limited. Referring to the disputed points over the 'preferred language' of Catalan, the Catalan Council of Justice (Consejo de Justicia Catalán), which the TC ruled should be regulated by the Ley Orgánica del Poder Judicial and that it shouldn't be a statute for autonomy. The first vice-president, Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, has insisted that any reform that is undertaken should observe that ruling from the TC and in general fit the "constitutional framework". Sources have estimated that in the first meeting between Zapatero and Montilla will purely be to establish a "political assessment" of the application and will not go into legal details. They meeting is scheduled for 10.30am today and, contrary to what the government had originally planned the president has called for a press conference. The vice-president of the Generalitat, Josep Lluís Carod-Rovira has warned that this will not be a miracle cure and that "problems can not be resolved by a meeting, a demonstration or a law. Do not expect miracle solutions." Zapatero has already made it clear that they will move within the channels that mark the TC ruling, although Montilla resumed last week his demand for a further reform. Speaking at the weekend Zapatero reaffirmed the constitutional validity of the new model.
Tourism picks up but many people will be choosing to stay close to home and keep their holidays short and cheap (read article in Castilian here, El Periodico). According to Exceltur, the Association of Tourist Businesses, more Spanish will be going on holiday this year compared to last year but they will mainly be staying at their second homes or those of friends. If they do choose to go abroad, the most common option is that of an American or Caribbean cruise. The economic downturn is being blamed for the shift in how many holidays are being planned this year with many more Spanish than normal relying on last-minute bargains, instead of planning in advance. José Luis Zoreda, executive vice president of Exceltur acknowledged a slight increase in the number of tourists but was skeptical of a fully recovered summer season "There can be little joy as we anticipate a shorter peak season with prices more than gloomy." The association predicts that the Spanish will remain mostly in Spain and will try to minimize costs, using their second homes. "The Spanish have a desire to travel, at least more than last year, but choose destinations proximity in the homes of friends and family and expect last-minute deals," according to Oscar Pereli, director of studies at Exceltur. According to a report issued by the Association, the second quarter has seen a revitalisation of summer sales, but this is being put down to an increase in promotional campaigns and offers with discounts of up to 20 percent.
A corruption case in the Ciutat Vella has revealed that in one day 661 licenses for tourist apartments were requested (read article in Castilian here, El Pais). On December 31st, 2006, 675 license applications for apartments were entered into the register in the Ciutat Vella; Of these 661 of them were signed by the same engineer, Joaquín Quílez. Quíllez, is involved in a corruption case that sees, two former officials also accused, Heliodoro Lozano, director of licensing and public space and Elena Ariza, who was a legal secretary. The court is investigating a pattern of corruption that involves bribes from businessmen through Quílez, who acted as an intermediary figure, to city officials, all to facilitate the processing of licenses, expedite administration times or simply to avoid inspections which could uncover irregularities. Until 2006, the apartments had been operating without any requirement because there was no regulations in place. The new licenses to operate as a holiday apartment was supposed to change practices and meet certain requirements. Those who did not comply would be made to restore their house to its previous function. The presentation of 675 applications completely overwhelmed the office and it took around three months to get round to answering them. Meanwhile all the apartments continued to operate under administrative silence. All this happened at a time of change, due to municipal elections and the subsequent formation of government. It wasn't until around Spring 2008 that the licenses were reviewed. During which it was discovered that many of the records were signed by the same engineering firm, with Quílez worked for.