1. Spanish court suspends Catalonia independence vote
Spain’s Constitutional Court on Wednesday suspended a resolution by Catalonia’s regional parliament that called a referendum next year on independence from the rest of the country.
Separatists in the wealthy, northeastern region have for years tried – in vain – to win approval from Spain’s central government to hold an independence vote like Scotland’s 2014 referendum on independence from Britain which resulted in a “no” vote.
Catalan President Carles Puigdemont pledged in the autumn to hold such a referendum in September 2017, whether or not the central government in Madrid agreed, and the majority-separatist, regional parliament subsequently approved his plan.
The court said in a statement it “suspends… the resolution of Catalonia’s parliament that plans a referendum in 2017”.
It also warned Catalan politicians involved in the process, such as parliament speaker Carme Forcadell and Puigdemont, that they had a duty to “stop or paralyse” any move to ignore or dodge the suspension, or face “potential liabilities, including at a penal level”.
Catalonia’s former president Artur Mas had already tried to hold such a referendum, but it was banned by the Constitutional Court so he held a symbolic, non-binding independence vote instead in November 2014.
More than 80 percent cast their ballot in favour of independence then – although just 2.3 million people out of a total of 6.3 million eligible voters took part.
2. Spanish tax office demands ‘Football Leaks’ documents
Spain’s tax office has ordered daily newspaper El Mundo to hand over documents related to its probe into alleged massive football fraud involving top players, the paper said Tuesday.
The paper is part of a group of 12 European news outlets that began publishing on December 2nd the results of months of investigations into a vast trove of more than 18 million financial documents, obtained by the German magazine Der Spiegel and dubbed the “Football Leaks”.
The probe has centred on current and former players of the Spanish league such as Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo, who won his fourth Ballon d’Or on Monday, and Manchester United coach Jose Mourinho, formerly of Real.
El Mundo said Spain’s anti-fraud office Onif had ordered Unidad Editorial, the paper’s parent company, to hand over “all information and documents with fiscal interest” related to the “Football Leaks” probe.
The newspaper said the anti-fraud office was seeking information on 37 people and bodies, including Ronaldo, his agent Jorge Mendes and his management company Gestifute.
Real Madrid’s French striker Karim Benzema, FC Barcelona’s Brazilian striker Neymar and Arsenal’s German midfielder Mesut Ozil are also on the list.
Contacted by AFP, a tax office source confirmed the request for information had been made but did not confirm the names listed by El Mundo.
3. IMF urges Spain to raise VAT, cut spending and push labour reform
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) revised up its prediction for Spanish growth on Tuesday but warned “structural weaknesses persist,” particularly in the form of sky-high unemployment.
“The Spanish economy has continued its impressive recovery and strong job creation,” the IMF wrote in a report unveiled in Madrid.
But “unemployment, especially long-term and youth joblessness, is still very high, while the use of temporary contracts for new jobs remains widespread.”
In its report, the IMF estimates that Spain’s economy will grow 3.2 percent this year and will continue to expand in 2017, albeit at the more moderate rate of 2.3 percent — still better than its initial prediction of 2.2 percent.
Spain’s economic growth is one of the most dynamic in the eurozone after the country emerged from five years of on-and-off recession at the end of 2013 caused by the burst of a property bubble in 2008.
During those years, millions of Spaniards lost their jobs and unemployment reached close to 27 percent in 2013.
The conservative government launched a series of spending cuts and a labour law reform that reduced severance pay and introduced a new permanent contract with a one-year trial period.