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Cablegate: Barcelona Brief - a Twice Monthly Roundup of Pol/Econ

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P 220936Z FEB 10
FM AMCONSUL BARCELONA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1266
INFO RUEHMD/AMEMBASSY MADRID PRIORITY 1227
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0008
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHLA/AMCONSUL BARCELONA 1453

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BARCELONA 000020

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EUR/WE MCKNIGHT AND ZERDECKI

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SP FR AN PGOV PNAT PREL KCOR ECON EINV ELAB
SUBJECT: BARCELONA BRIEF - A TWICE MONTHLY ROUNDUP OF POL/ECON
DEVELOPMENTS IN THE BARCELONA CONSULAR DISTRICT

BARCELONA 00000020 001.3 OF 002


BARCELONA MAYOR TRIGGERS CONTROVERSY WITH 2022 WINTER OLYMPIC
BID

1. (U) Barcelona Mayor Jordi Hereu's announcement that the city
will bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics has sparked tension with
the neighboring autonomous community of Aragon, which also seeks
to host the Games. Hereu's surprise announcement last month
caught many off guard, as Aragon's capital city, Zaragoza, had
announced last October that it would submit a bid with the
Pyrenees mountain towns of Jaca and Huesca to host the 2022
Games. Aragon officials are perturbed as Barcelona's plans to
enter the Olympic fray present unexpected competition, and is
indicative of a long standing historical rivalry between Aragon
and neighboring Catalonia. Hereu, meanwhile, faces internal
opposition, as the leftist eco-socialist party Initiative for
Catalonia Greens (ICV) and the Catalonia Republican Left (ERC)
parties both oppose the bid. ICV and ERC are partners with
Hereu's Socialist Party of Catalonia (PSC) in the ruling
tripartite government, but fault Hereu for not having consulted
with other political leaders before making his Olympic
announcement. Leaders from the opposition Popular Party (PP)
and the center- right Convergence and Union Federation (CiU)
have also expressed skepticism over Hereu's Olympic ambitions.
Hereu is officially visiting Vancouver during the current Winter
Games to further pursue Barcelona's bid. If successful,
Barcelona would be the first city to host both the Summer and
Winter Games. Zaragoza and Jaca failed in their attempt to host
the 2014 Winter Games.

FOOTBALL CLUB BARCELONA PRESIDENT TESTS POLITICAL WATERS

2. (U) Joan Laporta, president of the immensely popular
Football Club Barcelona (FCB), is flirting with entering
politics, with an eye on the Catalonia presidency to be
contested this fall. Laporta is a Catalan nationalist strongly
in favor of Catalan independence. Laporta's popularity in
presiding over what many consider to be one of the greatest
soccer teams of all time has potential political rivals
concerned of his impact on the fall elections. Several
scenarios are possible-Laporta could align himself with either
one of the two main Catalan nationalist parties, the Catalan
Republican Left (ERC) or the center-right Convergence and Union
(CiU) federation. He has also reportedly held discussions with
the upstart Reagrupament (Regrouping) association, which was
founded by former ERC member Joan Carretero last October with
Catalan independence as its main objective. Another possibility
is that Laporta would create a new political party, which could
further divide pro-independence voters. Laporta has been the
president of FCB since 2003 and has utilized a mix of homegrown
Catalan players and international superstars to become one of
the top soccer teams in the world. In 2009 FCB won an
unprecedented six Spanish, European, and international
tournaments.

CATALAN INDEPENDENCE REFERENDUMS CONTINUE

3. (U) Several more rounds of unofficial referendums on
Catalan Independence will be held on February 28, April 5 and
possibly June 20. The February referendum will be held in 77
municipalities, which include approximately 300,000 potential
voters. The proposed June 20 referendum could include Barcelona
suburbs, the first time that such an event would be held in the
metropolitan area. The symbolic vote for independence follows a
similar event held in December in 167 small Catalan towns, and a
referendum on Catalan National Day, September 11 in one small
town. While only 27% of voters participated in the December
referendum, over 90% were in favor of independence. The
December 13 referendum and its predecessor on Catalan National
Day have generated a great deal of national and even
international attention, and help fuel internal debate on
Catalonia's relationship with the rest of Spain, pending the
Spanish Constitutional Court's decision on the Statute of
Autonomy. The practical impact of the symbolic referendums is
limited, however, and Catalonia's two main nationalist parties
are at odds over a proposed new law to govern the referendums.
The pro-independence Catalonia Republican Left (ERC) has
proposed a law to regulate the popular referendums, while the
center-right Convergence and Union (CiU) federation opposes the
proposal.

GENERAL MOTORS SPAIN TO LAY-OFF 900 WORKERS IN ARAGON


BARCELONA 00000020 002.3 OF 002


4. (U) General Motors' Opel plant in Figueruelas, near the
Aragon city of Zaragoza, plans to lay-off 900 workers and
temporarily suspend 600 night shifts as part of a cost-cutting
plan. GM says that the restructuring of its Figueruelas plant
workforce will be "socially responsible", avoiding any abrupt
dismissals. The layoffs of 900 workers will happen gradually,
with the final wave in February of 2013. GM blames low sales in
Western Europe, where the company envisions laying off a total
of 8,300 workers. On February 10 Opel management staff and
labor unions met to negotiate the terms of reincorporation of
the 900 laid-off workers. The unions have asked that 350
permanent employees be asked to leave on a voluntary basis, and
that once sales improve, they would be allowed to return to the
factory guaranteed the same salary and benefits. GM has
proposed a salary freeze for these workers until 2013, which the
unions have rejected. This is the latest restructuring move
that GM has made in Aragon. Last fall GM decided to keep the
Figueruelas plant, rather than sell it to Magna, a German car
company that would have likely transferred production to Eastern
Europe. The Opel Zaragoza plant exports cars to 72 countries,
with 75% of the production going abroad.

CORRUPTION SCANDAL ROCKS MALLORCAN POLITICS

5. (U) Francesc Antich, the president of the Balearic Islands
Govern (central government), has removed all high-ranking
members of the Mallorcan Union (MU) party from the government
after the arrest of five MU officials for corruption allegations
related to the Institute of Tourism Strategy (Inestur), a unit
within the Balearic Ministry of Tourism. In the investigation,
known as Operation Vulture, Mallorcan anti-corruption police
arrested the five MU officials on charges including fraud,
misappropriation of public funds, prevarication, bribery, and
coercion. Businesses and other entities related to the MU
alleged received up to 2.5 million Euros ($3.4 million) through
bogus documents. Mallorcan police have investigated at least 25
individuals and 23 businesses as part of Operation Vulture. The
mayor of Palma de Mallorca and the president of Mallorca have
followed suit, sacking MU members from the Palma City Council
and the Council of Mallorca, thus removing MU from all three
government institutions on the islands. The Socialist Party of
the Balearic Islands (PSIB ) and the Bloc for Mallorca, who once
held a majority coalition with the MU, have agreed to a minority
rule in all three institutions. Antich plans to take advantage
of the scandal by restructuring the Govern and reducing the size
of the ministries. He has dismissed the idea of holding
emergency elections in order to avoid further public doubt.
Miquel Nadal, the former minister of Tourism and leader of the
MU is the most senior official arrested. He had previously been
implicated in two other corruption cases, which led to his
resignation last December. The Popular Party (PP) has been
threatening Antich on and off with a possible censure.

SARKOZY TO MAKE AN OFFICIAL VISIT TO ANDORRA

6. (U) At a meeting in Paris on February 4 with Andorran Head
of Government Jaume Bartumeu and Andorran President of the
General Council (Parliament) Josep Dalleres, French President
and Co-Prince of Andorra Nicolas Sarkozy announced that he would
make an official visit to the small Pyrenean nation some time
before this summer. Sarkozy4s visit would be the first a French
head of state has made to Andorra in the past 13 years, the last
being Jacques Chirac in 1997. During their February 4 meeting,
Bartumeu and Dalleres informed Sarkozy of Andorra's advances in
exchanging tax information with the approval of a new law and
the signing of ten accords. President Sarkozy said that he was
convinced by the steps Andorra has taken, and encouraged the
country to "continue along the route of transparency by this
exchanging of information." Sarkozy's announcement is important
for Andorra after Sarkozy had threatened last year to abdicate
his position as Co-Prince if Andorra did not take action to
remove itself from the OECD list of tax havens. Sarkozy, who at
that time was preparing for last April's G-20 summit in London
and a proponent of combating tax havens, did not want to be seen
as claiming to fight money laundering while also serving as the
Co-Prince of a country on the OECD list. Andorran officials are
pleased with Sarkozy's announcement and for French assistance in
helping fight money laundering.
CROUCH

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