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Catalan Independence Forces Divided, the EU Covid-19 Certificate, and Youth Unemployment

Pardons to Catalan Politicians, EU Covid-19 Certificate, Youth Unemployment
Images: Flickr | Illustration: Marta Caro
Pardons to Catalan Politicians, EU Covid-19 Certificate, Youth Unemployment
Images: Flickr | Illustration: Marta Caro

Dialogue in Catalonia

The much-needed dialogue between the Catalan government and the central government over the independence drive in Catalonia is closer than ever. But before sitting at the negotiating table, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is set to grant clemency to the 12 separatist leaders jailed over the 2017 outlawed independence referendum and subsequent breakaway bid, a move that is raising hackles among a large part of the Spanish society, most notably the right.

In a letter published on the pro-independence ARA media outlet, Oriol Junqueras, one of the jailed separatist politicians, says that he welcomes the pardons as a gesture “to lighten the conflict and alleviate the pain of repression and suffering” of the Catalan society.

The leader of the Catalan Republican Left (ERC), the ruling party in Catalonia in coalition with the right-wing, hardline independence party Junts x Catalonia, is willing to give up on the unilateral path and seek alternative paths towards the creation of a republic in Catalonia. “We must be aware that our response was not understood as fully legitimate by a significant part of society, including Catalan society,” he says in the letter, where he also advocates for “the Scottish route”, a referendum agreed with Madrid that would allow Catalans to have a say over the independence of the northwestern region. He also pointed out that only an “indisputable, plural majority” could justify the independence drive.

While most members of the PSOE support the pardons, some voices consider the initiative as “sterile” since none of the jailed politicians has expressed regret over the secession attempt —quite the opposite, they have stated that they would do it again.

PM Pedro Sánchez, who defends the pardons on the grounds of public usefulness —that of unblocking stalled talks between Madrid and Barcelona to find a middle ground over the conflict— has welcomed Junqueras’ letter and has asked Spaniards “with misgivings about the decision” for understanding and magnanimity. However, both the public prosecution and the court that handed down the sentences have issued reports against the pardons.

For Madrid’s City Major, José Luis Martínez Almeida of the People’s Party, the letter has little meaning since Junqueras does not back down from pursuing independence, “from breaking our constitutional model of coexistence.” The right-wing parties in the opposition —PP, Vox and Ciudadanos (Citizens)— have warned they will mount legal challenges should the government go ahead with the pardons. In the meantime, they are organizing a rally at Madrid’s Plaza de Colón on Sunday to protest against the pardons and to collect signatures demanding Pedro Sánchez to give up on a measure that they see as the price he must pay for the support in parliament of ERC to pass relevant legislation.

The right is taking advantage of the situation to slam the government and to spread the fake news that Sánchez will eventually allow a referendum in Catalonia. Finance Minister and spokesperson for the Spanish government, María Jesus Montero, said on Tuesday that an independence referendum is not on the cards: “We have always been clear about it, the Spanish people know what the limits of the Government are, and the referendum is one of them. We have expressed this before in all clarity.”

The two other pro-independence parties, Junts and the far-left CUP, don’t see the pardons as a solution to the conflict and have asked Junqueras not to rule out a second unilateral attempt at seceding from Spain. One of the 12 jailed separatist leaders to benefit from the pardons, Jordi Sànchez, secretary-general of Junts, wrote another letter in response to that of Junqueras in which he says the referendum celebrated on October 1, 2017, was not a “mistake” nor “illegitimate” and that Junqueras’ letter is a “tutelage” on the Catalan premier, Pere Aragonès. Meanwhile, the CUP has warned they will withdraw their support to the Catalan government, headed by ERC if there is no “confrontation with the State.”

As things stand right now, with the pro-independence forces divided, it is not clear how long the regional government will last, a possibility that could jeopardize the talks and the search for a solution to the conflict. But if Pedro Sánchez grants the pardons, a move that critics consider a sort of political suicide, and the situation in Catalonia worsens, it will be very hard for the PSOE to win the next elections.

The EU Digital Covid Certificate

Spain is one of the eight European countries to have already implemented the EU Digital Covid Certificate, which will allow vaccinated travellers from across the bloc to enter Spain without the need to present a negative PCR or to quarantine.

The measure, which will come into full effect for the 27 EU countries on June 1, aims at facilitating safe free movement during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The certificate includes a free QR code containing essential information about the bearer, and comes in digital or paper format, in the national language and English. It will serve as proof that a person was vaccinated against COVID-19, received a negative test result or recovered from COVID-19.

National authorities are in charge of issuing the certificate. It could, for example, be issued by test centres or health authorities, or directly via an eHealth portal.

The Digital Covid Certificate should be available to residents of Spain, regardless of nationality. The Spanish Health Ministry has created a website to request the certificate. You will need a Digital Certificate or the Cl@ve Permanente. A PDF including the certificate and a QR code will be sent to you immediately afterwards.

And what about non-EU citizens?

Immunised tourists from all over the world (with the exceptions of India, Brazil and South Africa) who have received one of the following vaccines: Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Janssen, Sinopharm or Sinovac-Coronavac, can enter Spain freely as long as they provide proof of vaccination.

Moreover, all travellers must fill out a health control form available at www.spth.gob.es or the Spain Travel Health app. The QR code that will be created on filling out the form must be shown before boarding, as well as on arrival.

The Economy

Jobless Youth

Youth unemployment in Spain is Europe’s highest. Almost 38% of people under 25 are jobless. To combat this social scourge, the Spanish government has passed a set of measures under the name of Estrategia Juventud Avanza, which includes €5,000 million to invest over the next six years, financed by the European Social Fund.

According to Labor Minister and third deputy prime minister Yolanda Díaz, this is “the highest investment the Spanish government has ever made in the history of our democracy to tackle youth unemployment,” and underscored the dismal fact that having young people hired for as little as €436 a month “was discouraging them.”

Among the measures to be implemented are job orientation, training, equal access to employment, and entrepreneurship.

A Dual Labour Market

The Spanish labour market is characterised by a stark duality. On the one hand, people on fixed-termed contracts enjoy more stability, among other reasons because the cost of dismissal is significantly high, while people on temporary contracts, about 25% of the workforce, are trapped in precariousness since they have few rights and are easier to fire.

Yolanda Díaz wants to increase stability and rights for temporary workers. This week she presented a draft proposal to unions and business associations that includes a maximum new length of temporary contracts, from six months to one year, so that temporary workers can enjoy fix-termed contracts sooner.

The kind of temporary contract known as Obra y Servicio, used when it is necessary to carry out a specific task that is limited in time and which has no specified end date, would cease to exist. The 1.5 million workers currently under such arrangement would be given a fix-termed contract with no end date after a year in the position.

Temporary contracts would be used for reasons of productivity during periods of peak demand. However, workers carrying out normal tasks for the company, as well as seasonal or summer workers, would be on discontinued fixed contracts. On the other hand, they will be used to temporarily replace workers on maternity leave or unpaid leave, for example, for a maximum of 24 months. After that period, substitute workers would have the right to the position and a fixed contract.

Should the bill be approved, new contracts for people substituting dismissed workers or voluntary layoffs on fixed contracts would have to get one as well.

The Cost of the Minimum Wage

The Bank of Spain estimates that the 22% rise in the Minimum Wage (SMI) the Government approved in 2019 has cost the Spanish economy up to 180,000 jobs. The increase, which is the highest in 40 years, benefited 1.4 million workers but decreased the number of new job contracts.

The Spanish regulator concludes that the decision led to lower growth rates in employment, between 0.6% and 1.1%, or what is the same, between 83,000 and 180,000 fewer jobs. It also highlights the fact that the increase benefited working people the most because it translated into a higher salary. The measure discouraged employers from hiring, leaving precarious workers in more unstable position.

Yolanda Díaz said on Friday that the Spanish government will not decrease the minimum wage, as the bank seems to be suggesting.

Dearexpat, is aimed at English-speaking readers who have been living in Spain for long enough to be interested in the country’s current affairs, with a focus on politics, the economy, society, and culture. In fact, anyone, anywhere with a keen interest in Spain might find it helpful. Since we are usually overwhelmed by an endless outpouring of news, this newsletter will be published on Fridays to provide readers with an overview of the most noteworthy events taking place during the week.

Get up to date with what is going on in Spain in just one go.
Sign up to Dearexpat,

Dialogue in Catalonia

The much-needed dialogue between the Catalan government and the central government over the independence drive in Catalonia is closer than ever. But before sitting at the negotiating table, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is set to grant clemency to the 12 separatist leaders jailed over the 2017 outlawed independence referendum and subsequent breakaway bid, a move that is raising hackles among a large part of the Spanish society, most notably the right.

In a letter published on the pro-independence ARA media outlet, Oriol Junqueras, one of the jailed separatist politicians, says that he welcomes the pardons as a gesture “to lighten the conflict and alleviate the pain of repression and suffering” of the Catalan society.

The leader of the Catalan Republican Left (ERC), the ruling party in Catalonia in coalition with the right-wing, hardline independence party Junts x Catalonia, is willing to give up on the unilateral path and seek alternative paths towards the creation of a republic in Catalonia. “We must be aware that our response was not understood as fully legitimate by a significant part of society, including Catalan society,” he says in the letter, where he also advocates for “the Scottish route”, a referendum agreed with Madrid that would allow Catalans to have a say over the independence of the northwestern region. He also pointed out that only an “indisputable, plural majority” could justify the independence drive.

While most members of the PSOE support the pardons, some voices consider the initiative as “sterile” since none of the jailed politicians has expressed regret over the secession attempt —quite the opposite, they have stated that they would do it again.

PM Pedro Sánchez, who defends the pardons on the grounds of public usefulness —that of unblocking stalled talks between Madrid and Barcelona to find a middle ground over the conflict— has welcomed Junqueras’ letter and has asked Spaniards “with misgivings about the decision” for understanding and magnanimity. However, both the public prosecution and the court that handed down the sentences have issued reports against the pardons.

For Madrid’s City Major, José Luis Martínez Almeida of the People’s Party, the letter has little meaning since Junqueras does not back down from pursuing independence, “from breaking our constitutional model of coexistence.” The right-wing parties in the opposition —PP, Vox and Ciudadanos (Citizens)— have warned they will mount legal challenges should the government go ahead with the pardons. In the meantime, they are organizing a rally at Madrid’s Plaza de Colón on Sunday to protest against the pardons and to collect signatures demanding Pedro Sánchez to give up on a measure that they see as the price he must pay for the support in parliament of ERC to pass relevant legislation.

The right is taking advantage of the situation to slam the government and to spread the fake news that Sánchez will eventually allow a referendum in Catalonia. Finance Minister and spokesperson for the Spanish government, María Jesus Montero, said on Tuesday that an independence referendum is not on the cards: “We have always been clear about it, the Spanish people know what the limits of the Government are, and the referendum is one of them. We have expressed this before in all clarity.”

The two other pro-independence parties, Junts and the far-left CUP, don’t see the pardons as a solution to the conflict and have asked Junqueras not to rule out a second unilateral attempt at seceding from Spain. One of the 12 jailed separatist leaders to benefit from the pardons, Jordi Sànchez, secretary-general of Junts, wrote another letter in response to that of Junqueras in which he says the referendum celebrated on October 1, 2017, was not a “mistake” nor “illegitimate” and that Junqueras’ letter is a “tutelage” on the Catalan premier, Pere Aragonès. Meanwhile, the CUP has warned they will withdraw their support to the Catalan government, headed by ERC if there is no “confrontation with the State.”

As things stand right now, with the pro-independence forces divided, it is not clear how long the regional government will last, a possibility that could jeopardize the talks and the search for a solution to the conflict. But if Pedro Sánchez grants the pardons, a move that critics consider a sort of political suicide, and the situation in Catalonia worsens, it will be very hard for the PSOE to win the next elections.

The EU Digital Covid Certificate

Spain is one of the eight European countries to have already implemented the EU Digital Covid Certificate, which will allow vaccinated travellers from across the bloc to enter Spain without the need to present a negative PCR or to quarantine.

The measure, which will come into full effect for the 27 EU countries on June 1, aims at facilitating safe free movement during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The certificate includes a free QR code containing essential information about the bearer, and comes in digital or paper format, in the national language and English. It will serve as proof that a person was vaccinated against COVID-19, received a negative test result or recovered from COVID-19.

National authorities are in charge of issuing the certificate. It could, for example, be issued by test centres or health authorities, or directly via an eHealth portal.

The Digital Covid Certificate should be available to residents of Spain, regardless of nationality. The Spanish Health Ministry has created a website to request the certificate. You will need a Digital Certificate or the Cl@ve Permanente. A PDF including the certificate and a QR code will be sent to you immediately afterwards.

And what about non-EU citizens?

Immunised tourists from all over the world (with the exceptions of India, Brazil and South Africa) who have received one of the following vaccines: Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Janssen, Sinopharm or Sinovac-Coronavac, can enter Spain freely as long as they provide proof of vaccination.

Moreover, all travellers must fill out a health control form available at www.spth.gob.es or the Spain Travel Health app. The QR code that will be created on filling out the form must be shown before boarding, as well as on arrival.

The Economy

Jobless Youth

Youth unemployment in Spain is Europe’s highest. Almost 38% of people under 25 are jobless. To combat this social scourge, the Spanish government has passed a set of measures under the name of Estrategia Juventud Avanza, which includes €5,000 million to invest over the next six years, financed by the European Social Fund.

According to Labor Minister and third deputy prime minister Yolanda Díaz, this is “the highest investment the Spanish government has ever made in the history of our democracy to tackle youth unemployment,” and underscored the dismal fact that having young people hired for as little as €436 a month “was discouraging them.”

Among the measures to be implemented are job orientation, training, equal access to employment, and entrepreneurship.

A Dual Labour Market

The Spanish labour market is characterised by a stark duality. On the one hand, people on fixed-termed contracts enjoy more stability, among other reasons because the cost of dismissal is significantly high, while people on temporary contracts, about 25% of the workforce, are trapped in precariousness since they have few rights and are easier to fire.

Yolanda Díaz wants to increase stability and rights for temporary workers. This week she presented a draft proposal to unions and business associations that includes a maximum new length of temporary contracts, from six months to one year, so that temporary workers can enjoy fix-termed contracts sooner.

The kind of temporary contract known as Obra y Servicio, used when it is necessary to carry out a specific task that is limited in time and which has no specified end date, would cease to exist. The 1.5 million workers currently under such arrangement would be given a fix-termed contract with no end date after a year in the position.

Temporary contracts would be used for reasons of productivity during periods of peak demand. However, workers carrying out normal tasks for the company, as well as seasonal or summer workers, would be on discontinued fixed contracts. On the other hand, they will be used to temporarily replace workers on maternity leave or unpaid leave, for example, for a maximum of 24 months. After that period, substitute workers would have the right to the position and a fixed contract.

Should the bill be approved, new contracts for people substituting dismissed workers or voluntary layoffs on fixed contracts would have to get one as well.

The Cost of the Minimum Wage

The Bank of Spain estimates that the 22% rise in the Minimum Wage (SMI) the Government approved in 2019 has cost the Spanish economy up to 180,000 jobs. The increase, which is the highest in 40 years, benefited 1.4 million workers but decreased the number of new job contracts.

The Spanish regulator concludes that the decision led to lower growth rates in employment, between 0.6% and 1.1%, or what is the same, between 83,000 and 180,000 fewer jobs. It also highlights the fact that the increase benefited working people the most because it translated into a higher salary. The measure discouraged employers from hiring, leaving precarious workers in more unstable position.

Yolanda Díaz said on Friday that the Spanish government will not decrease the minimum wage, as the bank seems to be suggesting.

Dearexpat, is aimed at English-speaking readers who have been living in Spain for long enough to be interested in the country’s current affairs, with a focus on politics, the economy, society, and culture. In fact, anyone, anywhere with a keen interest in Spain might find it helpful. Since we are usually overwhelmed by an endless outpouring of news, this newsletter will be published every Friday to provide readers with an overview of the most noteworthy events taking place during the previous week.

Get up to date with what is going on in Spain in just one go. Sign up to Dearexpat,

Dearexpat, is aimed at English-speaking readers who have been living in Spain for long enough to be interested in the country’s current affairs, with a focus on politics, the economy, society, and culture. In fact, anyone, anywhere with a keen interest in Spain might find it helpful. Since we are usually overwhelmed by an endless outpouring of news, this newsletter will be published every Friday to provide readers with an overview of the most noteworthy events taking place during the previous week.

Get up to date with what is going on in Spain in just one go. Sign up to Dearexpat,