Spanish prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero has this week had to repeat his insistence that his successor as the head of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) be selected through a process of primaries, in the face of internal pressure for him to be replaced immediately (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). Speaking at a meeting of the federal executive of the party held hours after the results were in from Sunday's community and municipal elections, in which the PSOE fared even worse than had been feared, Zapatero also made it clear that he wasn't planning on calling early general elections (set for March 2012) or to give up his role as prime minister or secretary general of the party until the PSOE congress due to take place at some time in the near future, with the Socialists having decided to wait until after the May 22nd elections to hold the congress. Zapatero insisted that in a committee meeting of the PSOE due for this Saturday, a green light must be given for the primaries to elect his successor. However, it seems that many from the higher echelons from the party saw such insistence as the last straw, following the serious defeat suffered at the hands of the PP on Sunday. Indeed, many of those at the top of the PSOE, including former prime minister Felipe González, are now openly rejecting going through a process of primaries and instead want to turn the page on 'zapaterismo' as soon as possible.
FC Barcelona football team is already in London having travelled early to avoid any possible disruption due to the ash cloud coming from the Icelandic volcano of Grimsvötn (read article in Castilian here, El Periodico). The team flew to the British capital last night to prepare for their Champions League final on Saturday evening at Wembley against Manchester United. Following their problems last year in travelling to Milan for a Champions semi-final, which was also affected due to a cloud of volcanic ash and saw the team have to travel by coach to the Italian city, this time the team decided to go for the "zero risk" option, according to spokesman Toni Freixa, and fly there some three days earlier than originally planned. However, while the team, trainer and support staff are all now in London, supporters planning to travel to watch the match must wait and see how events unfold. More than 24,000 fans could be affected by the ash cloud, many of whom are planning to travel on Saturday itself to London. Freixa yesterday explained that the club has put in place a plan to try and ensure that all the fans get there whatever happens with the flights. While the club insisted that there was no cause for alarm, many fans were not calmed by the words coming from Barça, fearing a possible 20-hour coach journey to get to London. The club has organised a series of coaches to carry fans there, but places have to be booked before 7pm tomorrow evening, and if, in the end, fans are able to fly, they will lose the €190 paid in advance for the coach alternative, a feature that has provoked much criticism.
The Generalitat is due to present its budgets on May 31st and the department of Governació has warned trade unions that there will be additional cuts to the benefits of public workers at a saving of €25 million, according to sources involved with the negotiations (read article in Catalan here, Avui). The government will suspend payments into the workers' pension scheme, which last year cost €13 million and will also cut by half the payment to the social action fund, going from the €24 million of 2010 to just €12 million this year. As such, base salaries themselves won't be directly affected. At a meeting held on Monday, government representatives also proposed to the unions the ending of a productivity bonus, but this suggestion was yesterday withdrawn in the face of trade union opposition. The main unions involved in the talks, UGT, CCOO and IAC, have asked for a meeting today where the government has to explain the economic impact of the measures, which hasn't yet been clarified.