Spanish prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero has said that unemployment amongst the young is the biggest problem currently facing Spain (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). There is now a rate of unemployment of 43.6 percent amongst the working population aged 25 and below, and this is set to be the main problem that the country has to face for some time to come, according to Zapatero. Speaking to the Spanish congress yesterday, under questioning from the opposition leader Mariano Rajoy, the Socialist leader said that the issue was one of the structural problems that the Spanish employment system is suffering. Rajoy criticised the government for not dealing with the problems during its past seven years of mandate, giving rise to the present situation where 25 percent of young unemployed people in the EU come from Spain. He said that when Zapatero took power in 2004, the rate of unemployment amongst under-25s was only 20 percent and that it is becoming increasingly difficult to incorporate this group into the employment world. However, Zapatero rejected the former claim, saying that he had inherited an unemployment rate in this group of 30 percent and that through much of his mandate, it had hovered around the 25 percent level.
Former president of the Generalitat Jordi Pujol has said that he can no longer see any arguments against Catalan independence (read article in Catalan here, Avui). Writing in an online newsletter for the Centre d'Estudis Jordi Pujol, the ex-president made his most explicit call for the region to win its independence from Spain. Known for his moderate approach to the subject in the past, Pujol says he now sees it as a viable "alternative" in the face of the marginalisation to which he deems the Spanish are presently subjecting Catalans."For many years, the majority of Catalan nationalists have not been 'independentistas' [in favour of independence]." Instead, he says, local nationalism as epitomised by his party Convergència i Unió has been in favour of an autonomy that guarantees a high level of politics and administration, economic viability and a guarantee of identity. He goes on to say that for two decades, this sector had valid arguments against independence, but that this is no longer the case. Pujol said he believed that an independent Catalunya would be economically viable although he supports current Generalitat president Artur Mas's argument that the move towards independence must not threaten the internal cohesion of Catalunya. But he said that even this argument loses weight in the face of the economic discrimination suffered by the region, due to its "social and human repercussions". Independence is difficult to achieve but the only alternative, he reckons, is that which is "imposed" by Spain, an option that pushes Catalunya to the sidelines.
The Catalan police, the Mossos d'Esquadra, say that they have observed a notable rise in the number of flats that are burgled in Barcelona (read article in Castilian here, El Periodico). Although they haven't released any concrete figures on the matter, the Mossos say that there was "an important" increase in such robberies during 2010; in fact, it's the only kind of crime that increased in the Catalan capital last year. This upward trend has been seen in Barcelona for the past three years, and is apparently due not just to the economic crisis, but also to a feeling of impunity amongst those committing the robberies. As with many pickpockets in the city, those who break into flats do so knowing that even if they are caught, arrested and brought into court, they will usually go free as judges don't often subject such cases to a provisional prison sentence. The difficulty of catching such criminals red-handed and of identifying those responsible for a significant number of burglaries, both circumstances needed for a strong prosecution case, are the reasons why so many of those involved in robbing people's flats believe that they can do it at no fear of being punished. There has also been a rise in the number of groups from different countries committing burglaries here, with Romanians, South Americans, North Africans and Sub-Saharians as well as Spaniards having been accused of breaking into apartments.