A more political Catalan Government takes office with half of the ministers to continue in the same position
The President of the Catalan Government has formed a new Cabinet with more political weight controlled by some of the people closest to him, such as Francesc Homs and Germà Gordó, who have been promoted. Half of the previous ministers will continue in the same position, such as the Vice-President Joana Ortega and the Finance Minister Andreu Mas-Colell. The new Executive combines a few Social-Democrat figures – as a gesture towards the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC) – with members of the Christian-Democrat side of the governing Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU), in order to respect the internal equilibrium. The new Government has the objectives of organising the self-determination vote, reducing the public deficit and reactivating the economy.
Barcelona (ACN).- The President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, announced on Thursday the members of the new Executive, who were sworn into office on the same morning. Half of the previous ministers will continue in the same position, such as the Vice-President Joana Ortega, the Finance Minister Andreu Mas-Colell and the Education Minister Irene Rigau. However, the new Cabinet has more political weight than the previous one, with fewer independents and with more high-profile figures from the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU), the only political force sitting in the Executive. The new Government has the objectives of organising the self-determination vote, reducing the public deficit and reactivating the economy. The Cabinet will be controlled by one of Mas\u2019 closest collaborators, Francesc Homs, who will be the new Minister for Presidency and Foreign Affairs. Another of Mas\u2019 collaborators who has been promoted is Germà Gordó, who will be the new Minister for Justice. As a gesture towards the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC), which has offered parliamentary support to the new Catalan Government, Mas has included two Social-Democrats: Santi Vila as the Minister for Transport, Housing and Sustainability and Neus Munté as Minister for Social Affairs and Family. However, the Cabinet also includes members of the Christian-Democrat side of the CiU in order to respect the internal equilibrium. In addition to Ortega, they are Josep Maria Pelegrí, who will continue as Minister for Agriculture, Food and Environment, and Ramon Espadaler, who will be in charge of Home Affairs. The previous person in charge of the Catalan Police, Felip Puig, will now become Minister for Business and Employment. The independents Boi Ruiz and Ferran Mascarell will continue as the Ministers for Health and for Culture, respectively. However, the independents Francesc Xavier Mena and Pilar Fernández Bozal have left the Executive, along with Lluís Recoder and Josep Lluís Cleries. Jordi Baiget is replacing Gordó as Government Secretary, a position coordinating the Executive\u2019s daily internal machinery. The ERC\u2019s leader, Oriol Junqueras, stated that he did not participate in the making of the new Government. He emphasised that the new members \u201Care up to the great challenges the country is facing\u201D. The rest of the opposition have criticised certain names in the new government: either for being \u201Cthe Ministers of the budget cuts\u201D or for supporting the pro-independence stance.
On Thursday, Artur Mas disclosed the members of the new Catalan Government. Since Mas was sworn into office on Monday, several theories have been circulating Barcelona regarding the names of the new Cabinet. However, despite some early confirmations such as Mas-Colell continuing or Recoder leaving, the full Cabinet was not known until the same morning that the new members were sworn into office. Besides the President, the new Catalan Government will have 12 Ministers, one more than the number appointed in 2010.
Two of the people closest to Mas in two strategic positions
The main news is the designation of Francesc Homs, who used to be the Government Spokesperson and was Mas\u2019 closest advisor as Presidency Secretary, as Minister for Presidency and Foreign Affairs, a new position that has been created to coordinate the Executive and pilot the \u201CNational Transition\u201D towards Catalonia\u2019s self-determination. Therefore Homs will be in charge of paving the way towards the organisation of a self-determination vote and creating \u201Cstate structures\u201D for the beginnings of a Catalan State, including bodies like a Catalan Treasury and Social Security. He will be assuming some power that previously directly depended on the President, Artur Mas, and the Vice-President, Joana Ortega.
Another new Minister is Germà Gordó, who used to coordinate the Executive daily decisions away from the spotlight as Government Secretary. He was one of the people closest to the President and Mas has recognised Gordó\u2019s loyalty and effectiveness by appointing him Minister for Justice. He will be in charge of running the court offices, managing prisons, supervising the accounts of all the foundations and ensuring Catalonia\u2019s self-rule. In this strategic position, Gordó will have to deal with the offensive and accusations stemming from the re-centralisation drive of the Spanish Government. He will replace the independent Pilar Fernández Bozal, who is leaving the Cabinet.
Two new Social-Democrat Ministers
Furthermore, two other new faces are particularly relevant as they represent the Social-Democrat side of the CiU. These two appointments have been interpreted as a gesture towards the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC), which has offered external parliamentary support to the Government to approve the term\u2019s most important laws. The first one is Santi Vila, whose designation has been vox populi for few days now. Vila has been the Mayor of Figueres, a city close to the French border and the northern part of the Costa Brava, since 2007. Now he will replace one of the most respected members of the last Executive, Lluís Recoder, who asked to leave the Government for \u201Cpersonal reasons\u201D. Vila will be the new Minister for Territory and Sustainability, in charge of Transport, Housing, Water and Waste Management. The second Social-Democrat figure is Neus Munté who used to be member of the General Workers Union (UGT), as the Catalan Head of Institutional Policy, although she has been member of the CiU for many years and sat in the Catalan Parliament on two occasions. Munté will be the Minister for Social Affairs and Family. She will replace Josep Lluís Cleries, who is pro-Catholic and is close to Mas. Cleries will leave the Government but will continue to occupy a relevant position within the CiU\u2019s parliamentary group.
Balancing the Christian-Democrat side
The CiU is a political federation of a larger Liberal and Social-Democrat party, called \u2018Convergència\u2019 (CDC), and a smaller Christian-Democrat party, called \u2018Unió\u2019 (UDC). Mas is the CiU leader and also leads the CDC. However, the CiU\u2019s \u2018number two\u2019, Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida, leads the Christian-Democrat side, which is not very keen on Catalonia\u2019s independence from Spain. Therefore, even though Mas is in charge of designating the ministers as President of the Catalan Government, he consulted Duran to come up with the definitive list. As in 2010, Duran will not sit in the Government but he will have some of his closest collaborators in it. In the new Cabinet, UDC has more political weight, with three Ministers from the board of the Christian-Democrat party. Previously it only had two with one independent candidate, designated upon Duran\u2019s suggestion. This increase is a way to compensate the Government\u2019s Social-Democrat light bias following the agreement with the ERC and the creation of the post of Minister for Presidency and Foreign Affairs, which will assume some power previously in the hands of the Vice-President, the Christian-Democrat Joana Ortega. Ortega will continue to occupy the same position but with less power. The two other UDC members are Josep Maria Pelegrí, who will stay on as the Catalan Minister for Agriculture, Livestock, Fishing, Food and Environment, and Ramon Espadaler, who will be the new Home Affairs Minister, in charge of the Catalan Police. Espadaler had already sat in the Catalan Government ten years ago and he has a wide parliamentary experience.
Six Ministers will continue, including Mas-Colell in charge of Finances
In addition to Ortega and Pelegrí, four other Ministers will continue to occupy the same position. The most relevant one is Andreu Mas-Colell, one of the world\u2019s main experts in microeconomics as professor in the universities of California (Berkley), Harvard and Pompeu Fabra. Mas-Colell will continue as the Catalan Minister for Finance and Knowledge, in charge of the Government\u2019s Budget, Fiscal Policy and the Catalan University and Research system. Another expert who will continue in the same position is Ferran Mascarell, Minister for Culture, who has a wide range of experience in managing cultural industries and public bodies. The independent Boi Ruiz, who used to be one of the main representatives of Catalonia\u2019s private healthcare sector, will stay on as the Minister for Health, in charge of implementing further significant budget cuts in the public healthcare system. In addition, another minister who has implemented important budget adjustments over the last two years who will stay in office is Irene Rigau. Mas has recognised the effort she made as Catalan Education Minister in opposing the Spanish Government\u2019s Education Reform relegating Catalan language and centralising competences.
One portfolio change
One minister will continue in the Government but will change portfolio. After a recent controversy regarding the work of the Catalan Police\u2019s Riot Brigade, Felip Puig will move from Catalan Minister for Home Affairs to being the person in charge of the Business and Employment Department. Puig, who is an engineer and has experience in business administration, is a veteran politician who occupied several government positions in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Four quit the Government
Four members of the previous Executive will not continue in the Cabinet in the new term. The most relevant name is Lluís Recoder, who used to be the Minister for Territory and Sustainability. It was Recoder who asked Mas if he could not continue \u201Cfor personal reasons\u201D. He will be replaced by Santi Vila, who is seen as a promising figure within the party. Recoder did not agree with the privatisation of the highway management company Tabasa and for many years he has been in pole position to succeed Mas as the CiU leader. Now, he will temporarily abandon politics to work in a law firm, but he has already suggested that he may be back in the future. Another politician leaving the Executive is the former Minister for Social Affairs and Family, Josep Lluís Cleries. Despite being well-considered by Mas and being quite close to him, the President seems to have replaced him in order to give the Executive a more Social-Democrat sway with Neus Munté. However, Cleries will continue in active politics as one of the CiU Members of the Catalan Parliament. Two independents have quit the Cabinet. The former Minister for Business and Employment, Francesc Xavier Mena, will return to his position as a professor in ESADE and Pilar Fernández Bozal, who was Minister for Justice, will return to work as civil-servant within the Corps of the Spanish State Lawyers.
The reactions from the other parties
The leader of the ERC, who has offered parliamentary support to the new Government, Oriol Junqueras, has denied being involved in the designation of the members of the new Cabinet. He said he knew the names of the new Ministers a few minutes before they were made public, after the Catalan President called him. Junqueras stated he is \u201Cconvinced\u201D that the new Executive \u201Cmight be up to the great challenges the country\u201D is facing. Junqueras justified the creation of the new position of Minister for Presidency and Foreign Affairs as it is so important to explain that the Spanish Government does not meet its obligations and imposes \u201Carbitrary\u201D deficit targets on the Catalan Government.
The Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) celebrates the fact that Andreu Mas-Colell will stay on, for his experience and international recognition. However, they have criticised Mas for having kept \u201Cthe Ministers of the budget cuts and privatisations\u201D in office, as the PSC\u2019s Spokesperson, Jaume Collboni, said. Collboni was mostly referring to Ruiz (Health) and Rigau (Education). In addition, he has criticised the designation of two people from the CiU\u2019s \u201Cpro-independence bone\u201D.
The People\u2019s Party (PP), which runs the Spanish Government, has been particularly vocal against the new Government. The PP\u2019s leader in Catalonia, Alícia Sánchez-Camacho, has criticised \u201Cthe Government of pro-separation supporters and Talibans\u201D, she said. Furthermore, she criticised Mas for having 12 instead of the previous 11 Ministerial positions. In addition, she criticised Homs\u2019 designation as she stated that he is \u201Cthe ideologist\u201D of the self-determination vote and the confrontation strategy with the Spanish Government.
The Catalan Green Socialist and Communist Coalition (ICV-EUiA) has criticised \u201Cthe same Government\u201D, as the party\u2019s Spokesperson, Dolors Camats, said. Camats emphasised that the new Government will implement \u201Ccontinuity policies\u201D and further \u201Cbudget cuts\u201D. She lamented the continuation of Mas-Colell, as the Minister in charge of implementing the austerity measures, as well as that of Ruiz and Rigau, in charge of Healthcare and Education respectively. She celebrated the fact that Puig is no longer in charge of the Catalan Police.
The anti-Catalan nationalism and Spanish nationalist Ciutadans (C\u2019s) has emphasised that with the new Government Mas \u201Cwants to give a prize to the radicals such as Homs and Puig and punish the moderate ones such as Bozal\u201D. C\u2019s Spokesperson, Jordi Cañas, added that the new Catalan Government \u201Cwants to destroy the Rule of Law and the Welfare State to build its own State\u201D. On top of this, he stated that the new Executive has been \u201Cdesigned by the operation committee run by Mas and Junqueras for secession\u201D.