The Spanish Ibex-35 stock exchange saw its second biggest fall of the year yesterday, losing over five percent of its value and closing at 9,859 points (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). Opening this morning, an initial further drop of 3.18 percent had evened out slightly to 1.77 percent at the time of writing, putting it below 9,700 points, significantly under the ‘psychological’ barrier of 10,000 points. The fall came as a result of rumours amongst international traders and speculators about the current economic situation in Spain and the possibility that the country might need financial aid similar to that which has been offered to Greece; the Spanish prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, yesterday made a firm denial that the finances of Spain were in such difficulties or would need funds of more than €200 billion to recover, but this did nothing to halt the slide. Zapatero is due to meet the opposition leader, Mariano Rajoy, this morning to discuss the economic crisis in Spain, which could have an impact on the Ibex-35. Across the main stock exchanges of Europe, including London, Paris and Milan, there was a similar downward trend yesterday.
The Catalan government has drawn up a new decree regarding accessibility for disabled people, which should significantly extend the measures included in the current regulations that date from 1995 (read article in Castilian here, El Periodico). There are various aspects of the existing law that the government has struggled to ensure are met, such as the basic requirement that all buildings have wheelchair access. As such, while entities such as the Catalan Federation for Deaf People has said that the new decree will be beneficial, they point out that there is a different between putting such measures in place and ensuring that they are complied with. Other entities, such as the organisation for the blind, ONCE, welcomed the move, it said it is concerned that the new measures won’t be approved in the current parliament due to the likely delays that there will be in negotiating its terms. Amongst other features, the new decree says that all information from public services has to be accessible by all, which means providing it in Braille or using audio information systems amongst other systems, while restaurants need to provide 10 percent of tables that are accessible to the disabled and menus in Braille if they have seating for more than 200 people. In addition, it requires that all traffic lights have audible signals and there has to be one adapted taxi for each 10,000 residents.
Local train services in Catalunya, as well as medium- and long-distance services, are affected today by a second strike in three days by Renfe drivers (read article in Catalan here, Avui). The drivers were on strike for 24 hours on Monday, which saw 450 trains suspended and 175,000 passengers affected, even though Renfe says that only six drivers supported the stoppage. As with Monday’s action, today there will be 66 percent of service running during rush hour (6 to 9.30am and 5 to 8.30pm), while the rest of the day, only 33 percent of services will operate. The drivers are calling for greater safety measures as well as the installation of more parking spaces for their use at Sants-Estació. Trade union representatives have accused Renfe of playing up the latter demand as a way of turning passengers against the cause of the drivers, while actually their main concern is safety at work as a result of various accidents that some drivers have had in recent months. The director of the local train service Rodalies, in turn said that he didn’t understand why the drivers were on strike and that Renfe had reduced the timeframes for the installation of passageways at the station of Sants as well as offering 50 parking spaces, although they couldn’t guarantee that they would all be in the area underneath Sants, as the drivers had called for. The Generalitat said yesterday that the unions, operator and drivers should reflect on the action being taken in the face of the disproportionate effects that Monday’s action had had.
Also in the news: Zapatero and Rajoy to meet for first time in over a year after Spanish king calls for unity to deal with crisis (read full article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia); Barça win another crucial match in fight for Spanish league (read full article in Castilian here, El Periodico); Plans for bike lane on new Avinguda Diagonal could cause problems for pedestrians or tram users (read full article in Catalan here, Avui).