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Spanish government abandoned Canary Islands in migration crisis

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"The Canary Islands have been suffering from great migratory pressure for months and the Spanish government has abandoned the region," Gabriel Mato MEP said today (19 January) during a debate in the European Parliament on migration and asylum.

"The Canary Islands are overwhelmed and the Spanish Socialist government, due to its negligence and incapacity, has left them on their own," he added.

For this reason, Mato said: "We need the solidarity and direct support of the European Union for the Canary Islands, which is also an external border of the Union."

"We need European support to save lives and also to protect the borders of the EU, since we all have the same obligations with regard to immigrants arriving on our continent," he explained.

Since the beginning of 2021, more than 2,000 irregular immigrants have arrived in the Canary Islands. In 2020, more than 23,000 arrived, which means an increase of 856% compared to the previous year.

The EPP Group is the largest political group in the European Parliament with 187 Members from all EU member states.

Catalan

Catalan separatists increase majority, dialogue with Madrid in sight

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Separatist parties won enough seats on Sunday in Catalonia’s regional parliament to strengthen their majority, although a strong showing for the local branch of Spain’s ruling Socialists pointed to a dialogue, rather than breakup, with Madrid, write and
Candidates vote in Catalonia regional election

With over 99% of ballots counted, separatists won 50.9% of the vote, surpassing the 50% threshold for the first time. The most likely scenario was for the two main separatist parties to extend their coalition government.

The final outcome is unlikely, however, to lead to any repeat of the chaotic, short-lived declaration of independence from Spain that took place in 2017. Tensions have ebbed and most voters were more concerned about the COVID-19 pandemic than independence.

Low turnout of 53% amid the pandemic, down from 79% in the previous election in 2017, may have favoured separatist parties, whose supporters were more mobilised.

Election monitors swapped face masks for full-body protective suits during the final hour of voting, “the zombie hour”, which was reserved for people with confirmed or suspected COVID-19. Other precautions during the day included temperatures taken on arrival, hand gel and separate entries and exits.

Leftist separatist party Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) said it would lead the regional government and seek the support of other parties for a referendum on independence.

“The country starts a new era with (separatists) surpassing 50% of the vote for the first time. ... We have an immense strength to achieve a referendum and the Catalan republic,” said acting regional chief Pere Aragones, who led his party’s slate of candidates.

He urged Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to enter into talks to agree on a referendum.

But the fragmented vote, which saw the Socialists win the highest percentage of votes, 23%, and the same number of seats as ERC - 33 in the in the 135-seat assembly - means they will also try to form a government.

Socialist candidate Salvador Illa, who until recently led Spain’s coronavirus response as health minister, argued there was a broad call in Catalonia for reconciliation after years of separatism and said he would try to seek a majority in parliament.

That would require an unlikely alliance, however, with other parties.

The centre-right pro-independence Junts won an estimated 32 seats, while far-left separatist party CUP got nine. Both those parties are considered key to achieving another separatist coalition government.

Spanish nationalist far-right party Vox won 11 seats in Catalonia’s parliament for the first time, ahead of the People’s Party, the main Spanish conservative party, and the centre-right Ciudadanos. Vox is already the third-largest party in Spain’s national parliament.

But with ERC seen getting more lawmakers than Junts this time, that could boost the stability of Spain’s central government.

The result could be seen as good news for Sanchez as his Socialist party won almost double the 17 seats it got in 2017.

ERC has provided key votes to the Socialists in the Spanish parliament in exchange for talks on the Catalan political conflict.

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Catalan

Commission approves support scheme for energy-intensive companies in Spain

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The European Commission has approved, under EU state aid rules, a Spanish scheme to partially compensate energy-intensive companies for the costs incurred to finance support to (i) renewable energy production in Spain, (ii) high-efficiency cogeneration in Spain, and (iii) power generation in Spanish non-peninsular territories. The scheme, which will apply until 31 December 2022 and will have a provisional annual budget of €91.88 million,  will benefit companies active in Spain in sectors that are particularly energy-intensive (hence with high electricity consumption relative to the value added of production) and more exposed to international trade.

The beneficiaries will obtain compensation for up to a maximum of 85% of their contribution to the financing of support to renewable energy production, high-efficiency cogeneration and power generation in Spain's non-peninsular territories. The Commission assessed the measure under EU state aid rules, in particular, the Guidelines on State Aid for environmental protection and energy 2014-2020, which have been extended until the end of 2021. The Guidelines authorise reductions – up to a certain level – in contributions levied on energy-intensive companies active in certain sectors and exposed to international trade, in order to ensure their global competitiveness.

The Commission found that the compensation will only be granted to energy intensive companies exposed to international trade, in line with the requirements of the Guidelines. The measure will promote the EU energy and climate goals and ensure the global competitiveness of energy-intensive users and industries, without unduly distorting competition. On this basis, the Commission concluded that the measure is in line with EU state aid rules. In connection to this scheme, the Spanish authorities have also notified to the Commission a measure granting guarantees in relation to long-term power purchase agreements concluded by energy-intensive companies for electricity from renewable energy sources, the so-called Reserve Fund to Guarantee Large Electricity Consumers (FERGEI).

This guarantee scheme aims to facilitate the production of energy from renewable sources. The Commission assessed the measure under EU state aid rules, in particular, the 2008 Commission Notice on state aid in the form of guarantees, and concluded that the state guarantee scheme does not constitute aid within the meaning of Article 107(1) TFEU. More information will be available on the Commission's competition website, in the State Aid Register.

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Spain, paralysed by snowstorm, sends out vaccine and food convoys

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The Spanish government will send convoys carrying the COVID-19 vaccine and food supplies today (11 January) to areas cut off by Storm Filomena which brought the heaviest snowfall in decades across central Spain and killed four people, write Graham Keeley, Juan Medina and Susana Vera Guillermo Martinez.

Across central Spain, over 430 roads were affected by the rare blizzard and hundreds of travellers were stranded at Madrid’s Barajas airport, which closed on Friday but will reopen gradually later on Sunday.

Forecasters warned of dangerous conditions in the coming days, with temperatures expected to fall to up to minus 10 Celsius (14 Fahrenheit) next week and the prospect of snow turning to ice and damaged trees falling.

“The commitment is to guarantee the supply of health, vaccines and food. Corridors have been opened to deliver the goods,” transport minister Jose Luis Abalos said on Sunday.

About 100 workers and shoppers have spent two nights sleeping at a shopping centre in Majadahonda, a town north of Madrid, after they were trapped by the blizzard on Friday.

“There are people sleeping on the ground on cardboard,” Ivan Alcala, a restaurant worker, told TVE television.

Dr Álvaro Sanchez walked 17 km through the snow on Saturday to work at a hospital in Majadahonda, prompting owners of 4x4 vehicles to give health workers lifts to work.

One man and a woman in a car drowned after a river burst near Malaga in the south, while two homeless people froze to death in Madrid and Calatayud in the east, officials said.

Train services from Madrid, which were cancelled since Friday (8 January), resumed on Sunday (10 January).

The State Metereological Agency (Aemet) said up to 20-30 cm (7-8 inches) of snow fell in Madrid on Saturday, the most since 1971.

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