The Government of Catalonia approved a decree to set up two new delegations in Italy and Austria as well as the instalment of a Permanent Representation to the European Union. The aim of this directive is to consolidate Catalonia’s external projection and raise its level of representation in Brussels over a period where a high-ranking political voice is increasingly necessary before European institutions. The accord is in compliance with the Law on Catalonia’s External Action which was recently approved in Parliament with a wide support from Catalan MPs.
Through this decree, aimed at restructuring the Secretariat of Foreign and EU Affairs, the Executive Council has approved the introduction of a new Permanent Representation to the European Union to represent, protect and promote Catalonia’s general interests whilst assuming relations with the EU institutions. The Representative will act as director general and will run the delegation of the Government of Catalonia to the European Union, which will ultimately serve as the supporting body of the Permanent Representation and will also count with a Secretary in charge of managing and coordination the delegation.
“The introduction of this new position will strengthen Catalonia’s representation at the European level and advance the political mandate required by the Government’s current and future priorities” announced the Minister of the Presidency, Francesc Homs. It is “vital”, declared Homs, for the interests of the citizenry that Catalonia’s voice is heard and be taken into account as “many decisions that are made at the EU level are essential in many of the Generalitat’s competencies”.
The new delegations, based in Rome and Vienna, reflect the Government’s commitment to “consolidate Catalonia’s external projection and support its participation within international organisations” which is specified in the Government’s Proposal (2013-2016). They will represent the Government of Catalonia before the Italian and Austrian Executives and other decentralized governments. The delegation in Vienna, for instance, will assume direct dialogue with Central and Eastern European countries such as Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia and the Czech Republic. In the same way, the German delegation will assume a similar function with the governments of Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Furthermore, the new delegations will also promote and coordinate the collaboration of the Generalitat with international organizations which have their headquarters in these countries.
Catalonia is Austria’s main trading partner in Spain as it accounts for 38.8% of Spanish exports to Austria and 32.5% of its imports. Catalan investment in Austria, in the form of residential buildings, bridge construction, tunnel construction and manufacturing in the chemical and automotive industries, accounts for 57% of the Spanish State’s total investment. Furthermore, almost half of Spain’s companies distributing Austrian products are Catalan (305 of 678). A new delegation in Vienna would mean that these companies would receive more support and be better represented in dealing with the Austrian governments as well as its neighbouring countries.
Additionally, Italy is one Catalonia’s main trading partners as it accounted for almost 40% of Spain’s total exports and 32% of its imports between 2004 and 2013. In fact, Italy is the third most frequent destination for Catalan exports. The commercial balance between Italy and Catalonia tends to be more favourable to the latter but there are still many possibilities in terms of trading opportunities. Catalan investment represents 17% of Spain’s total investment in Italy and there currently many Catalan companies which operate there. In terms of Italian businesses operating in Catalonia, as it stands there are 591 companies, mainly in the metallurgic, pharmaceutical and textile industries, which function within Catalan territory. A new delegation in Rome would facilitate bilateral trade and bolster the Government’s representation in a country which shares so many historical, economic and social ties with Catalonia.