The 14 major Catalan companies that finance the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce with minimum contributions of 300,000 euros for the next four years know that they have lost their feet following the elections held at the beginning of the month by the institution and that they have led to the enthronement of the Eines De País candidacy, promoted by the Catalan National Association (ANC). Those considered ‘blue chips ‘from the autonomous community, some of them’ exiled’ to other points in Spain following the 1-O, are fully aware that the fate of the Barcelona Chamber is cast and that sooner or later they will have to abandon an organization that risks acting as a new transmission belt in the international markets of rampant sovereignism in Catalonia.
The corporations concerned are CaixaBank, Criteria Caixa, Naturgy, Abertis, Banco Sabadell, Aguas de Barcelona, Banco Mediolanum, Indra, Deloitte, PwC, Hoteles Catalonia, Damm, El RACC and Magma Disseny. Most of them are in contact these days to coordinate a ‘Exit operation’ gradually over the next few months. During the current financial year, and especially immediately, it is more difficult for anyone to officially throw in the towel since the 2019 quotas, the first 75,000 euros, have been paid since the beginning of the year, so a precipitous fall could generate the opposite effect to what is intended and that is no other than an orderly diaspora; that is, to tip off without making much noise.
The sovereign candidature led by Joan Canadell, a foreseeable replacement for Miquel Valls in the presidency of the House, has been able to take advantage of the new computer developments put at the service of electronic voting, while the rest of the competitors have fallen asleep on the laurels of a triumph deceptively based on the precarious response of the previous elections. At the end of the day, of the 40 armchairs in the plenary that were at stake, the pro-independence candidacy has been made with 31, which gives it an absolute majority of the institution. The House Assembly has another 20 seats, including the 14 of the above-mentioned large companies and the six reserved for employers Foment and Pimec, which are divided into three seats each.
The incorporation of large corporations into the House organization came as a result of the abolition of mandatory quotas adopted by Zapatero’s socialist government in 2011, which represented a radical change in the funding model of the chambers of Commerce in our country. The replacement of quotas with millions of voluntary contributions was introduced in the new Chamber of Spain, heiress of the former Superior Council of Chambers and was adopted as a natural solution by the different regional entities. In the case of Barcelona, the most important part of the Catalan business sector came to the aid of an institution that now risks politicizing itself under the protection and with the complicity of the Catalan government.
The Generalitat is fueling the fire
The explicit aim of the autonomous executive is to reduce what is considered to be paid seats in the plenary of the House; that is, the positions held precisely by the big corporate partners. So has expressed the minister of Enterprise of the Generalitat, Àngels Chacón, in a clear challenge to the companies themselves, and the desire of those to move sooner rather than later with an organization that can see clearly subverted its foundational goals. In short, and as they admit in media close to the election-winning sovereign candidature, “it is not that companies can leave the chamber; it is that they are going to be invited to leave and if they do not leave voluntarily they will then have to leave through the false door.”
The situation that arises highlights the pitfalls that entrepreneurs are suffering at the hands of a radicalized policy over the last few years in Catalonia. In fact, the election campaign of the Barcelona Chamber made clear the rejection of several candidacies to the direct participation of large companies in the governing bodies of the institution. The result of the votes only confirmed the threats. The Generalitat will have to look for alternative financing formulas or, failing that, reduce the costs of the contribution made these years to the service of the business fabric. In other words, it will be necessary to see whether the Barcelona Chamber is still an economic mark or from now on it becomes a mark of the most belligerent independence in Catalonia.