In favor of the welfare state, against its enthusiasts
The Catalan Welfare State issue #17 - june 2013
Catalonia is a latecomer to the welfare state. It appeared at the
end of the 1970s, together with democracy, out of a dictatorship
that was far-removed from a post-WWII Europe that was a
society that demonstrated compassion towards the poorest and
most needy. This new social welfare was presented as a victory
of the Spanish Constitution (and the now-defunct UCD), with a
signiﬁcant dose of ﬁscal illusion as well as naivety on behalf of the
citizenry about the cost of sustaining it. And now Spain itself, as it
has become more decentralized and has delegated responsibilities
on social spending (and the ﬁnancing problems associated with
it, especially), is now threatening the survival of the welfare state.
When conservative ideological thinking starts to emphasize the
need for a more or less uncontrolled reform (or dismantling) of
the welfare state, they make it appear as though the spendthrift
Autonomous Communities are the ones responsible for this same
welfare state’s demise. So the story is told.
It is important to point out that the economic crisis, which has made it more difﬁcult to ﬁnance the varying
levels of expenditure undertaken by the Generalitat de Catalunya, should be seen as an opportunity. Arriving
late means we can avoid mistakes. The path we had been on –support for social spending but no desire to pay
for it with more taxes or with a more solidary culture of tax compliance— was making us “spoiled.” Civil society
receded and we chose to delegate our responsibilities (that ranged from those related to family to those that
involved the whole community), to impersonal entities that were administrated politically more than publicly
and were hardly participatory.
Changing now is certainly not ideal. Reinvesting should matter more than “making cuts.” Refocusing spending
on preventing these precarious situations for the most vulnerable collectives (an investment that would likely
mean future savings) today collides with our inability to ignore the reactive expense of all those collectives
that were not prioritized by that investment. Together, the combination stretches our available funds (the
result of the harsh ﬁscal consolidation that we all have be obliged to follow) to the breaking point. In addition,
not managed to balance the budget. In terms of GDP, with regard to revenue (ﬁscal pressure) and expenditure
of the Public Administrations, we are stuck at 47%, with a deﬁcit at the same level as in 2009 (almost 10%).
This fact contrasts with what Portugal has done, cutting its deﬁcit in half and increasing revenue and lowering
spending, or the case of Ireland that, determined to not raise its low tax ratio, has sharply lowered its spending,
while Greece, unable to cut spending, has managed to increase revenue.
In reality this doesn’t mean that we haven’t made spending cuts or tried to raise taxes here in Catalonia. What
has happened is that the cuts per capita (suffered by the population) have simply been swallowed up by the
decreasing GDP. And regarding revenue, despite the rise in rates, the loss of tax bases (evasion and fraud) has
made it impossible to increase revenue.
This highlights just how important economic recovery is for maintaining –and increasing, if society has the
political will to do so— our welfare state. Policies that reorient welfare (the public sector today only offers its
support if the person is not working) should gradually be substituted by workfare policies that provide support
only if a person is working! This subsidy should be a supplement, not a substitution; it is linked to work
(mini-jobs, part-time, or full-time) so that between the two incomes a guaranteed minimum is reached (social
minimum income?). Linking welfare policies (that would otherwise have little impact) to not having any formal
income makes it easier to understand why in order to reach a decent minimum income, the beneﬁciaries of
this welfare see themselves obliged to work in the informal economy. And the process of revenue loss simply
creates a feedback loop.
In conclusion, in our country we often hear people linking the deﬁcit or ﬁscal spoliation of Catalonia by the
Spanish state to the possibility of building a ‘utopian’ welfare state. Without a doubt, the ﬁscal deﬁcit is a social
deﬁcit. But a social deﬁcit is not a public deﬁcit. If the Generalitat were to have better access to Catalonia’s own
revenue it would likely make it easier for the Parliament to reorient our taxation towards growth, lower taxes
(and give money back to society) or in the least, improve social spending. But all the options are legitimate if
they are decided in the Parliament. Which is why I ﬁnd somewhat undemocratic the position of certain sectors
of society that condition their support on the structures of a new state, on ending the ﬁscal deﬁcit, or on using
the ﬁnancing margins that are obtained exclusively on more public spending. This is something that we have
to decide together, without excuses, if we are truly in favor of “the right to decide.”
Guillem López Casasnovas (Ciutadella, Menorca, 1955) is an economist. He is a tenured professor of
economics at the Pompeu Fabra University, and since March of 2005 he has also been on the Board of
Directors for the Spanish Central Bank.
Photo by Margaret Luppino
Translated from Catalan by Margaret Luppino
Guillem López Casasnovas
seven communities, one language
«Catalonia will be loyal to the ideal of social justice, or it
will not be» Building Catalonia 1958
The Catalan Welfare State issue #17 - june 2013
“Catalanism will be social, or she will not be”. Or,“Catalonia
will be faithful to the ideal of social justice, or she will not be”.
This was the language of the time – the ﬁfties and sixties – when
Catalan nationalism was being redeﬁned after the downfall of the
thirties and the despondency of the forties and the ﬁfties.
These asseverations were entirely characteristic of Catalan
nationalism. The ideological turmoil of the sixties and the
seventies (across Europe but also very present here) introduced
variations to this approach. Which time and reality have gradually
sedimented. Yet the essence of that approach remains. Textually
and in a language of that time. “Catalonia will be faithful to the
ideal of social justice, or she will not be”.
This spurred parties and Catalan nationalist movements into
action. Some ideologically radical sectors of the sixties and the seventies unsuccessfully sought to exploit it
with a view to stoking social and political dissent. However, most groupings embraced it. Such was the case of
the communists of the PSUC, the socialists, social democrats, Christian democrats and liberals.
And the proposals stemming from a nationalism that was always deﬁned as communitarian. Without explicitly
stating it, everyone was inﬂuenced, fortunately, by the idea of “Community and Person”, which some had
learnt from Péguy and other writers.
I say fortunately because Catalonia could only be saved from disintegration, a loss of cohesion, a weakening of
cohabitation if this outlook – with some variations – prevailed. Only thus would it be possible to safeguard and
strengthen a collective personality that could be useful to her people.
The raison d’être, motive and duty of a country is to help give its people content, form, perspective, collective
dimension and social harmony. People –individuals – need to be what they are individually. A person is an
individual. But a person can never be complete if he or she cannot communicate and have dealings with other
people. So, as Aristotle noted, a person is also necessarily social. And this still holds true despite the many
theories that have since emerged.
And there are other aspects– language, culture, memory, among others, but the experience of a country
necessarily responds to a communitarian ideal rather than merely an individual one, namely, that this country
is the home of which each and every person forms part.
Today, with this in mind, forward-looking countries do not seek to provide responses in just one way – they do
so through a number of mechanisms- although the welfare state remains vital. In other words, through action
and a system that gives each citizen the living conditions, the potential for economic advancement and social
mobility, health, and personal and family security for which, in fact, most people yearn.
Already in the ﬁrst third of the twentieth century, this approach, which in Europe was being debated just before
the Second World War, and then spread rapidly. This line of reasoning had already begun in Catalonia as well.
Yet it was cut short by our war and the post-war period. But it resurfaced to rekindle a sentiment of country
and social justice.
And this involved politics, social action and the notion of country that prevailed in Catalonia – thanks to a
diversity of contributions – from the seventies to the restoration of democracy and the Generalitat. It has not
been the work of one sector or a single party. The result has been the setting up of what is known as the welfare
state with a remarkable degree of breadth and advanced European criteria.
We can say without presumption that it has been the accomplishmentof a unity of social sectors and of political
Besides the usual arguments in many European countries in support of the welfare state, Catalonia has had
to add another highly important one: the need for an internal cohesion that all countries normally enjoy. In
Catalonia this is of utmost importance due to the inﬂux of immigration over time. Immigration that is received
without having many resourceful elements of cohesion and integration that countries with a State have. It is
to Catalonia’s merit that she has been able to undertake this task, to the general beneﬁt of the country and the
people in question who have settled here over the last one hundred years. Without the state’s instruments to
fall back on, this has been achieved thanks to the efforts of Catalan society and the attitude of the people who
have made their home here.
Jordi Pujol - Centre d’Estudis Jordi Pujol
seven communities, one language
In essence, the fact that Catalonia has gone to considerable lengths to create a society and an outlook that,
beyond the purely administrative aspect, fosters positive and creative contributions with prospects for progress.
While the welfare state is a requisite for justice and cohabitation across Europe, Catalonia also has a need for
cohesion and identity. And, more than elsewhere, a requisite for viability. For the viability of this country.
When it comes to the funding of Generalitat – on which in in large part the existence of the welfare state in
Catalonia rests - some sectors question whether Catalonia can or cannot maintain a fair social policy, cohesion
and her identity. Whether it is due to a complete lack of understanding or a deliberate distortion of reality,one
often hears claims to the effect that the Government of the Generalitat and Catalan nationalism in general are
not prioritising the welfare state, though these voices ignore the ﬁnancial stranglehold to which Catalonia is
being subjected.There is an evident will to dash Catalonia’s national project with her identity, outreach and
creativity and, above all, her cohesion and social harmony.
Jordi Pujol served as president of the Catalan Generalitat and party leader of the nationalist coalition
Convergència i Unió (CiU) from 1980 to 2003. He was consecutively re-elected in 1984, 1988, 1992, 1995 and
At the ﬁrst, ﬁfth and sixth legislatures CiU won the parliamentary elections with a relative majority, and at
the second, third and fourth, by an absolute majority.
Catalonia contributed with 8.5% of its GDP to
infrastructures and services in the rest of Spain in 2010
The Catalan Welfare State issue #17 - june 2013
Barcelona (ACN).- In 2010 the Spanish Government took €16.54
billion away from the taxes and fees paid in Catalonia and
redistributed the money to the rest of Spain and abroad, while
the Catalan Government was signiﬁcantly under-budgeted and
had a €8.3 billion deﬁcit. On Tuesday, the Catalan Government
posted the so-called ﬁscal balances for 2010, which show the
difference between the money paid in Catalonia in taxes and fees
to the Spanish Government and what comes back in the form
of funds, services and infrastructure. Using the monetary-ﬂow
formula, which takes into account investments and transfers
made directly in the Catalan territory, in 2010 Catalonia had
a ﬁscal deﬁcit representing 8.5% of its GDP. This means that
Catalonia had a €16.54 billion deﬁcit in a single year, which is
more than half the budget of the Catalan Government.
Using the beneﬁt formula, which also takes into account
investments made in other parts of Spain that theoretically also
beneﬁt Catalan citizens – such as the army, Madrid’s Prado
Museum, the civil-servants based in the Spanish Capital and the high-speed railway between Seville and
Ciudad Real – Catalonia had a ﬁscal deﬁcit of 5.8% of its GDP, representing €11.26 billion. The Catalan Finance
Minister, Andreu Mas-Colell – who is a former Harvard and Berkeley Economics Professor – stated that both
formulas “are complementary” since they measure different things, but he ﬁnds the monetary ﬂow formula to be
“closer to the reality” it evaluates since “it is difﬁcult to quantify in which way an investment made in Madrid’s
Prado Museum beneﬁts Catalonia”, as “an investment in the Louvre Museum” could also theoretically have an
indirect effect. In addition he stated that the monetary ﬂow formula, which is much more direct and simpler
to calculate, is particularly relevant “in times of economic crisis and high unemployment”, since it takes into
account all the pensions and unemployment beneﬁts. Mas-Colell emphasised that the difference between the
money Catalan tax payers bring in to the Spanish Treasury and what they receive back “is a negative shock”.
For the last 25 years, Catalonia has been giving away 8.1% of its GDP
The ﬁgures are similar to the results from previous years as well as to the study published in 2008 by the Spanish
Finance Ministry with data from 2005, which is the only time during democracy the Spanish Government has
published such a report despite several petitions from the Parliament. Mas-Colell also reviewed the historical
series, showing that the Spanish Government has been obliging Catalonia to give away an average of 8.1% of its
annual GDP each year between 1986 and 2010 (the period accurate data is available for) using the monetary ﬂow
formula. The year Catalonia contributed less was 2001 and it gave away 6.7% of its GDP. The year contributed
the most was next year (2002) and it gave away 10.1% of its GDP. Mas-Colell also emphasised that in the years
of the economic crisis, Catalonia has been contributing beyond the 8.1% average (8.6% in 2008, 8.5% in 2009
and 8.5% in 2010).
With a fairer ﬁscal redistribution, the Catalan Government would not have a budget deﬁcit
19.5% of the Spanish Government’s revenue in 2010 and would have only received 11.3% of the spending. With
a fairer ﬁscal balance, Mas-Colell stated that “we would not have to undertake budget cuts”, since the Catalan
Government would not have a budget deﬁcit.such as identity and cultural tourism have become crucial, in
its broadest sense2, intangible and emotional factors and the ability to live new experiences3. In this current
stage, the consolidation of information and communication technologies (ICT) in the tourism industry value
chain generate the overwhelming need to manage the avalanche of information that surrounds the decision to
purchase in order to design products that meet the needs of a micro-segmented demand, in which ICTs play a
key role. Here, the paradigm of tourism competitiveness centres on innovation and sustainability, understood
in the triple sense of economic and social, cultural and environmental and a capacity to generate unique and
Catalans paid €61.87 billion and received €45.33 billion
While Catalans contributed to the Spanish Government with €61.87 billion in taxes and fees, they only got back
€45.33 billion, a difference of €16.54 billion (€16,543 million). This means that Catalonia brought in 19.4% of
the Spanish Government’s revenue, despite the fact that it represents only 18.6% of Spain’s GDP and 16% of
the population. Mas-Colell stated that this difference is “somewhat to be expected” since Catalonia is wealthier
than the Spanish average. However, the Catalan Finance Minister stated that “what is rather surprising” is the
fact that Catalonia only receives 14.2% of the Spanish Government’s direct spending, using the monetary ﬂow
Catalan News Agency - 21-5-2013
seven communities, one language
Using the cost-beneﬁt formula – which measures the impact on citizen welfare in a given territory and requires
more assumptions to be made – Catalan taxpayers brought in 18.9% of the Spanish Government’s income,
representing €60.58 billion. Catalan citizens received 15.4% of the Spanish Executive’s spending, amounting
to €49.32 billion. This made the ﬁscal deﬁcit €11.26 billion, 5.8% of Catalonia’s GDP, using the cost-beneﬁt
Without taking Social Security into account, the Spanish Government spent 11.3% in Catalonia
The Catalan Finance Minister also wanted to consider the sub-balances, in particular that referring to Social
Security, which is directly managed by the Spanish Government. Mas-Colell explained that the Social Security
payments come from personal rights, since people contribute and they directly receive money from it in the
form of pensions or unemployment beneﬁts. Therefore, payments made by the Social Security should not
be politically biased. Without taking Social Security into account, Catalans contributed 19.5% of the Spanish
Government’s revenue. Instead, they received 11.3% back, which signiﬁcantly increases Catalonia’s ﬁscal
deﬁcit. According to Mas-Colell, this shows the “political will” behind the allocation of funds made by the
Spanish Government. Furthermore, looking at the historical series, without taking into account Social Security,
Catalonia contributed 19.7% of the Spanish Government revenue between 1986 and 2010. In these 25 years,
it received an average of 11.2% of the spending. This lack of investment, carried on for decades, undermines
Catalonia’s economy and public services.
An independent Catalonia should have at least €11.26 billion more, according to Mas-Colell
Asked about the costs of an independent Catalonia and if the ﬁscal deﬁcit would cover the difference, Mas-
Colell stated that this required a more detailed calculation. However, he stated that the beneﬁt formula already
takes into account the cost of the civil servants, embassies, the army, etc. Therefore, according to him, the
difference between both formulas “is a quite good and fast approximation to the costs” of the additional costs
of an independent Catalan state. This means that the government of an independent Catalan state would have
at least additional €11.26 billion with the current tax levels and public services offered (using the hypothesis
that they were maintained).
A different debate to the deﬁcit targets, according to Mas-Colell
The Catalan Government’s study comes in the middle of the debate regarding deﬁcit targets for 2013, although
it is published each year. However, Mas-Colell wanted to “unlink” the two issues, since the ﬁscal balances and
the ﬁscal deﬁcit are a debate for the “mid- and long-term”, affecting the relationship between Catalonia and
Spain. He also emphasised that they are published each year.
The Catalan Government’s ﬁnances are under stress
Over the last few weeks, the Catalan Government has been holding hard negotiations with Prime Minister
Mariano Rajoy to be allowed a €2.1% deﬁcit, representing €4.1 billion. The Spanish Government raises the
majority of taxes and partially funds the Autonomous Communities, which have quite limited ﬁscal capacities.
In addition, it imposes extremely strict deﬁcit targets and it does not honour the regular funding of the Catalan
Government, foreseen by the current legislation. In fact, the Spanish Executive owes Catalonia more than €2
billion in unpaid debts. In addition, instead of honouring those debts, it offers loans to the Catalan Government
through the Liquidity Fund for the Autonomous Communities (FLA) – which will have to be paid back later
with high interest – and it presents them as ﬁnancial assistance. This generates additional costs for the Catalan
Government, as do the other Spanish Government’s decisions such as raising VAT.
All these decisions put the Catalan Government’s ﬁnances under severe stress and oblige them to undertake
drastic budget cuts in order to keep the budget deﬁcit under control. In the last two years, the Catalan
Government has signiﬁcantly reduced its budget and has implemented many austerity measures reducing
the deﬁcit by €4 billion, with consequences for the services offered to Catalonia’s population. The Catalan
Government ended 2012 with a 1.96% deﬁcit, representing some €4 billion, but it did not meet the 1.5% target
imposed by the Spanish Government despite many budget cuts. Barcelona had previously warned that a 1.5%
deﬁcit target for 2012 was not realistic.
Regional leaders from largely-subsidised Autonomous Communities criticise Catalonia
Now, in the context of the economic recession, with drastic revenue reductions, the Catalan Government
refuses to undertake a €3.5 billion adjustment in a single year in order to meet the 1.2% deﬁcit objective set for
the Autonomous Communities by the Spanish Government. Therefore, since the Autonomous Communities
represent 36% of Spain’s total public spending and Spain is forecasting a 6.3% deﬁcit in 2013 for its entire public
sector (although some international organisations foresee at least a 6.5% deﬁcit), the Catalan Government is
asking for a third of the amount, which would be a deﬁcit target of 2.1%. However, regional leaders from Rajoy’s
People’s Party (PP) from largely-subsidised Autonomous Communities – such as Extremadura, Castilla-la-
Mancha and Galicia – are accusing Catalonia of not making enough ﬁscal consolidation efforts and being
subsidised by the Spanish Government’s money. In addition, they state that Catalonia would be “privileged” by
Rajoy if such a deﬁcit is allowed.
The wide majority of Catalans demand a fairer ﬁscal agreement, with the Catalan Government
collecting all the taxes
Taking the historical series into account, which state that Catalonia has been obliged to give 8.1% of its annual
GDP to the rest of Spain and abroad each year between 1986 and 2010, many Catalan citizens demand that this
money transfer be reduced since Catalonia’s public services are under-budgeted. This undermines the Catalan
economy and society, having negative consequences for Catalan companies and citizens, especially the less
favoured ones. In addition, many think that in the context of economic crisis Catalan citizens cannot transfer
between €11.26 billion and €16.53 billion to the rest of Spain, while severe budget cuts are being undertaken in
Catalonia. Therefore, they would like this imposed solidarity to be reduced.
In this context, a large part of the Catalan society – which represents around 77% according to the latest polls
– are backing a speciﬁc ﬁscal agreement for Catalonia, by which the Catalan Government would collect all
the taxes and would pay Madrid later for the services delivered and investments made, as well as an amount
for territorial solidarity with poorer Spanish and European regions as well as for international cooperation. A
similar agreement is in place for the Basque Country and Navarra, which contribute much less than Catalonia to
the Spanish Treasury. However, setting a speciﬁc economic agreement for Catalonia was refused in September
by Prime Minister Rajoy. This refusal and the lack of recognition of Catalan taxpayers’ solidarity with the rest
of Spain are feeding support for independence in Catalonia. In fact, Mas-Colell stated that the demand for
a speciﬁc economic agreement is now over.The success of the PETC lies in the decision to prioritise certain
aspects of the agenda, which has created the need to move beyond the plan itself, as some programmes have
been overtaken by circumstances and have exceeded supply through the implementation of their policies and
Public Administration Reform
The Catalan Welfare State issue #17 - june 2013
The Popular Party government has undertaken several
reforms that were driven –or enforced, a few of them—by
the European Union. We have seen a labor reform and a
ﬁnancial reform, there is a project in the works for a reform
of the education system, and yet another is being planned
for the pensions system. But what about a reform of the
public administration? When will that happen? So far
there is only one proposal on the table to reform the local
administration that primarily affects the municipalities
of fewer than 20,000 inhabitants. Yet I doubt that this
is the main problem of Spain’s public administration.
Instead, it seems that because it is the lowest rung in the
administrative structure, lacking organization and any real
clout, it is simply the easiest to tackle ﬁrst. To be honest,
although I believe we need a reform of the local administration to make it more efﬁcient, I don’t think that
the current proposal will be sufﬁcient. I also don’t think that the small municipalities are the big problem of
Spanish public administration.
The reform should be made up of big changes with the objective of preserving the welfare state and basic
services. Until today the strategy has been to make spending cuts, lower the salaries of public workers, not
renew the contracts of those where were working on an interim basis, apply constant and lineal replacement
taxes (percentage of new contracts in relation to retirements). But no attempt has been made to attack the
underlying problem of how to make an efﬁcient, quality, transparent administration that is accountable to
citizens. The measures that have been taken are the easiest, but they only make sense at the start, when urgent
action must be taken to balance the public accounts. This is a poor solution. It is completely inefﬁcient because
it lowers the incentives of staff working in public administration, and because in many cases the youngest,
most well-prepared and productive employees are the ones whose contracts tend to not be renewed. We need
to take a valiant and decisive step forward regarding the human resources policy of public administration. If we
want a modern administration it makes no sense that today in order to gain access to jobs we still use a system
of public examinations and tend to reward a person’s ability to memorize a syllabus more than other factors.
Luckily there are many selection processes that are much more advanced that would be good to introduce to
the administration. At the same time, it also makes no sense that once someone passes a public examination
then this person has the right to have that job for life, because the need for certain job positions varies over
time in function of different necessities and priorities.
The reform will inevitably involve establishing a much more ﬂexible hiring system that is based on more
modern selection criteria, which in no case means more subjective, but just the opposite. Regarding a person’s
professional career, we need to set up a system of merits that are objective and accredited by an external agency,
and not deﬁned by political afﬁnities or favoritism. Posts of political appointment should focus only on the ﬁrst
rungs of the organizational structure of public administration, and the appointees should have to demonstrate
their capability and their suitability for the position. Technical staff, not political, should ﬁll the remainder of
the organization’s positions. And ﬁnally, the compensation system should reward the productivity of public
employees, not seniority. For this to happen it is necessary to establish procedures for evaluating the activity of
all the public administration employees and link compensation arguments to the results of these evaluations.
In the majority of administrations today, the productivity salary bonuses are lineal, equal for everyone, and
they are deﬁned according to seniority, independently of how an employee carries out their work. This is an
employee policy that is inefﬁcient and unfair, since it doesn’t incentivize productivity or the improvement
in the provision of public services, and it treats all workers in the same way, regardless of their professional
Today, therefore, a thorough reform on these matters requires a broad consensus among different political
parties and, above all, the approval of the unions. We all need to be able to put the preservation of the welfare
state before any other objective, and the only way to do so is to increase the efﬁciency and productivity of the
public sector. Therefore, when will we ﬁnally see a real reform of the public administration?
Marta Espasa is a professor in the Department of Public Economics at the University of Barcelona.
Translated by Margaret Luppino
Image courtesy of Diari ARA
Marta Espasa - Diari ARA - 03-06-2013
seven communities, one language
Young People Fallen by the Wayside
The Catalan Welfare State issue #17 - june 2013
It is a ticking time bomb. It hasn’t exploded yet,
but it won’t be long before it will. We have an
entire generation (and soon it will be two) living
outside of the protective umbrella of the system.
This is the principal threat to the stability of the
—until recently—comfortable welfare state that
we had built in Europe. For 15 years now the
young people in our country have been living —
by a vast majority—outside of the parameters of
work, housing and social assistance of the rest of
the population. If we have advanced in anything
since the years of the Transition it has been in care
for the elderly (through pensions, early retirement
and improvements to healthcare) and a stronger
defense of those workers who already had jobs (the
unions will one day have to offer a mea culpa for having put workers ahead of the needs of the unemployed).
We have consolidated what in OECD parameters is called a “dual welfare system”: those inside are covered (all
the beneﬁts of the system are linked to having a job or having contributed) and those outside have nothing to
hang onto (unlike France, Germany and the UK, in Spain there has never been serious support for promoting
more births, social housing, dependency care...). Before the economic crisis young people could not move out
of their parents’ homes because the prices for renting or buying a place were excessively high for such low
salaries and unstable contracts. Does anyone remember when we spoke indignantly of the mileuristes [(those
who earned around a thousand euros a month)]?
All of this was just before the start of the ﬁnancial crisis of 2008 and the bursting of the housing bubble. At that
time youth unemployment was already rising to worrisome levels, but the family safety net, so important in
Southern European countries, played an important role. Today, with unemployment worldwide surpassing 26%
and youth unemployment over 50%, it would be easy to point a ﬁnger at the economic “crisis.” But we would be
fooling ourselves: we need to change the roots of our priorities, as solving this desperate situation of our young
people isn’t like getting over the ﬂu. And when it comes to the rest of workers, the lack of competitiveness will
also make the system languish and become less and less economically sustainable.
François Hollande promised to create 100,000 public jobs each year for young people. I don’t mention this
because I see it to be a merit of Hollande, no. In fact, a colleague of the French president has confessed that
Hollande made this promise primarily to gain more votes: “it is clear that young people are the least reliable
voters in an election, but since young people are worried about unemployment, promising them jobs means
getting the votes of their parents and their grandparents.” This is just how bluntly one of Hollande’s advisors
explained the star measure of the campaign that won him the presidency one year ago.
Over the next few weeks we will be hearing a lot of people talking about the so-called New Deal for Europe to
combat youth unemployment. We’ll talk about the details of this plan some other day: what is important is to
recognize that European leaders are aware that after the bursting of the housing and ﬁnancial bubbles, what
is most important now is to avoid a much more dangerous social explosion. It is the biggest injustice and it is
the most painful of frustrations. Our young people, after having done everything their parents, teachers and
the authorities told them to do, ﬁnd themselves without hope of a job and, at the same time, without hope
of professional and personal realization. What is most worrisome here? Is it when they lower salaries? Close
hospitals? Raise taxes? No, what is most dangerous is the passiveness with which we are leaving our young
people by the wayside.
Toni Cruanyes (Canet de Mar, 1974) is the correspondent of Televisió de Catalunya in Paris, and prior to this
he worked as their correspondent in London. He studied Journalism and Political Science at the Universitat
Autònoma de Barcelona. He collaborates frequently with the French new channel France 24 and he was editor
for the BBC World Service (1999-2004). He has also published El llarg adéu de Pinochet (“Pinochet’s long
good-bye”) (2008) and De Tony Blair a Zapatero. Una autòpsia de l’esquerra europea (“From Tony Blair to
Zapatero. An Autopsy of the European Left”) (2010).
Translated from Catalan by Margaret Luppino
Photo by AEGEE Europe
Toni Cruanyes - El Punt Avui - 06-06-2013
seven communities, one language
And Now, the Pensions
The Catalan Welfare State issue #17 - june 2013
Spain’s deﬁcit limit to 6.5% and offered a two-
year extension to meet the 3% goal. In exchange,
Brussels demanded that Madrid continue its
labor reform, revise the VAT and ﬁnish the
reform of the pensions system that it started
in 2011 with the extension of the retirement
age. The Spanish government’s response was
immediate, yet again: like a good student, it
acted right away. Last week it presented the
report on the sustainability of pensions that had
been prepared by a committee of twelve experts
that, among other issues, proposed lowering the
purchasing power of pensioners. So it’s become
quite clear: now it’s the pensions’ turn.
on the other, all that’s left are the pensions. It’s one of the three historical pillars of the welfare state and it had
appeared immune to cuts, but now all of a sudden, it seems to be in urgent need of reform. The pensions case is
a very clear example of what Eloísa del Pino, political scientist at CSIC, has identiﬁed as the fourteen strategies
governments use to convince the public of the beneﬁts of cuts. It is the strategy of assuring people that “at
least one good thing will come out of it.” This strategy can be used to justify the reform of the pension system,
a reform that would guarantee pensions in the short term but would leave the future of pensions in doubt.
Behind what the experts’ report says about their sustainability, it is important to recognize that there has been
a reduction in pension amounts that has combined with the extension of the retirement age that began with
the 2011 reform. All of this would certainly guarantee current pensions but it would leave future pensions as
a big question mark because it doesn’t even touch the third side of the triangle—how the system is ﬁnanced.
The measures that have been proposed so far represent a cost to the public, which sees the retirement age go
up and pension rates drop. The Spanish state beneﬁts from this insofar as it doesn’t apply measures to expand
the revenue base beyond salary contributions via, for example, taxation. Thus, what we are really seeing is a
further erosion of citizens’ rights and not a reform of the pension system. We should remember that the cost of
pensions to the Spanish GDP (10.7%) is below the European average (13.1%).
As Eloísa del Pino explains, the pensions debate can be analyzed based on the theory of what is called “framing”,
which stresses how powerful subjective interpretations of reality can be. In the public debate on pension reform,
demographic and economic projections are what are being used to determine the sustainability of pensions.
The looming retirement of baby boomers in the context of the economic crisis is wielded as the principal
political argument that justiﬁes a new and accelerated reform that is based on the reduction of pensions. There
can be many interpretations of our reality, but the central government emphasizes certain ones in particular.
One is that demographic projections point to an aging of the population because the birth rate has stagnated
and immigration is diminishing. The government also focuses on the economic projections that foresee a
decrease in the number of taxpayers and an increase in the number of pensioners, without considering other
forms of ﬁnancing. Thus, the political interpretation ends up being that the pension system is unsustainable
and that an immediate reform is necessary. But the government is forgetting that these demographic and
economic projections can fail: few predicted the baby boom of the 20th century or the big migratory wave at
the start of the 21st century. Nor are they aware that delaying the aging of the working population by extending
the retirement age, and reducing the economic gap between taxpayers and pensioners by lowering pension
rates are not the only ways to keep the system aﬂoat. In fact, the experts’ report (tentatively) suggests the
possibility of other options beyond adjusting spending (pensions) based on resources (taxpayers). But the
option of reforming the pension system through ﬁnancing (revenue) is not part of the framing of the central
government. Thus, the government perceives the banking system to be sustainable and ﬁnances it with new
revenue, while it considers the pension system to be unsustainable and reforms it with new cuts.
Sara Moreno is a Professor of Sociology at the UAB (Autonomous University of Barcelona)
Image by Susana Subirana
Sara Moreno - Diari ARA - 11-6-2013
seven communities, one language
Interview with Joaquim Maria Puyal
“The concealment of the truth exceeds the journalist’s ability to uncover it”
The Catalan Welfare State issue #17 - june 2013
from head to toe. He is a presenter who seduces the
listener with his gaze, his voice and his gestures. He holds
a PhD in Linguistics from the Universitat de Barcelona,
he presented and directed numerous programmes on
Catalan public television which are still missed by the
viewers twenty years on. The Puyal brand is a guarantee
of quality, a job well done and a passion for journalism.
His work for both radio and television has done a great
deal for the linguistic normalisation of the Catalan
language, which for forty years suffered persecution at
the hands of the Franco regime. Puyal’s commentaries on
Futbol Club Barcelona matches have been broadcast in
Catalan since 1976. In his book ‘Aicnàlubma’, this veteran
journalist reﬂects on television’s social responsibility and
defends the viewer’s rights.
You’re seen as a master journalist. Are you
comfortable with this role?
I feel responsible for passing on my experience to people who want to do this job. I see it more as a commitment
than a compliment. The transfer of knowledge is characteristic of humans: the older generation teaches their
craft to apprentices.
You are a benchmark for generations of communicators. Did you aspire to this when you
started? It seems to me you’ve always wanted to go a little beyond the day-to-day routine.
I have always had a sense of the importance of our work, rather than for myself in particular. A person who
speaks on the radio or TV inﬂuences the way events are viewed, whether they like it or not. I belong to the
generation that was at university when Franco died. It was down to us to start using Catalan in the media. Not
because we were charged with doing so by the gods, but because it was our job at that historic moment. It’s in
this vision of transcendence where my great disappointment lies. I can’t complain about anything on a personal
level: I’ve worked for many years with a lot of enthusiasm, with a lot of success and with a lot of plaudits. But
I am hugely disappointed to see that the industrial fabric of our society doesn’t sufﬁciently reﬂect our identity,
our culture, our way of seeing the world and life. When I refer to ‘us’ I mean the Catalans, and I appreciate that
catalanitat is a value which (like all identites) is not monolithic, not ﬁxed, not self-contained, which is evolving
and has imprecise limits. But we understand each other when we talk about ‘us’. If we didn’t it would mean we
don’t exist as a group any longer.
You say that journalism is an endangered profession. Can it still be saved?
I believe in human evolution: throughout history humans have overcome critical situations, and current threats
can also be overcome, though don’t ask me how. However, the concealment of the truth exceeds our individual
ability as journalists to uncover it. It is in a dirty alliance with the economic, social and political structures. The
system makes people believe what it wants them to believe, via the media. When it’s convenient to make us
believe Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, when it’s convenient for a military coup to be seen as an uprising
of salvation, when it’s convenient for a self-confessed terrorist like Bin Laden not to stand trial but to be killed
outright and for them to tell us he wasn’t assassinated. Faced with all this, we can’t be anything more than a
docile means of transmitting power.
The ﬁgure of the free, committed journalist is in crisis and the economic recession does nothing
to help the survival of this type of professional...
Often liberty and commitment end where the mortgage or the children’s school fees begin. I’m very lucky
because, as a result of the success my work has had I don’t have economic problems and I can state my opinion
with more freedom. But journalists can’t do much on their own, we need platforms through which we can
express ourselves (our companies and the media in general) and which have a certain capacity to accept the
alternative view and to be complimentary, as well as diverse. This is incredibly difﬁcult to achieve as they
are normally related to pressure groups or large holding companies. It’s true that freedom of thought and
individual freedom of opinion have more or less been in crisis in all cultures and in all societies. Gay Talese, a
pioneer of new journalism, said a short time ago that it would be tragic if journalism was reduced to Facebook
or blogs. Therefore we have to ﬁnd the solution between everyone. For my part, in ‘Aicnàlubma’ I suggest a
social idea: journalism and television are social activities which have to provide social returns. The viewer has
Does a journalist have a social responsibility above all else?
I repeat that before anything else the journalist has a mortgage and children to support. We have to keep
our feet ﬁrmly on the ground; our activities form part of a profession that is part of a system. But, within this
system, the media has an enormous inﬂuence on our social perception of reality. For this reason I believe that
there should be ways to protect the media and the rights of the consumer. A private group can have a clinic, but
the clinic can’t do whatever it wants: good medical practice has to be maintained. Good journalistic practice
also has to be guaranteed by social coverage. We need to progress in our right to reliable information. The
profession ought to act against the publication of lies. This would penalise the media empires that think there
are no limits and that they can conduct business as they like. Calling for rules of this kind isn’t an outdated
Eva Piquer - Catalan International View - Fall 2011
seven communities, one language
romantic attitude, but rather a healthy idea for the future.
‘There are a lot of people who worry about the death of newspapers but few people who worry
about the death of journalism’, you once stated.
This is due to the strong inﬂuence of the economic interests from the business world. Through a process of
osmosis we have come to believe that their economic interests are also our own. People ask me if I’ve sold a
lot of books. I’d rather that less people bought them and the readers tell me they’re interesting than sell more
and that they’re not read. A book is not a simple commercial product. Now Barça [Barcelona Football Club]
are going to wear a shirt publicising the Qatar Foundation. They say that it’s for economic reasons and no one
objects. But maybe a signiﬁcant number of club members would have preferred to pay a higher membership
fee or that they recruited one less player a year so they could continue with UNICEF on their chests.
You’ve never stopped being a radio man, and following the dictatorship you were one of
the pioneers of radio in Catalan. Did you have a clear idea of what you wanted to address,
communicatively speaking, right from the start?
I come from an immigrant family. My father was from Aragon and my mother was half Aragonese and Catalan.
They had a really hard time during the war, one of my uncles died in a concentration camp and my grandparents
had to emigrate. When I was born, they didn’t talk about politics much in my house. I went to a school run
by priests who taught in Spanish. When I began to work for the radio and went to university, everyone spoke
Catalan at home and in my neighbourhood, but on the radio and at university everyone used Spanish. After
working on the radio for a few years, one evening I suddenly thought: ‘I speak to all my colleagues in the ofﬁce
in Catalan, so how come we speak Spanish on air?’ . This incredibly simple question opened my eyes. When the
dictator died it occurred to me that I could suggest we broadcast Barça matches in Catalan. I was working for a
company in Madrid, Cadena SER, and couldn’t count on the management agreeing to the idea. However, at the
time I had the support of the director of Ràdio Barcelona, Manolo Terán, who was a free-thinking democrat,
who has been unfairly forgotten. He told me that we could try and present the idea to Madrid, so long as it didn’t
cost them money. We were lucky enough to have La Caixa [savings bank] as a sponsor. We went to Madrid and
asked if we could broadcast football in Catalan on an FM frequency (which at the time almost nobody used).
The managing director asked me, ‘will they understand you?’ . That question underlines the complete lack of
appreciation of our reality in 1976 by someone in charge in Madrid. We’ve made very little progress in this area
in the last 35 years.
Why do they still not understand us?
Because we’re not in charge. Those who are in charge continue to explain things in keeping with their interests
and we always have to operate reactively, or by adapting ourselves to the situation. Personal militancy is
relative, variable and makes few demands: everyone obviously has their own priorities. The fact that we don’t
have our own communication network hasn’t helped either, and for this I blame the politicians and businesses.
The absence of a strong private business initiative in Catalonia in Catalan will make a big impact if we don’t
ﬁnd a solution in a very short time. We are inundated by communications which are not produced with a
Catalan mentality to an extent unheard-of throughout the rest of our history. On TV, with the expansion of
digital channels, this effect has been particularly evident. We are being faced with a massive frontal assault.
More than once you’ve said that you regret not having been able to create a Catalan media
While privately I’ve received all kinds of prizes and rewards that I don’t deserve, as a citizen I complain about
it. We lack an industry which is prepared to spread the message of our culture and our identity.
Have you completely given up trying to start a private media project?
I always ﬁnd it difﬁcult to give up on something. One of the few abilities I have for operating in this world is
of always having done what I’ve set out to do. I acted when they wanted to sell Cadena 13, and I joined forces
with Grupo Zeta to obtain a concession of frequencies, but they only gave us three. Think about it, 35 years
after the general’s death and we don’t have a competitive private TV channel in Catalan in Catalonia. Instead
we’re invaded by a load of private Spanish channels. Where’s our industry? What do our politicians do with the
frequencies? We’ve only got TV3, which isn’t very clear on what model it should be following, we’ve got public
radio that suffers the same problems as TV3 and that’s your lot. In terms of radio we have the really valuable
growth of RAC1, but there’s very little else. Our children and fellow citizens receive all kind of communications
in a language other than our own, with metaphors which aren’t our own, with content and scenarios which
aren’t our own. The decline in the quality of our language and its social usage in the last twenty-ﬁve years
is undeniable, and in a sense the mass media is largely responsible. The Catalan that was secretly spoken in
Catalonia during the Franco period had a lot more vitality than what’s spoken nowadays in public in Barcelona.
You’ve always had the desire to help Catalan. You’re even a member of the philological section
of the Catalan Institute of Studies (IEC).
No one would say to Iñaki Gabilondo or David Letterman that they’ve done a lot for the Spanish or English
language just because they’ve spent a lifetime speaking in Spanish or English. I’ve simply tried to act with the
same logic as they have.
But here we have a minoritised language. Your TV programmes and football commentaries
have done a lot for the linguistic normalisation of Catalan.
I’ve tried to use the language, without trying to invent anything else: language invents itself. You need to start
by assuming that people know what their language is and that they respect it. The problem becomes serious
when we no longer really know what our language is or that we even despise it. This is the most dramatic and
signiﬁcant sign of the degeneration of our linguistic awareness.
When Universitat Rovira i Virgili awarded you an honorary doctorate you said, ‘either we get
to work or we’ll lose our language’. Who has to get to work? The speakers of Catalan? The
It’s very difﬁcult for individuals to act: people have more pressing problems than saving their language. At the
end of the day, language is an instrument for communicating, for relating to one another and understanding
each other. Understanding helps make life easier and more pleasant. Language has a practical element; it makes
no sense as a sacred object. It only makes sense to the extent to which it is used on the street, in the markets,
in business, in bed, at school, in restaurants. When they make a group of people believe they have two mother
tongues they are obliging them to unnecessarily double their effort. You don’t need to have two languages, in
the same way as you don’t need to have two cars outside your door. This is the contradiction of bilingualism.
Polyglot individuals are a different matter. But in the case of languages which are in contact within the same
group, the more potent language gains ground and always ends up winning on a practical level. Catalan can’t
compete with a media which speaks as badly as it can, or which speaks directly in another language. It’s very
unlikely we can win in the end with only the goodwill of a few, without a political structure as support, or a
degree of social prestige and a media industry that shares the feeling of belonging to a language. One day our
children will say to us, ‘I just want to understand my classmates. Don’t force me to have a testimonial linguistic
attitude belonging to another age’. This is the big risk. It’s obvious that languages, like everything in life, end
up dying one day.
The president of the IEC, Salvador Giner, stated that, ‘with our own state Catalan’s survival
would be guaranteed’.
He’s probably right. But I’m not so sure that having our own state is the only means to ensure Catalan survives.
The Flemish have been able to defend their own language without having their own state, thanks to them
having a sufﬁciently strong linguistic awareness.
According to the writer Jaume Cabré, ‘trying to ensure the survival of our language is now a
good enough reason to work for this country’s political independence’. Do you agree?
It’s easy to agree with Jaume, but let’s say that when we speak about language, we Catalans have been incapable
of projecting ourselves as we should and demanding our own capacities within the existing limits of autonomy.
Nowadays people could already be linguistically independent, Madrid doesn’t have to give us linguistic
independence: each and every one of us could have it by speaking in Catalan, writing in Catalan and singing
‘campions’ [champions] in Barça’s stadium instead of ‘campeones’. It seems like a contradiction that everyone
talks about independence now that it’s in fashion, when there are a series of independences which we could
have right now and we don’t use them.
Now in 2011 with print journalism in crisis, there are more newspapers in Catalan on Catalan
newspaper stands than ever. Is this a good sign?
I’m sure it is. The problem is that the social usage of Catalan isn’t sufﬁciently guaranteed. It’s not the same
having a newspaper that’s been translated, however good the translation may be, than a newspaper written in
the language itself. In Valencia it’s hard to ﬁnd newspapers in Catalan. How come, with the linguistic domain
of Catalan you can’t ﬁnd the most important newspapers written in Catalan? From a linguistic point of view
this robs us of structure and harms us.
You say you’re in love with TV, but you’ve got divorced. Fifteen years ago you stopped making
TV in order to reﬂect on it. What were the irreconcilable differences which led to the divorce?
I was interested in broadcasting certain content, making sure they got large audiences, while the people who
offered me work demanded large audiences but they weren’t bothered about the content. It’s really hard ﬁghting
for viewers if you create interesting messages, trying to make them attractive, when your competitors produce
attractive messages that are of no interest. I wasn’t prepared to commit myself to such an uneven ﬁght, where
the system was against me and the referees were against me.
Should public TV commit itself to quality even at the expense of the ratings, in order to avoid
falling into the so-called ‘genre addiction’?
Private TV channels have contaminated the language to such an extent that you yourself have referred to it as
public TV, as if private TV had no obligations. It’s in the interests of the owners of the private channels to instil
the idea that they can do whatever they like while public TV is subject to parliamentary quotas, varying degrees
of intervention depending on the political party in power and a series of constraints which are a hindrance,
rather than ensuring that the management is appropriate.
The deterioration of TV is a worldwide phenomenon...
It’s pretty much worldwide, yes. But the deterioration of the Spanish private channels is following the Italian
model, which is the worst in the world.
Do you think the quality of TV3 is similar to the best TV channels in the world?
The world is a big place and there’s a lot of TV channels. In spite of its difﬁculties, TV3 maintains certain
principles and it’s our great cultural cornerstone. It’s a tragedy that we have a very poor communication
network, because, as I said earlier, we don’t have competitive private broadcasters, because the concession
of licences accepts the broadcasting of insigniﬁcant and irrelevant programmes, because our major media
organizations do business in Spanish, because the idea that TV is expensive has taken hold, because there’s a
lack of will to bring together professionals to create competitive, winning projects…
With the Internet and social networks the number of outlets has increased and it looks like
everyone can have the right to their own say, even if they express opinions which aren’t
respectable or which haven’t been opposed.
When we say ‘everyone’ we forget that half the world lives in disgraceful conditions don’t we? Here, in the name
of freedom we state that everyone has the right to say what they like. But this right to the freedom of expression
shouldn’t be confused with the right to disseminate messages in public without verifying them in advance. It’s
like the pilot before take-off asking their passengers what altitude they want to ﬂy at and what route they want
to take. If journalism is a profession it’s because it requires expertise. This expertise brings knowledge, working
methods and a commitment to being scrupulous. Without these three elements one shouldn’t be allowed to
broadcast collective messages on industrial networks. Social networks are a different matter, where everyone
says what they like and everyone knows what it’s all about.
You’ve been broadcasting football matches for many years. In the absence of a state and a
national sports team, do you think Barça serves as Catalonia’s ambassador abroad?
We Catalans have a certain reticence when it comes to appearing in public. It’s easier for Barça to appear abroad
as a Spanish team that as a Catalan team because in many places they don’t know anything about Catalonia,
and they probably don’t even know much about Spain. It’s hard to visualise Catalonia abroad.
It’s for precisely this reason that Barça can help us teach people.
Pep Guardiola has proven himself to be a magniﬁcent teacher by saying that he’ll answer questions in Catalan
anywhere in the world. All the Catalan universities should immediately award him an honorary doctorate for
this reason alone. No one in this country with the ability to reach the masses has ever done as much for the
use, the prestige and the awareness of Catalan in the outside world than Guardiola. But this has got more to
do with Guardiola’s personal desire than his institutional position or the collective attitude of Barça’s current
board, members or fans.
If Barça was no more than a club, would you perhaps have grown tired of following them?
When Gamper founded Barça he didn’t intend to make anything more than a club. Barça began to become
more than a club because people saw that it was a way of saying what they couldn’t say. We give it the sheen
of representing us. When people in Fuentealbilla see Iniesta with a Barça shirt, they don’t see this sheen. And
they also call themselves fans. Now Barça has become a social phenomenon, partly because we win. But we’d
stop seeing the shirts you see nowadays in Tahiti, Peru and Hong Kong if Barça lost. It’s not so much thanks
to a marketing or communication strategy: it’s thanks to the ball, that it goes in the goal! All in all Guardiola is
the catalyst for this. Behind him there is a group of people who pat themselves on the back. But the model the
club follows isn’t that solid. The vision of Barça as ambassadors for Catalanism is not that certain either. And
the idea of being ‘more than a football club’ has many meanings, and we’ll have to see how it evolves.
Barça’s successes have helped us to get rid of our complexes. We Catalans are short on self-
esteem, and at least now we can display our barcelonisme with pride.
But we Catalans would feel even more proud if Messi spoke in Catalan, and if the club didn’t have doubts about
aspects related to its image. Barça isn’t clear on which language it should speak when it goes to Germany for
With a state behind us, such details wouldn’t be an issue.
Perhaps not. But with what we’ve got now Barça could tell UEFA that the club uses Catalan and that they need
a Catalan-German translator when they play in Germany. It seems like the club isn’t always interested in doing
this. Imagine we go to Turkey and there’s no translator from Catalan to Turkish. If Barça considers it has a
language to be used at home and not for going to Turkey, the press conference will be held in Spanish and
that’s that. In order to defend our language we should say that without a Catalan translator there’ll be no press
conference. Barça should make it clear that the club’s lingua franca is Catalan.
Are you optimistic, in spite of everything?
I see the possibilities, more than anything. Maybe Guardiola isn’t an optimist, but he’s shown that it’s possible
to speak Catalan to the outside world. You don’t need to be an optimist to try and do what you can. Life’s about
believing in something and acting according to your own convictions. Maybe you’ll never achieve everything
you’re trying to do, but at least you can move in the right direction.
What do you value most in life?
Goodness and honesty, I suppose.
What do you prefer, beauty or intelligence?
The question seems a bit odd to me: they’re not mutually exclusive concepts. I ﬁnd intelligence to be an
extremely potent force, but I admit to being defeated and overcome by beauty.
Interview by Eva Piquer
Photo by Xabier Miquel Laburu
Catalan iron and forging
The Catalan Welfare State issue #17 - june 2013
Catalan forging was a technique that was started to be used
in the eighteenth century to obtain high quality iron and
steel, without which, in the pre-industrial period, it would
not have been possible to make the innumerable tools and
utensils. This Catalan procedure was used all over Europe
as well as in the United States. The arrival of the industrial
era and the apparition of heavy industry and smelting ovens
condemned Catalan forgery to disappear during the ﬁrst half
of the nineteenth century.
Catalan forgery is the workplace of the forgers and the
technique of making iron from the mineral, which is known
as the ‘Catalan procedure’. It was ﬁrst used in the eighteenth
century when it represented a complete technical innovation:
the air was blown through conduits known as horns, which
channelled the air that had been produced by the fall of the water retained in a high reservoir, into the oven,
where the iron mineral was mixed with coal and melted. With this system they accomplished a more efﬁcient
procedure than forging, the performance and efﬁciency of the smelting was greater and the end quality of the
iron was much better.
The working of a forge depended completely on the availability of speciﬁc materials: iron mineral, called ore; a
stream of water to work the drop-hammer and blow the air into the forge, and especially mineral coal from the
nearby forests. There were no forges which lacked in mineral, hydraulic energy or coal; all the establishments
were perfectly provided with these three components.
The forge industry required an enormous quantity of energy in order to work and the heavy drop-hammers,
which were moved by a vertical wheel, required the force of hydraulic energy. It is for this reason that the forges
where located on the banks of rivers and dams, where channels, reservoirs and deposits were built.
However, the force of the water was not the only energy source needed for a forge. In these establishments they
also needed heat to forge the iron mineral, which they obtained with the combustion of enormous quantities
of charcoal. An average sized forge managed to swallow-up between 1.000 and 1.400 hectares of forest for
charcoal every year. Therefore, around the forge, a process of deforestation took place on an extraordinary
The third component which supplied the forges with its materials was the iron mineral, called ore. In the pre-
industrial period there was no machinery and iron mines were worked with a pick and spade. The miners,
who were already called ‘menerons’, often lived in buildings located at the mouth of the coal beds. They were
true experts in mining who located the bed, valued its possibilities and exploited them with means that today
would appear to be very rudimentary. These miners, in the case of the Ripollès area, came from other regions,
speciﬁcally from the Conﬂent counties, the Capcir and Vallespir. The fact that the artisan miners, and also the
forgers came from the north side of the Pyrenees leads us to believe that the procedure of forging reached the
southern Pyrenees by the hand of these expert artisans.
The geographical distribution of the Catalan forge was extraordinarily wide-spread. There were forges in
Pyrenean parts like Conﬂent, Vallespir, Cerdanya, Ripollès, Ferrera valley and Berguedà, and also in Andorra
and Banyoles. This method of obtaining iron from the mineral is clearly documented all over Europe with the
following names: ‘the Catalan process’, ‘fragua o ﬁorja a la catalana’, ‘forge à la catalane’, ‘feu catalan’ and ‘fer
catalan’ and also in America during the nineteenth century. The Catalan forges were abundant in New England,
Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Alabama, where they arrived thanks to the European
colonisers who founded settlements there.
The forges produced an iron which, after passing through the hands of the blacksmiths, became tools and other
essential objects for the prosperous American society of the east coast. These same forgers had a distinctive
role in the two wars which the United States suffered in the nineteenth century, because they supplied iron and
steel to the armies of the American Revolution against England and the two American armies, the Unionists
and Confederates, during the Civil War.
The work in the forge was undertaken by true experts in the art of producing iron; the forgers hired the
establishments from their owners and worked and lived in them for a few years. Others, specialised in different
tasks, also worked there, like the ‘foguer’ who was in charge of building and maintaining the oven and supervisor
of the horn, ‘tovera’ and the supply of coal and mineral. His helper was the ‘picamena’, who was in charge of
the mineral and the regulation of the water which went to the wheel and the horn. The ‘escolà’ and his assistant
were in charge of feeding the ﬁre and they also helped the ‘foguer’. The ‘maller’ was in charge of the drop-
hammer, he made it work and repaired it when necessary, as well as taking care of the hydraulic wheel. If there
was a drop-hammer for stretching iron, we could also ﬁnd an ‘estiraire’ [stretcher] and an ‘escalfaire’ [warmer]
in the forge.
Culturcat - Generalitat de Catalunya
seven communities, one language
OUR CULTURE OUR HISTORY
Therefore, behind the apparent simplicity of a Catalan forge there were highly qualiﬁed artisans, authentic
experts in the production of iron, used to working in an efﬁcient way and coordinated amongst them to make-
work the hydraulic and mechanical infrastructure which they possessed. This professionalism of the forge
workers was essential in an industry where nothing could be left to chance. All that made the transformation
of the mineral into iron was entirely calculated: the staff, the salaries, the origin of the miner, the forests which
had to supply charcoal, the authorization to use the river water and the supply to the transporters. Everything,
absolutely everything, was calculated beforehand and detailed in the lease and exploitation contracts of the
The production of iron and steel in the Catalan forge had an important incidence upon the pre-industrial
society. These establishments transformed the mineral into metal for the elaboration of basic tools for use in
agriculture like ploughs, axes, hoes and an inﬁnity of utensils; tools for capital trades like carpenters and stone
masons with hammers, saws, keys and sledgehammers; and other objects which are found in every day life like
horseshoes for horses, axles for carts, chains, nets, rails, iron plated doors, door knobs and candelabras; and
also in the equipment of the army by way of weaponry.
It constituted a list of objects which were absolutely essential and which would not been possible to elaborate
in any material other than iron and steel which came from the forges, thus indicating the importance of this
industry of active metal working until the arrival of the industrial era, when the increase in the demand for
iron and steel to satisfy the new industrialised society motivated the apparition of heavy industry and blast
furnaces, therefore condemning the Catalan forge to its disappearance during the ﬁrst half of the nineteenth
ISSN: 2014-9093 | Legal deposit: B. 2198-2013