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A day after the appearance of Catalonia's exiled president Carles Puigdemont before the Italian judiciary, the current Catalan government spokesperson, Patrícia Plaja, celebrated that he had been allowed to go free and said that the episode was “a new European discredit, or even an international ridicule for Spanish justice”. In a press conference after today's cabinet meeting, the spokesperson explained that both government partners agreed to convey the executive's satisfaction with the release of Puigdemont without even any bail measures. She also called for an end to the Spanish state's repression, saying the government would keep on demanding it as often as it had to.

Asked by reporters whether the climate of the coalition government is good after the operation that led to the arrest of president Puigdemont, Plaja said that it is cohesive: “It is a coalition government. They are two different political groups, but when it comes to acting as a government, we work with unity of action."

Catalan government does not question Renfe rail strike

At the press conference, the spokesperson also asserted that the situation of the suburban rail services around Catalonia, currently affected by a rail workers' strike, is unsustainable and that the infrastructures "are not appropriate for a modern and advanced country". In this regard, Catalan president Pere Aragonès has sent a letter to the Spanish PM Pedro Sànchez to demand once again the full transfer of the Renfe suburban services to the Catalan government and, in the meantime, an urgent proposal for improvements. An agreed transfer of competency over these Renfe services from the state to the Catalan government took place in 2010 was only partial and left the operation, infrastructure and rolling stock outside Catalan control.

Plaja said that the government does not question the strike because any worker must be able to exercise this right, but added that the executive also is working to ensure that the agreed minimum level of services, not met in recent days, is respected: "We have offered to mediate between the company and workers."

Nightclub dancefloors to fill again

The government spokesperson also spoke about the re-opening of nightlife in Catalonia on October 8th, as the latest and much-demanded step in the easing of Covid measures. Pending another meeting at which the details will be set, Plaja said that opening hours permitted will be wide and that to enter nightlife establishments proof of being fully vaccinated or a negative diagnostic test will be required. The premises will be able to open up to 70% of their normal maximum capacity, dancing will be allowed inside, and a mask must be worn at all times except when eating or drinking.

First steps to the 2021 Catalan budget

As the ERC party has reiterated in recent days, the priority of negotiations for the passing of the Catalan government budget for 2021 is with the CUP, the government spokesperson reaffirmed. Now, the first steps have been taken in these budgets and the cabinet has approved a spending ceiling, an "essential step" prior to the approval of the accounts.

As well, an extraordinary 2021 fund with an endowment of 100 million euros has been created for local authorities, to alleviate losses of revenue due to the Covid-19 economic crisis. This amount will be split, with almost 67 million euros going directly to the municipalities; while 31 million euros will be distributed between the counties of Aran and those of the rest of Catalonia (except the Barcelonès county). 1.4 million euros will go to the Barcelona Metropolitan Area, and about 280,000 for decentralized municipal entities.

No holiday on October 12th

In line with the practice of the Catalan government in recent years, on Tuesday, October 12th, the executive will maintain its usual Tuesdays activity and will not celebrate the Spanish Hispanidad holiday. Thus, the Catalan government will hold its usual cabinet meeting and subsequent press conference.


Main image: Catalan ministers Puigneró, Aragonès and Vilagrà shortly before a cabinet meeting / Ruben Moreno