Wednesday, February 22, 2006

George and I

Today it’s George Washington’s birth anniversary. Yes, the first president of the United States was born on February 22nd, and so was I (a few decades later). I have browsed through Washington’s life to see whether there was any other common characteristic in our lives, but I cannot find any significant coincidence.
However I still have time to add some more common characteristics in our biographies. As you may have guessed, when I go back to Catalonia, I plan to join politics. My intention is to return when I retire, in about 25 years. I may then become the first president of Catalonia, not an independent Catalonia, I still think that this is not the right way to go in the new Europe, but of a Catalonia that has found its sweet spot in Spain and Europe.
Do not ask me what this sweet spot is, I do not know it yet, but I have 25 years and hundreds of blog postings to figure it out. Maybe a nation within the Spanish nation, maybe a US-type state in a federal Iberia, perhaps part of the extended nation of “Baleària” (my politically correct alternative to “Països Catalans” or Catalan countries) formed basically by Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and Valencia with the following main characteristics:
- Name: Baleària
- Capital: Castelló de la Plana (Valencia)
- Language: co-official Catalan and Spanish
- Flag: equal to the Catalan flag
I am hoping that this compromise would satisfy the majority after reaching a number of trade-offs:
- Name after the Balearic islands, avoiding complex name combinations like Pirineus-Mediterrània (Pyrenees-Mediterranean) or stupid acronyms like Cavaba
- Capital in the old kingdom of Valencia
- The official languages recognize the unity of the Catalan language (Valencian could be used as the unofficial synonym of Catalan, or the variety of Catalan spoken in Valencia as described by the Spanish Language Royal Academy). Spanish would also be official at the same level to warranty the rights of the Spanish speaking and to make sure that Baleària remains competitive in Spain and the Spanish speaking markets
- Flag: the Catalan version of the flag is common to all existing flags.

This could only be possible if politicians like Carod-Rovira and Camps only get a small minority in the parliament and the vast majority vote for people with common sense, like …, I cannot find any name among today’s politicians …., let’s say someone like me.
Baleària would be a part of a federal Spain with only 4 or 5 states, because having 20 states or autonomic regions is hurting the economy now and will hurt it even more in the future due to the unbearable level of overhead and duplications in the public sector that create a non “lean” environment with lots of waste (in the context of a “lean” supply chain that, in my opinion, can be applied successfully to the public sector).

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Today, February 12th 2024, the European Parliament has rejected a proposal by the Spanish representative to the European Council to re-create the Spanish tax collection agency that was eliminated in the year 2014, when the European tax collection agency was founded with the objective to collect all European taxes, except those from Germany, France, Italy and the Benelux, countries that have kept till today their own tax collection entities, claiming historical rights as founding members of the European Union.
Behind the Spanish proposal, we can find the fact that only 75% of the taxes collected in Spain, come back, while countries like Turkey are taking advantage of the solidarity funds due to partisan reasons, since the votes of its 120 million citizens (one forth of the European Union population) are key to keep the EPP (European Popular Party) in charge of the European government.
Due to its current fiscal deficit, Spain has been obliged to restore the inheritance tax, reintroduce tolls at all statewide highways (that had been eliminated in 2002 in the whole country, except for Catalonia) and institute a 20% co-payment for medical assistance, among other measures.
The Spanish representative explained that after the tax redistribution, the per capita income in Spain dropped four places in the European ranking, after being taken over by Portugal, Czech Republic, Hungary and Latvia. These four countries that still enjoy the solidarity funds, have been able to eliminate the inheritance tax, all medical co-payments and have even introduced free dental coverage.
The Spanish proposal has provoked violent reactions, especially in those four countries and Turkey. Since Spain started to publicize its proposal, several organizations in those countries have called for a boycott to Spanish products, especially, Rioja wine, olive oil and, of course, “cava” (Catalan sparkling wine). Sales of those products in Europe have dropped significantly (about 7%), although the selling season has been saved thanks to the marketing efforts in Asia and the USA, as well as, the sale of non labeled wine and olive oil to Italian companies.
At the same time, some groups in Madrid have started a boycott against products labeled in English, which are invading the shelves of the supermarkets, due to lower distribution costs. England has sent an official complaint to the Spanish regional government and has qualified the attitude of the Madrilenian citizens as racist.
Meanwhile the dispute between the Seville archdioceses museum and the Moroccan government continues. The Moroccan government is demanding the return of all religious objects (Christian and Muslim) that came from the Spanish ex-colonies of Ceuta and Melilla. As you will remember, those colonies were returned to Morocco in 2018, as a result of the pressure from the Turkish government to the European conservative party that needed the support of the Turkish parties to overcome a non confidence vote in the European Parliament. The leader of the Spanish conservative party, who initially signaled his disagreement, was called to Brussels for consultations and despite the fact that there were many rumors about his possible resignation, he finally accepted the party line and voted for the return of the two enclaves to Morocco.
The only positive event this year has been the return of the documents stolen from Madrilenian institutions and private owners by the French troops during the War of Independence in 1808, and that were located at the French National Museum in Lyon. The documents left Lyon in the middle of the night and with heavy escort. The mayor of Lyon has filed an injunction against the Spanish regional goverment that has been accepted by the European court.

A close aide to the expresident of the Spanish government at the beginning of the century, José María Aznar, has indicated that the expresident, in view of the situation, exclaimed in privacy and in Catalan: “We should have learnt from the Catalans”.

Ian Llorens

Note: This article can only be reproduced if the author Ian Llorens and his website ( are mentioned.

El parlamento europeo ha rezachado hoy, 12 de febrero del 2024, una propuesta del representante español en el Consejo de Europa para recrear la agencia tributaria española que fue eliminada en el año 2014, cuando se fundó la agencia tributaria europea, con el objeto de recaudar todos los impuestos europeos con excepcion de los de Alemania, Francia, Italia y el Benelux quienes aduciendo derechos historicos como miembros fundadores, han mantenido hasta hoy en dia sus agencias recaudatorias.
El fondo de la propuesta se basa en el hecho de que solo el 75% de los impuestos recaudados vuelven a España, mientras que paises como Turquía se están beneficiando de los fondos de solidaridad por motivos partidistas, ya que los votos de sus 120 millones de habitantes (una cuarta parte de los habitantes de la Union Europea) son fundamentales para mantener al Partido Popular Europeo en el gobierno de la Unión.
Debido al deficit fiscal, España ha tenido que restablecer el impuesto de sucesiones, los peajes en todas las autopistas del estado (que a excepcion de Cataluña, se habian eliminado en casi todo el pais en el año 2002) e introducir un copago del 20% en la asistencia sanitaria, entre otras medidas.
El representante español argumentó que tras la redistribucion de impuestos, la renta per capita de los españoles perdía 4 lugares en el ranking europeo, viendose sobrepasada por Portugal, Chequia, Hungria y Letonia. Estos cuatro paises que todavía se benefician de los fondos de cohesion, han podido eliminar el impuesto sucesorio, los copagos en la sanidad y han incorporado la cobertura dental gratuita.
La propuesta española suscitó violentas protestas, especialmente en esos cuatro paises y en Turquia. Desde que España hizo publica su propuesta, varias organizaciones de esos paises han hecho llamamientos al boicot de productos españoles, especialmente el vino de Rioja, el aceite de oliva y como no, el cava. El descenso de ventas de esos productos en Europa ha sido notable (un 7%), aunque la campaña se ha salvado gracias al esfuerzo comercial realizado en Asia y en Estados Unidos y a la venta de vino y aceite sin etiquetar a empresas italianas.
En Madrid, a su vez, se ha iniciado un boicot contra los productos etiquetados solo en inglés, que estan invadiendo nuestros supermercados dado los menores costes de distribucion. Inglaterra ha enviado una protesta formal al gobierno regional español por esta actitud de los madrileños calificada por el representate inglés como racista.
Entre tanto la disputa entre el museo diocesano de Sevilla y el gobierno de Rabat continúa. Rabat reclama la devolución de todos los objetos religiosos (cristianos y musulmanes) procedentes de las excolonias españolas de Ceuta y Melilla, que como recordaran fueron devueltas a Marruecos en el año 2018 debido a las presiones de Turquia al gobierno conservador europeo quien necesitaba el soporte de los partidos turcos para superar una moción de censura. El lider del partido conservador español, quien inicialmente mostro su disconformidad, fue llamado a Bruselas y a pesar que se rumoreaba su dimisión, aceptó finalmente la disciplina de partido y voto a favor de la devolución de los enclaves a Marruecos.
La unica nota positiva este año ha sido la devolucion por parte del Archivo Nacional Francés de Lión, de los documentos robados por las tropas francesas a instituciones y particulares madrileños durante la guerra de la independencia de 1808. Los papeles salieron de Lion escoltados y de noche. El alcalde de Lion ha interpuesto una querella contra el gobierno regional español que ha sido aceptada a tramite.
Un colaborador allegado al expresidente del gobierno español de principios de siglo, José María Aznar, ha comentado que el expresidente, a la vista de la situación, habia exclamado en la intimidad y en catalán: “Deberíamos haber hecho caso a los catalanes”.

Ian Llorens

Nota: Este artículo sólo puede ser reproducido si se menciona al autor Ian Llorens y a su lugar de red (

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The first boycott lasted 300 years!!!

Last year results show that the boycott against Catalan products has had a negative effect on the sales of, at least, one of our flagship products: "Cava" (Catalan sparkling wine). Sales in Spain dropped by almost 7%, and if you take into consideration that the market grew and that, in some areas, consumption went up, it means that sales in the hardcore boycotting regions (Castilia, Valencia and Murcia) may have gone down by 15% or 20%. Fortunately exports offset this reduction and the top line remained almost flat (slightly up).
Boycotts can have very damaging effects to the economy, especially for those activities that are more hardly hit. I remember the boycott against French products when I was living in Singapore, as a result of their nuclear test at Mururoa atoll. Restaurants around the world boycotted French products. For example, Beaujolais wine was a product that was particularly targeted. DeBoeuf Beaujolais had more than 44,000 cases cancelled. In 1995, tourism to France declined by 8% while Club Med's resorts lost $1 million in profits. At the same time South African, Chilean, Australian and Californian wines, among others, seized a substantial part of shelf space in the wine shops and grocery stores that would not give away after the boycott ended.
However, we Catalans should really learn from this experience not by giving in (we are not dropping bombs, just defending out identity as a people) but by diversifying our markets. Sales to the Spanish market should be below 25% of our output. We are so vulnerable having most of the eggs in the same basket. I also think that Codorniu and Freixenet (the main producers of "cava') should buy those non Catalan cava producers that have a better quality product.
On the other side, this is not the first time that Castilia initiates a boycott against Catalonia. Even before Spain was formed, in 1486, the year in which Columbus reached Spain, the Catalans were expelled from the Casa de Contratacion, the commercial centre of Seville, which in 1504 would get exclusive rights of trading with America.
Before dying in 1504, Isabel added an appendix to her will , stating that Catalans were not only excluded from enjoying the benefits of the great discoveries, but were even forbidden to settle in or trade with the new lands.
My interpretation is that the hatred of Isabel against Catalans was due to their obstinate refusal to embrace the Castlian Inquisition and we paid the price.
It was not until 1778 that this prohibition was cancelled by Charles III who came from Naples, imbued with European ideas.
During almost 300 years, Catalonia fell into the dark ages, while the rest of Europe benefited from the discovery thanks to the Dutch, Portuguese, Genovese and Hanseatic merchants and businessmen who settled in Seville. Most probably this also shaped our spirit as a nation, creating entrepreneurss who had to rely on their own work and not on the wealth coming from the colonies and that's why Catalonia was the only area in the Iberian peninsula that did not miss the boat of the industrial revolution.

To finalize and before I go and buy some Danish pastry (I understand that some countries are calling for a boycott against Danish products), I will add the picture of a poster dated 1932 that many of you must have seen this week in the Catalan press, calling Castilians to boycott Catalan products while the first Catalan "Statute" was being debated, yes, 1932. It is worth while reading.

Note: Some of the historical data has been extracted from Josep Trueta's Spirit of Catalonia, 1946.