he foreign action of the Generalitat has expanded between judicial and bureaucratic potholes. The turbulent autumn of 2017 and the suspension of autonomy with the application of article 155 of the Constitution interrupted the “internationalization” of Catalonia carried out by the delegations. Currently, 15 are back in full operation and another 3 are approved but have not yet been inaugurated.
EL PERIÓDICO has had access, through a request to the Government’s Transparency Portal, of the net expenditure of each of the Catalan ’embassies’ from 2016 to 2020 . The reports prepared by these delegations reveal that last year, marked by the covid-19 pandemic , they spent up to 4.3 million euros .
The Secretary of Foreign Action and of the European Union, Gerard Figueras , defends that the functions of the delegations go through “representing the Government abroad” , promoting agreements in strategic sectors and establishing relationships with institutions, “analyzing the political and sectoral news , collecting good practices that may be useful for Catalonia “, ” projecting a positive image of Catalonia, its culture, its language and its heritage ” , and” providing support and attention to Catalan communities abroad “.
The Generalitat maintains that, between March and October 2020, the delegations have prepared daily reports “of an internal nature” on the impact of the covid in the countries in which they affect and on the restrictions decreed by their respective governments. Once the de-escalation was on track, they have been presented on a weekly basis.
Another of its functions has been to serve Catalans abroad who have had problems returning to Catalonia. According to the data provided by the Generalitat, they have handled 2,772 cases affecting a total of 4,360 people : 1,600 in emergency situations who were trapped abroad and 1,112 inquiries about international mobility to go to or from Catalonia. The volume of cases lies in Germany (322), France (298), Argentina (174) and the United States (144).
HEADQUARTERS AND STAFF
The original invoices for expenses are on file at the headquarters of each delegation and must be kept in custody for a minimum period of five years because the regulations do not allow them to be removed from these offices. These supporting documents are at the disposal of the General Intervenció de Catalunya, the Audit Office and the Court of Accounts .
The salary of the delegates is 87,456.32 euros per year , according to the data provided by the Generalitat, since they are considered senior positions regardless of the country in which they carry out their post. Apart from this, the rest of the personnel raise the accounts: 16 people work in the delegation to the European Union (289,238.32 euros); in France , four (228,119.82 euros); in Italy , six (283,757.71 euros); and in the United States , five (236,357.54).
The most expensive rental is that of Rue de la Loi 227, in Brussels , which in 2020 cost 750,789.92 euros; followed by the headquarters at Fleet Street 17, in London (151,434.05 euros), and that of Friedrichstrasse 186, in Berlin (104,611.20 euros). The cheapest for 2020 is that of the Central Europe office, at Seilerstätte 11/6 in Vienna (29,560.52 euros). In Mexico and Tunisia they still did not have premises.
The delegation that spent the most on conferences and courses was that of the United States : 21,664.34 euros dedicated to the reception of the group of women from Catalonia that participated in the UN Women, in the meeting of ‘Catalan casals’ of the country and Canada in Washington already a day of work to prepare the course 2021. The musicians of a concert organized in New York and Sant Jordi cost 11,023.91 euros. In protocol attentions they added another 1,546.21 euros.
However, in terms of exhibitions and promotional activities , the most expensive was the one in Central Europe (26,684.39 euros) for the production of a video report on the “reaction of Catalan society to the covid”, to the holding of events’ online ‘for Christmas, Sant Jordi and La Diada -and the institutional dinner-, the costs of Catalan artists at the XX Flanerie urban art festival.
In Germany they spent 10,709 euros in organizing promotional activities for the office, such as the celebration of Onze de Setembre or Sant Jordi . In meetings, conferences and collaborations, without specifying which ones, they spent another 10,014.58 euros.
In the office before the European Union they admit that the invoice in this item rises because they have adapted some of the activities planned to the restrictions by the covid, and have contracted digital and simultaneous translation services . In total they have spent 22,338.38 euros in the inauguration of three exhibitions, a debate and two virtual events.
Among the highest items, the one dedicated to tasks outsourced to natural or legal persons for management and legal advice services also stands out.