Catalonia Calling! #23

Mobile World Congress, Transport and Tension in Madrid
 - 27/2/2016

Catalonia Calling #23 is called Mobile World Congress, Transport and Tension in Madrid and covers this week's events in Barcelona and the Pedro Sánchez's desperate attempts to form a government.

The Mobile World Congress was in Barcelona this week and will be back every year until 2023. Apparently, it was a great success but was marred by transport strikes throughout the week.

Meanwhile in Madrid, PSOE leader, Pedro Sánchez signed an agreement with Ciudadanos ahead of the investiture debate, which will be held in the Congress of Deputies in Madrid on Thursday March 3rd.

I also want to mention the radio show that I'm doing with my friend Jordi Vilanova - it's called This Week in Catalan Politics and goes out live on BarcelonaCityFM, Barcelona's first English-speaking radio station, every Wednesday lunchtime at 12 o'clock midday.


Mobile World Congress 2016

Well, the Mobile World Congress was in Barcelona this week and has been a great success bringing, according to the last reports I heard, over 100,000 visitors to the city and creating over 13,000 temporary jobs.

The lasting impact, though, is the good it does for Barcelona's profile as both a business and tourst destination and the fact that the city is fast turning into a hub for technology start-ups.

As a friend of mine said recently it's like having the Olympic Games here every year and the Mobile World Congress is going to be here in the city until 2023.

The congressees are big spenders and they can see that Barcelona is a great place to do business so they'll definitely be back.

As far as homegrown technology talent is concerned having a chance to showcase your product at the Mobile World Congress every year is obviously a big advantage.

Furthermore, it appears that as a result of the Congress more and more foreign tech companies are choosing to open offices in Barcelona so the economic benefits for the city last much longer than just conference week.

Transport Strikes

The only black mark on the week was the series of transport strikes that were called by the local unions.

These involved Barcelona Metro strikes on Monday and Wednesday, bus strikes on Tuesday and Thursday and a RENFE local train strike on Friday

Reduced services were provided on each of the days and if the interviews that were shown on television are anything to go by, as far as the people actually attending the Mobile World Congress were concerned, the strikes appeared to affect them very little and they were regarded as little more than a minor inconvenience.

I'm not sure whether the organisers saw it that way, though, and there was some concern whether the transport problems could be considered an incompletion of contract.

In a show of solidarity, Cristina Cifuentes, the President of the Autonomous Community of Madrid, made a public statement offering Madrid as home to the Mobile World Congress in the future.

My main complaint, though, is that there is generally very little information offered by the unions, Commissions Obreres, UGT and CNT, and the people who are most badly affected are the poor commuters who are just trying to get to work.

Transport in the Barcelona Metropolitan Area was affected for five consecutive days and this means that average people, who already have a very long working day, had to leave home an hour or so early and got back an hour or so late.

It's also worth bearing in mind that the lowest salaries for a TMB employee are between 27,000 and 29,000 euros a month, which is significantly better than what most people on temporary contracts and salaries of a 1,000 euros a month if they are lucky are getting.

After the strike had started, one of the CUP councillors on Barcelona City Council, Josep Garganté, said that one of the unions' complaints was the top heavy management structure and the excessive salaries of top executives at Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona.

If the situation is bad then obviously it should be improved but my complaint is that union communication with the public prior to the calling of any strike is dreadful.

I have no idea whether these problems can be solved by means other than a strike but if there's no information then it's impossible to put on public pressure.

Ada Colau and Xavier Trias

An ironic aspect of the strikes is that they took place under left-wing Mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, who before she came to power always backed the unions and critised the the bourgeois capitalist former mayor, Xavier Trias.

It's interesting that Convergència member, Trias, never had to suffer such a bad transport strike during the Mobile World Congress and one year began negotiations with the unions five months before the Congress in order to make sure things went smoothly.

It appears that this year Ada Colau's team only began negotiations a few day before the Congress and the result was one of the worst transport strikes in Barcelona that anyone can remember.

The message seems to be that it's very easy to shout slogans and hold up placards on demonstrations but once you actually have some power the situation becomes much more complex and what is best for the downtrodden workers isn't necessarily what's best for the city as a whole.

Problems in Forming a Spanish Government

Before we close, it's worth mentioning the problems Pedro Sánchez of PSOE is having in getting sufficient support to form a government in Madrid ahead of the first investiture debate in the Congress of the Deputies on Thursday March 3rd.

In fact, in conversation with British PM (in Spanish through a translator) Mariano Rajoy let slip that new Spanish elections on June 26th would roughly coincide with the British Brexit from the European Union referendum.

Pedro Sánchez signed an agreement with Albert Rivera of Ciudadanos this week but the combination of PSOE, who have 90 seats, and Ciudadanos with 40 seats only comes to 130 seats, which is a long way short of the absolute majority of 176 seats, which is what Sánchez needs if he's going to become president in the first investiture debate.

The PP are unwilling to give any support, Podemos have pulled out saying their politics are incompatible with right-wing Ciudadanos and the Catalan parties are going to be voting against a possible government that is determined not to give any concessions to Madrid.

I'll be talking about this in more detail next week but it looks like PSOE and Ciudadanos could well have burnt their bridges because as clear representatives of the left on the one hand and the right on the other, Podemos and the Partido Popular look like they want to go for elections so I think Pedro Sánchez has very little chance of forming a government.

A Final Thought

Anyway, thanks very much for watching. Please subscribe, like and comment. Also remember that I do all this completely free. So if you want to support my work and research, you can click on an ad, buy my book Catalonia Is Not Spain: A Historical Perspective on Amazon or make a donation a

That's it from me for this week.

Viscal el Barça!Who are playing Sevilla this week and this afternoon Real Madrid play Atlético so we could be ahead at the top of La Liga by more than 10 points at the end of the weekend.

Visca Catalunya! Look after yourselves.

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