by James Badcock, The Telegraph, November 6, 2017
Catalonia lost 15,000 jobs in October, according to figures released on Friday, as the economic impact from the political crisis in Spain's wealthiest region began to be felt.
In a month that saw an unlawful referendum marked by police violence followed by a declaration of independence and the removal of Mr Puigdemont’s government of Catalonia, unemployment among Catalans rose by 3.67 per cent, the biggest rise in any of Spain’s 17 regions.
It came as a Spanish judge issued a European arrest warrant for ousted leader Carles Puigdemont and four of his former aides, all of whom are currently in Brussels.
National Court investigating judge Carmen Lamela filed the request with the Belgian prosecutor to detain the five, and issued separate international search and arrest warrants to alert Europol in case they flee Belgium.
According to the judge, the five are being sought for five different crimes, including rebellion, sedition and embezzlement in a Spanish investigation into their roles in pushing for secession for Catalonia.
Puigdemont and his aides flew to Brussels after Spanish authorities removed him and his Cabinet from office Saturday for demanding independence. The Spanish government has also called an early regional election for Dec. 21.
Spain’s government claimed on Friday that by suspending the region’s political autonomy and calling snap elections in Catalonia for December 21, the situation could be brought under control, despite almost 2,000 medium and large companies having moved their registered offices to other parts of Spain since October 1.
“When we bring back constitutional order, economic stability and confidence in employment, we will see the traditional figures of strong economic performance in Catalonia,” Enric Millo, the central government’s delegate in Catalonia, said on Friday.
But, Mr Millo admitted, the region’s key sector of tourism has been badly hit by the political crisis.
“The independence process has damaged hotel occupancy more than the terrorist attacks in August”
The Spanish Confederation of Travel Agencies said hotel occupancy rates in Catalonia were down by “at least 30 per cent” in October.
Despite the government’s optimism that direct control will restore stability, on Friday saw a series of wildcat protests affect Catalonia’s infrastructure, and a general strike has been called for next Tuesday by the CSC union.
Protesting Thursday’s decision by a Madrid judge to remand eight members of Catalonia’s deposed government in custody without bail, activists cut major roads and some 80 people blocked the train lines at Girona’s rail station, causing delays of up to an hour to train journeys.
Santi Vila, the ninth former government member who testified on Thursday on accusations of rebellion, sedition and misappropriation of public funds, was released from jail on Friday after paying bail set at €50,000.
Mr Puigdemont has said he will cooperate with Belgian authorities.
"I will face justice, but (only) true justice... I told my lawyers to tell the Belgian judiciary I am completely ready to cooperate," Mr Puigdemont said.
The man who still describes himself as the “legitimate president of Catalonia” told the Belgian broadcaster RTBF on Friday that he had “not fled” from justice, but that it was impossible to prepare his defence in Spain after his former government colleagues had been summoned to testify in less than 48 hours.
Of December’s elections, he said “I am prepared to be a candidate, even from abroad”.
Spain’s government has also admitted that the jailed Catalan officials can stand in elections as they have not been convicted. Under Spanish law they could remain in custody for two years while the judicial investigation continues.
Two leading Catalan pro-independence activists, Jordi Sánchez and Jordi Cuixart, on Friday lost an appeal against their incarceration while awaiting trial for alleged sedition in relation with their role in a demonstration against the actions of Spain’s Guardia Civil military police force in September.