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Brussels asks Catalan Government and town halls to tighten belt

EU economic spokesman says 'fiscal discipline must be respected at all governmental levels'

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26 May 2010 03:07 AM

by

Mireia Sánchez
The Spanish Prime Minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, will not be the only one urged to tighten his belt. Brussels hopes that the Catalan President, José Montilla, and local town halls will also make an 'important' effort to restrain public spending. A text approved by the European finance ministers last week asked 'decentralized countries' to guarantee that fiscal discipline is respected 'at all government levels'. However, 'Brussels will not tell Spain how it has to be internally organized', specified the EU spokesman for Economic and Monetary Affairs, Amadeu Altafaj.
Altafaj did stress his hope that the Spanish autonomous regions would make the effort asked for by Madrid so that the country can overcome the economic situation. He explained that in decentralized countries such as Spain financial austerity measures must be shared out at all governmental levels. The German European MP and President of the Special Committee on the Financial, Economic and Social Crisis, Wolf Klinz, stated that only a 'coordinated effort' by the three public administration levels would allow Spain to achieve a public debt level below 60% of the GDP and a public deficit below 3%, which is set up by the Stability and Growth Pact. Klinz stated 'since the public debt is not only the debt of the central administration, but the accumulated by the country, regions and municipalities. Spain will not overcome the situation unless they contribute'.

Regular dialogue with Madrid
The text approved by the European finance ministers last week invited Member States to 'reinforce coordination among the different governmental levels' in order to guarantee 'effective execution mechanisms' that ensure the credibility of their fiscal framework. Consequently, Brussels demands that the different levels of public management keep a constant communication in order to carry out more effective policies within European Member States.

In decentralised countries such as Spain or Germany, Klinz considers it essential that central governments do not make any decision without listening to the rest of the administrations. He also believes that Spain is a specific case because of the importance of autonomous regions like Catalonia. 'The Spanish Minister in Madrid cannot do anything without the consent of the regions. He cannot commit the whole country without the agreement of the regions'.

'Brussels will not tell Spain how it has to organise itself'
Altafaj considers that these austerity measures do not lie at the door of the European Commission, but rather to the 'Spanish authorities', who have to decide whether the measures taken by the Catalan Government and town halls match those taken at a national level.

While waiting for the European Commission to draw up a detailed evaluation of Zapatero’s deficit reduction plan, European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs, Olli Rehn, claimed that the country was heading 'in a good direction'. The definitive report will not be ready until the June 8th, but the International Monetary Fund asked Spain for serious measures to speed up its recovery.


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  • European Commission building

  • European Commission building

  • Photo of Brussels asks Catalan Government and town halls to tighten belt

  • European Commission building

  • European Commission building
  • European Commission building
  • Photo of Brussels asks Catalan Government and town halls to tighten belt
  • European Commission building
Altafaj explains that the Spanish authorities must decide whether the measures taken by the Generalitat and town halls match those announced by the Spanish executive.