Parliament passes 2017 budget, which foresees allocation for the referendum
The pro-independence parties in the Catalan Chamber, governing cross-party ‘Junts Pel Sí’ and radical left CUP have passed the 2017 budget. The bill has been described as the last budget of the autonomic period, since it foresees calling a referendum on independence next September. Last June, CUP refused to pass the bill for 2016 which led to the vote of confidence promoted by Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont. They considered the numbers presented then to be “too autonomic” rather than responding to the pro-independence aspirations of Catalonia. After a new draft was presented last November, increasing the social expenditure and reinforcing the government’s commitment to call a referendum, CUP have accepted the bill. However, they have urged the Catalan Government to announce the date and the question of the referendum as quick as possible.
Barcelona (CNA).- The budget for 2017, which includes anallocation of €5.8 million to carry out the pro-independence referendum which the Government committed to call next September, has been passed. The support of pro-independence parties in the Catalan Chamber, governing cross-party ‘Junts Pel Sí’ and radical left CUP and that of alternative left alliance ‘Catalunya Sí que es Pot’allowed the bill to go through. CUP, the main partner of governing cross-party ‘Junts Pel Sí’ supported the bill but urged the Government to announce the date and the question of the referendum as quick as possible. The main parties in the opposition, Spanish Unionist Ciutadans, Catalan People’s Party (PP) and Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) considered the budget to contradict the Spanish Constitution, since calling a referendum is not an attributed competence of the Government and therefore this authorisation can’t be foreseen in the budget.
The appeal presented by ‘Catalunya Sí que es Pot’, which foresees the possibility to call a referendum agreed with the Spanish State, has also been backed. In this case, with the support of ‘Junts Pel Sí’ but not CUP’s, who have repeatedly insisted on the unilateral way is the only option left to call a referendum on independence.
The budget for 2017 foresees an allocation of €5.8 million to carry out the pro-independence referendum in September. In particular, the draft establishes €5 million for electoral processes and €0.8 million for participation. Moreover, the budget also anticipates the inevitable suspension of the referendum allocation by the Spanish Constitutional Court (TC) and includes hidden allocations so that it could be carried out anyway.
74% of the budget allocated for social expenditure
“This is the best budget possible”, said Catalan Vice President and Minister for Economy and Tax Office, Oriol Junqueras, right after presenting the bill to the Parliament’s Bureau in November. The draft increased the social expenditure and reinforced the government’s commitment to call a referendum, which were some of CUP’s condition to pass the bill.
Indeed, more than 74% of the budget for 2017 is allocated for social expenditure and €1.1 billion more has been allocated for this purpose in comparison the budget for 2015. In total, the amount allocated for social purposes amounts to €17,831.8 million. This figure is also €344.9 million higher than that presented by Junqueras in June 2016 and later vetoed by radical left pro-independence CUP, which led to the extension of the budget for 2015 to the current year.
In particular, the Health System with €8.7 billion and Education and Universities with €5.5 billion are the areas with the highest amounts allocated.
Passing the bill may contravene the Spanish Justice
The Parliament’s legal services have already warned that by passing the budget the chamber could be ignoring the Spanish Constitutional Court (TC). Indeed, the Spanish body called to impede or block any initiative emerged from the pro-independence declaration of the 9-N, which was already suspended. The 31st additional provision of the budget which foresees calling a referendum is the one which could be challenged by the TC and presumably led to charges against their promoters.
In an attempt to prevent the budget to be put to vote, the main parties in the opposition, Spanish Unionist ‘Ciutadans’, Catalan People’s Party (PP) and Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) called the Parliament to take the legal services’ warning into account. They considered the budget to contradict the Spanish Constitution, since calling a referendum is not an attributed competence of the Government and therefore this authorisation can’t be foreseen in the budget.
A controversial allocation
Earlier this March, the Council for Statutory Guarantees, the body responsible for checking whether the Catalan Government’s regulations comply with the Catalan Statute of Autonomy and the Spanish Constitution, analysed the draft at the request of Spanish Unionist ‘Ciutadans’, the Catalan People’s Party (PPC) and the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC). The body approved the allocation to call a referendum but considered unconstitutional the 31st additional provision of the draft, which establishes that the Government is responsible for guaranteeing this allocation. According to the Council, calling a referendum is not an attributed competence of the Government and therefore this authorisation can’t be foreseen in the budget. Since it is an advisory body, the resolution of the Council for Statutory Guarantees is not binding but implied a delay in the passing of the bill, which was due to be put to vote last February.