Catalan Government's 2015 budget finally approved after modifying state structures programmes
The Catalan Parliament has finally approved the Catalan Government’s budget bill for 2015 and the complementary law on fiscal measures with the backing of the governing centre-right pro-Catalan State coalition CiU and the opposition left-wing Catalan independence party ERC. The CiU and the ERC introduced last-minute changes concerning the launching of state structures, such as Catalonia's own tax administration. These changes come after the Catalan Council for Constitutional Guarantees (CGE) warned that such state structures cannot go beyond Catalonia's current self-rule powers. The CiU and ERC want to build embryonic structures in order to develop them if a majority of citizens vote for independence in the next Catalan elections, which are to be transformed into a 'de facto' referendum. Opposition parties criticised the new budget for "consolidating" budget cuts and for developing state structures.
Barcelona (ACN).- On Wednesday, the Catalan Parliament finally approved the budget bill of the Catalan Government for 2015 and the complementary law on fiscal measures, with the backing of the governing centre-right pro-Catalan State coalition CiU and that of the opposition left-wing Catalan independence party ERC. The CiU and the ERC had introduced last-minute changes in the definition of the programmes launching state structures, such as Catalonia's own tax administration and Council on Nuclear Security. These changes come after the Catalan Council for Constitutional Guarantees (CGE) issued a report last week warning that such state structures cannot go beyond Catalonia's current self-rule powers. The CiU and ERC wanted to build the embryo of these structures in order to be ready to develop them if a majority of citizens vote for pro-independence in the next Catalan elections, which are to be transformed into a 'de facto' self-determination referendum. Opposition parties criticised the new budget for "consolidating" the budget cuts in public services of the last years and for developing state structures before a self-determination vote.
The final budget approval follows the agreement that the CiU and ERC reached on 26 January, after months of negotiations. The ERC finally accepted to support the bill in exchange for increasing social spending and after the President of the Catalan Government and CiU's leader, Artur Mas, promised to call early elections on 27 September to allow Catalans to vote on independence after the unilateral no-to-everything attitude of the Spanish Government, which has refused to sit down and talk about Catalonia's self-determination despite years of peaceful demonstrations and a clear electoral mandate in this sense.
The CiU and ERC amended the creation of state structures
The Catalan Government's budget for 2015 has finally been approved after a delay because of the negotiations between the CiU and ERC but also because the People's Party (PP) – which runs the Spanish Government – delayed the definitive approval by a few additional weeks by taking the bill to the Council for Constitutional Guarantees. However, the CGE, which is an advisory body issuing non-binding reports, only criticised some of the bill amendments developing some state structures, but not all of them. The CGE considered the way the budget bill would develop Catalonia’s own tax administration, its own competition authority, its own nuclear security agency and a list of public assets and liabilities, including strategic infrastructure, to be at odds with the Spanish Constitution. However, at the same time, the advisory body did consider the way in which Catalonia’s own Social Security system would be developed – by launching the Agency of Social Protection – to respect the Constitution.
On Tuesday, in light of the CGE’s report issued last week, the CiU and ERC modified the measures criticised and presented new amendments. They insisted that the modifications totally respect the Catalan Government's own powers and therefore are in line with the Spanish Constitution.
Opposition parties strongly criticised any such state structures
On the same day, the parties that clearly defend Spain's unity strongly criticised the measures. They are the PP, the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) and the populist and anti-Catalan nationalism party Ciutadans (C's), which altogether have 35% of the MPs in the Catalan Parliament. The PP stated that the CiU and ERC are "making fun of the CGE". The PSC said that the state structures do not have "any solid ground" and accused the CiU and ERC of "promising the moon". The C's asked the Spanish Government to take the state structures to the Constitutional Court and block their development.
Meanwhile, the alternative left and radical independence party CUP considered that the amendments do not really develop state structures, since they will only create an embryonic structure at the most.
Making sure to respect the current legal framework
The CiU and ERC defended their amendments by saying they include the concept of "eventuality" in order to make their development more gradual and in line with the current legal framework. In addition, they have changed the plan to approve future laws developing such structures for "master plans" that will develop specific regulations.
The Catalan Government's Spokesperson and Minister for the Presidency, Francesc Homs – who is in charge of supervising the creation of the state structures – on Tuesday guaranteed that these structures will fit with Catalonia's current self-rule powers. "We will not do things that we know for sure will be appealed against", acknowledged Homs.
Defending the entire budget
On Wednesday, at the Catalan Parliament, the CiU defended the budget bill and the complementary law on fiscal measures because they work on "not increasing inequalities", despite years of economic crisis. In addition, they "guarantee the country's growth", they stated, and are in line with the Government's "main objective", which is "the economic recovery and the generation of jobs and wealth".
The ERC emphasised that the budget "is insufficient for Catalonia's needs", but added that it is "the only possible budget" without having full independence from Spain. With the development of state structures, "we have passed from a budget of an Autonomous Community to a budget that takes into account Catalonia's national transition". However, "we need sovereignty if we want enough revenue for our country", the ERC stressed.
Opposition criticised the budget bill
The PSC accused the CiU and ERC of "keeping the same budget cuts since 2011", which have reduced expenditure in public services. Furthermore, they criticised the ERC for having agreed to support the budget after increasing social spending by less than €100 additional million, while the entire budget plans €25.5 billion in overall spending. The PP criticised the bill because it puts the spending in public healthcare and education, "at 2004 levels", while "secessionist spending" is increased. Furthermore, they linked the creation of a Catalan Tax Administration to an attempt to hide the alleged fiscal fraud of former Catalan President and CiU leader from the 1970s to the early 2000s, Jordi Pujol. The C's criticised the budget because it "does not seem to follow a strategy to recover from the economic crisis", but it seems their main goal is to work for "Catalonia's independence and quit Spain and the European Union".
The Catalan Green Socialist and post-Communist coalition ICV-EUiA stated that the budget "is very far" from the "social rescue plan that Catalonia needs". The ICV-EUiA believes the budget has a very limited redistributive effect and its social policies follow "a charity logic" instead of following "universal rights". "They do not face the social, environmental and democratic emergency", they added. Finally, the CUP highlighted that the budget "mistreats people, who are the mains state structure that we have". "They answer to the tyranny of the debt and the deficit limitations" and "do not answer to the social emergency that the country is going through". Furthermore, the CUP criticised the budget for not being ambitious enough in developing state structures, which should go much further.