Catalan civil society asks for a new fiscal agreement with Spain

Catalonia gives away between 8% and 9% of its GDP every year. The main actors in Catalan civil society got together to formally push for a new fiscal agreement with Spain, through which Catalonia would continue transferring money to poorer Spanish regions, but not at current levels. The meeting brought together the leaders of the main business-owners association and the two main trade unions, as well as intellectuals from Barcelona’s Athenaeum, business people, and politicians from every political party except those classed as Spanish nationalists. The meeting was similar to the one held 113 years ago.

CNA / Josep Ramon Torné

February 1, 2012 08:54 PM

Barcelona (ACN).- Catalan civil society has requested a fair fiscal agreement between Catalonia and Spain on Tuesday evening in Barcelona’s Athenaeum (Ateneu Barcelonès), one of the most-deeply rooted cultural associations. The meeting included most of the main business people, intellectuals, and politicians from Catalonia, who asked for a symbolical change. The event had a very similar format to the one held in 1899, 113 years ago, when Catalan civil society asked for a fairer fiscal deal with the rest of Spain. At the end of the 19th century, throughout the 20th century, and in the early 21st century, there has been a major claim for Catalonia not being fiscaly drained. This is an “historical claim”, as the constant money drain has damaged Catalonia’s economy and social development, as the attendees were exposing. The economic crisis has demonstrated that 76% of Catalan citizens support the claim, according to the latest polls. A large majority of citizens think that Catalonia gives too much money to the rest of Spain every year. They want part of this money back, while continuing to support Spain’s poorer regions. According to studies released by the Spanish Ministry for the Economy Catalonia gives between 8% and 9% of its GDP to the rest of Spain and the European Union every year, after calculating the taxes raised in Catalonia and the money that comes back in the form of investments, funds or general services that benefit Catalonia or its citizens (such as the army or unemployment grants). This means that Catalonia loses around €18 billion per year. If this money was halved and Catalonia gave only around 4% or 5% of its annual GDP away, the Catalan Government would not have a budget deficit but instead, a surplus.

The main actors and representatives of the Catalan society got together to claim for a fairer deal with Spain. The claim was voiced some hours before the first official meeting between Spain’s Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, and the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas.

The event was chaired by the President of the main business owners association Foment del Treball -Joaquim Gay de Montellà-, the general secretaries of the two main trade unions -Josep Maria Álvarez (UGT) and Joan Carles Gallego (CCOO)-, the lawyer, former politician and one of the founding fathers of the Spanish Constitution -Miquel Roca-, the President of the Catalan Agricultural Institute of Sant Isidre –Baldiri Ros-, and the President of Barcelona’s Athenaeum, Francesc Cabana. Roca, one of the six fathers of the Spanish Constitution, added that the legal text “does not ban Catalonia from having such an agreement”. Furthermore, Roca said that the Basque Country and Navarra, two of the 17 Spanish Autonomous Communities, already have this agreement. He also stated that their special agreement was granted by an organic law and not by the Constitution.

Catalonia hands over between 8% and 9% of its GDP (€18 billion)

As the meeting attendees were saying, Catalonia gives too much money away every year and a wide majority of Catalans want part of this money back, while respecting the solidarity principle with Spain’s poorer regions. Catalonia’s Welfare State is suffocated as well as most of its infrastructure. This damage affects the poorest Catalan citizens, harming social development. It also causes problems for Catalonia’s economy and competitiveness dramatically. The attendees were also reminding that Catalonia is Spain’s most industrialised area and its strongest economy, but its hands are tied due to “a fiscal drain”.  

Representatives from political parties were also present

With this event, the attendees wanted to give their support to the claim shared by a wide majority of Catalan citizens (more than 76% according to the latest polls). The issue has been pushed forward by the main political force in Catalonia, the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition ‘Convergència i Unió’ (CiU), which now runs the Catalan Government. Other parties, such as the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC) and the Catalan Green Socialist Party (ICV), also support the claim. Many politicians were present at the meeting, not only from those parties but also from the main opposition party, the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC). The only parties not present were those classed as Spanish nationalists, the People’s Party (PP) –running the Spanish Government– and the populist Ciutadans (C’s).

The PSC does not support the formal claim for a new fiscal agreement with Spain; in fact some of its member such as Carme Chacón (who is in a race with Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba for the leadership of the Spanish Socialist Party-PSOE) are openly against it. However, other PSC members support the claim, not under the name of a “new fiscal agreement” but instead with the aim of retaining more funds in Catalonia.