by Michael J. Shapiro | October 25, 2017
Political tensions continue to escalate between the Spanish government and that of the region of Catalonia, but to this point it's still business as usual in the region's capital, Barcelona. "Despite any disruptions, Barcelona and Barcelona life are functioning normally and we have every hope that it will continue to do so," said a spokesperson for the Barcelona Turisme Convention Bureau. The agency currently is working on an official statement, which should be released by week's end, the spokesperson added.
Events over the next few days could affect that statement. The Catalonian parliament is scheduled to meet Thursday to discuss next steps, following this past weekend's decision by Spain's central government to reassert control over the autonomous region. At issue is an Oct. 1 independence referendum held in Catalonia, in which 90 percent of voters were in favor of independence, according to local officials - but only 43 percent of eligible Catalonians actually voted. The Spanish government had deemed the referendum illegal and demanded that voters refrain from participating, sending in national law enforcement to shut down polling places. 
 
In the weeks that have followed the vote, Catalonia president Carles Puigdemont has come short of directly declaring independence from Spain. He has not backed down, however, and this past weekend Spanish president Mariano Rajoy Brey invoked an article of the country's constitution to reassert control over Catalonia, calling its drive for independence illegal. If the national government approves that step on Friday, the Spanish government would remove Puigdemont and the Catalonian executive council from office, dissolving the regional government and imposing national control over the region. Spanish police forces or the military could be sent in to help maintain control until new regional elections are held.
 
Puigdemont has asked the Catalonian parliament to "debate and decide on this attempt to abolish our self-government and our democracy, and act accordingly. 
 
"The Catalan institutions and the people of Catalonia cannot accept this attack," Puigdemont added. Rajoy's stated intentions are "incompatible with a democratic attitude and reside outside the rule of law," Puigdemont said. "Because imposing a form of government not chosen by the citizens and without a parliamentary majority is incompatible with the rule of law."
 
For its part, the Spanish government will not agree to a dialogue with Puigdemont as long as he supports the unilateral declaration of independence called for by the referendum.
 
The tense political situation has not affected the schedule for IBTM World, said organizers of the meetings-industry exhibition scheduled for Nov. 28-30 at Fira Barcelona. "We are fully aware of the current situation in Spain, and can confirm that IBTM World will go ahead as planned," said Kerry Prince, portfolio director of IBTM Events. "We will, of course, continue to work closely with the venue and local and national authorities to identify any potential risks of disruption, and assess these to develop any plans necessary to ensure a safe and successful show. We are all very much looking forward to welcoming everyone to Barcelona for our 30th-anniversary event."
 
MJS/Source: Barcelona Convention Bureau, 10/24; IBTM Events, 10/24; Government of Catalonia, 10/21