Catalonia

The Correfoc Report 30-Nov-2018
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Spanish authorities cannot agree charges against separatists (El País 02-Nov)
Ai Weiwei condemns Spanish behaviour (Catalan News 21-Nov)
Budget protests intensify (El País 29-Nov)
The Correfoc's View
Different Spanish authorities cannot decide between the more serious charge of rebellion (25 years) or sedition (12 years) and misuse of funds. Either way, democracy carries a prison sentence in Spain. Freedom of speech also looks threatened after a Catalan comedian was summoned to court for hate crimes and insulting Spanish symbols by blowing his nose on a Spanish flag (Catalan News 26-Nov). Ai Weiwei’s (the famous Chinese human rights dissident and artist) intervention looks even more awful for Spain.
Anti-austerity protests are also increasing. 60% of family doctors are on strike in Catalonia. If Spain is not careful, anti-authoritarian, anti-immigration (see August’s Report), and economic unrest will cause real trouble. It is unsurprising that the latest poll was 47%/43% in favour of independence (Catalan News 23-Nov).
Fun Fact: Artists Anna Juncà and David Oliva created an “Origami Lava” display in an abandoned building as part of the annual Lluèrnia Festival celebrating fire and light (The Spaces 14-Nov)


The Correfoc Report 31-Oct-2018
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Pro-independence MPs lose majority in parliament (Catalan News 09-Oct)
Referendum websites blocked by Spain, EU won’t interfere (Catalan News 16-Oct)
Barcelona launches new digital currency (Crypto News 05-Oct)
The Correfoc's View
The loss of their majority comes after a ruling by a Spanish judge to suspend certain MPs (the imprisoned or exiled). The speaker will not allow substitutions and some parties/MPs reject being substituted anyway. The Correfoc understands the point of principle (they believe they are rightfully elected and illegitimately denied their seats) but wonders about practicality.
The Correfoc is concerned about “digital repression”. Jordi Puigneró, the Minister of Digital Policies, has taken the complaint to the EU about Spain shutting down hundreds of pro-independence websites and apps. The EU response amounted to saying that it was against digital repression except when the laws of a Member State allow it. This is disgusting.
Fun Fact: FC Barcelona defeat Real Madrid in a spectacular 5-1 match (FC Barcelona 28-Oct)


The Correfoc Report 30-Sep-2018
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Spanish PM proposes a greater autonomy referendum (Channel News Asia 03-Sep)
Bank of Spain cuts growth forecasts (Reuters 25-Sep)
Madrid sends 1,000 extra police to Catalonia (El País 05-Sep)
The Correfoc's View
It has been a year since the independence referendum and it looks like stalemate. There is little movement on either side, though popular pro-independence marches are frequent and well attended. Despite cuts in growth forecasts, the Catalonia economy remains strong. It is the strongest in all of Spain. The Correfoc believes that the independence movement is making slow gains, but this is a battle of attrition and independence is not guaranteed. 
Fun Fact: There are an estimated 9 million speakers of the Catalan language


The Correfoc Report 31-Aug-2018
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Yellow ribbon protests continue (The Local 30-Aug)
Catalonia 1H exports hit record high, €36.6bn (Catalan News 23-Aug)
Andalusia and Catalonia want fairer migrant distribution (El País 06-Aug)
The Correfoc's View
Tensions are still high. Many Catalans protest the imprisonment of their elected representatives with yellow ribbons, posted all around in many public places. Counter-protesters do their best to take them down or spoil them.
The Correfoc is mindful of the ongoing Mediterranean migrant crisis. Italy is taking preventative measures and now the boats go to Andalusia and Catalonia. The Correfoc suspects this will make the central Madrid government even more unpopular.
Fun Fact: Despite heavy controls, the independence referendum happened anyway in last October – the ballot boxes came via the Catalans in the South of France (BBC 19-Aug)


The Correfoc Report 31-Jul-2018
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Spain drops warrant against Puigdemont (BBC 19-Jul)
Spain to challenge Cat govt in court (Catalan News 06-Jul)
Catalonia govt to adopt blockchain technology (Press Release 07-Jul)
The Correfoc's View
Spain looks like it will oppose any and all means to achieve independence through legal means. It will challenge a motion set in the Catalan parliament merely reaffirming commitment to seeking independence.
The promise to adopt blockchain technology is very interesting. It could help Catalonia create the infrastructure it needs for a minimally disruptive separation.
Fun Fact: A return to traditional fishing methods may help save the red shrimp fishing industry (Smithsonian Magazine 05-Jul)


The Correfoc Report 30-Jun-2018
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Catalan President to ask Spain for secession vote (AP 26-Jun)
Madrid lifts financial controls (Politico 08-Jun)
Govt rules out incentives to reattract firms (Catalan News 14-Jun)
The Correfoc's View
The new Catalan govt will try official, fully indisputable legal means to get a vote on independence. There is a new govt in Madrid which for now looks like it is taking a less violent and authoritarian approach. If a vote is granted can independence win? Catalonia’s economy is strong across all sectors. It does not look like the events of last year had a serious effect. On the other hand, voters may not want to rock the boat. It is too early for the Correfoc to judge.
Fun Fact: The women of the town L'Ametlla del Vallès have voted 60.1% to allow topless bathing at the local municipal pool after previous arrests and public demonstrations (La Vanguardia 11-Jun)


The Correfoc Report 31-May-2018
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Torra proposes new ministers (El País 30-May)
Nestlé and Siemens plan new tech hubs (Catalan News 29-May)
S&P drops debt downgrade warning for Catalonia (The Local 26-May)
The Correfoc's View
Catalan President Quim Torra has proposed a new govt with no jailed or exiled members. It looks like Madrid will have to restore regional power to an independence-supporting Catalan govt.
Catalonia’s prospects are good. Nestlé’s and Siemens’ plans, the planned blockchain centre in the Barcelona Tech City (La Vanguardia 24-May), are good examples of a wider pattern. Entrepreneurship increased from approx. 6.9% to 8% in 2017 (GEM 28-May). Catalonia also attracted the most EU funds for innovative SMEs 2014-17 (Catalan News 30-May).
The Correfoc believes a focus on tech, innovation, and new business could help minimise the risks of independence. New projects do not rely as much on the maintenance of the status quo.
Fun Fact: Hollywood actor Robert De Niro will open a new Nobu restaurant in Barcelona in 2019 (La Vanguardia 18-May)


The Correfoc Report 30-Apr-2018
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Basque delegation sent to Catalonia for budget talks (Bloomberg 09-Apr)
Germany refuses to extradite Puigdemont (Independent 05-Apr)
Spain & Catalonia fishing permit battle (The Local 26-Apr)
The Correfoc's View
Spain is months overdue to pass their budget for this year. Spanish PM Rajoy relied on Basque Nationalist Party support to stay in government. Now they will not support a new budget until the end of Madrid’s direct rule over Catalonia. Support for independence in the Basque Country is approx 25% (50% in Catalonia) and the Basques have much greater financial self-determination. The Correfoc expects that the Basques like the status quo and will try to approach the situation as a moderating influence.
Fun Fact: Saint Jordi (George) is the patron saint of Catalonia. His day is 23-Apr.


The Correfoc Report 31-Mar-2018
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Puigdemont detained in Germany (BBC 25-Mar)
Madrid sends bodyguards for officials in Catalonia (El País 29-Mar)
Madrid prepares to extend control (El País 05-Mar)
The Correfoc's View
The Catalan independence debate was reignited across Europe.
Spain re-issued 6 EU arrest warrants. Finland conspicuously avoided the problem of arresting Puigdemont (Guardian 25-Mar) but not Germany. 51% of Germans are against, with only 35% in favour (Die Welt 29-Mar). Puigdemont has highly respected lawyer, an ex-German Supreme Court and UN International Criminal Court judge (Deutsche Welle 28-Mar). The arrest of ex-Education Minister, Clara Ponsatí, in Scotland is also controversial. St Andrews University, where she lectures in economics, supports her (Guardian 26-Mar) and a cross-bench group of Scottish MPs (Herald 30-Mar). Ponsatí’s crowdfunded legal defence has broken records (Guardian 31-Mar).
The Correfoc expects that the EU arrest warrants will not be denied. The EU is fragile and cannot afford to embarrass Spain. On the other hand, the EU cannot be seen to trample human rights, free speech, and democracy. The issue of Catalan independence is far from over.
Fun Fact: Bakers expect to sell 700,000 traditional Easter Mona de Pasqua cakes this year (Catalan News 28-Mar)


The Correfoc Report 28-Feb-2018
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Amnesty International call for independence leader release (Guardian 07-Feb)
Catalan govt planning army, Guardia Civil report says (El Pais 02-Feb)
Girona airport to get high speed rail connection (Catalan News 22-Feb)
The Correfoc's View
The pro-independence side is making its next moves: an appeal to human rights and civil liberties. We will see appeals to the UN (Guardian 01-Feb), the ECHR (Catalan News 13-Feb), and independence politician Anna Gabriel is seeking asylum in Switzerland (El Pais 20-Feb). The Correfoc expects this is the best chance at tackling the 4-year low support for independence (Reuters 23-Feb) but it may prove a longer term strategy.
Fun Fact: FA charge Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola over yellow independence support ribbon (Guardian 23-Feb)


The Correfoc Report 31-Jan-2018
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Spanish court; Puigdemont cannot rule from abroad (BBC 27-Jan)
Spanish govt; military was ready to go into Catalonia (ABC 06-Jan)
Drought threatens crops (Catalan News 24-Jan)
The Correfoc's View
Political games continue. A Spanish court has ruled that Puigdemont cannot lead the Catalan parliament as a fugitive. There are no other candidates and the Catalan parliament has delayed the vote to elect its President (Independent 30-Jan). Puigdemont’s (temporary) despair (BBC 31-Jan) is understandable. We now know that Spain was prepared to send in the army and spent an extra €88m on police to squash independence (Independent 18-Jan). The Correfoc thinks it is the separatists’ next move.
Fun Fact: Messi agreed a no-fee exit clause in case of Catalan independence (Reuters 05-Jan)


The Correfoc Report 31-Dec-2017
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Independence parties keep win narrow majority (BBC 21-Dec)
Q4 economic growth predict 0.7% (AIReF 28-Dec)
Madrid govt begin withdrawing police from Catalonia (Deutsche Welle 27-Dec)
The Correfoc's View
The Correfoc’s election prediction was correct (see last month’s report below). Exiled Ex-President Puigdemont is calling for talks. If Madrid rejects talks they look unreasonable. If they accept talks it gives legitimacy to independence. Spanish PM Rajoy is trying a desperate third option. He is urging the pro-unity Ciudadanos party to try to form a govt (Bloomberg 27-Dec).
The Correfoc expects the pro-independence parties to form a govt but it will take some time. The Correfoc also expects them to promise compromise and stability to reassure business and build on their political support.
Fun Fact: Real Madrid 0, Barcelona 3 (BBC 23-Dec)


The Correfoc Report 30-Nov-2017
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Brussels court grant Puigdemont freedom to campaign (Reuters 06-Nov)
2700 companies reregister HQs since referendum (Washington Post 30-Nov)
Police probe Cat govt bitcoin referendum payment Amazon&Google (El Mundo 24-Nov)
The Correfoc's View
Madrid and the ex-Catlan govt suggest compromises. Madrid is open to discussing greater fiscal autonomy (Guardian 21-Nov). Puigdemont says independence is not the only solution (The Local 13-Nov) and his PdeCat party now favours talks to achieve independence (The Local 24-Nov). The Correfoc thinks this is just for election campaigning. The Correfoc predicts a narrow win for pro-independence parties.
Fun Fact: Catalans in France are now beginning to campaign for independence (Daily Express 07-Nov)


The Correfoc Report 29-Oct-2017
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Referendum: 90.18% for independence (Government of Catalonia 10-Oct)
Spanish govt take control of Catalonia TV and radio (El País 22-Oct)
1000+ companies re-register HQs (Der Spiegel 20-Oct)
The Correfoc's View
Spain is revoking the authority of the Government of Catalonia. It jailed independence leaders (Reuters 16-Oct), journalists were summoned by the police, a law was passed to help businesses relocate (Independent 06-Oct), it will force new elections in January (BBC 20-Oct), and hundreds of voters were beaten by police (BBC 01-Oct).
The EU’s credibility is wearing thin.
The Catalans are making economically defensive moves. The Correfoc has heard of plans to introduce a new cryptocurrency. This would bypass Spanish control of the financial system.
Fun Fact: A correfoc is a “fire run”, a traditional Catalan celebration where people dress up as demons and run around, shooting fireworks (see example here)