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Catalonia questions the constitutionality of the Spanish Government’s education and healthcare reforms

The Catalan Government has announced a plan against the Spanish Government’s “recentralisation offensive”. One of its actions is taking the education and healthcare reforms adopted by Madrid to the Catalan Council for Constitutional Guarantees, as a first step to bring them to Spain’s Constitutional Court. The Catalan Government believes that some of the measures invade its jurisdiction, as it directly manages education and healthcare. Another measure is issuing a report pointing out the Spanish Government’s duplicities, such as maintaining ministries such as education, healthcare and culture. These policies are managed by the Autonomies. Left-Wing opposition parties have urged the Catalan Government to take further measures, while the PP has accused the Catalan Executive of “lying”.

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09 May 2012 12:47 AM

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ACN / Patricia Mateos / Gaspar Pericay Coll

Barcelona (ACN).- The Catalan Government has reacted to the Spanish Executive\u2019s list of  recentralisation measures and reforms adopted by pointing out that some go beyond Madrid\u2019s jurisdiction and invade the control of the Autonomies. The Spokesperson for the Catalan Government, Francesc Homs, said after the weekly Cabinet Meeting on Tuesday that the \u201Crecentralisation offensive\u201D has forced the Catalan Executive \u201Cto react\u201D and form \u201Ca legitimate defence\u201D. \u201CThe Spanish Government is slowly closing the space for dialogue and agreements\u201D and the Catalan Government \u201Cwill not let things go\u201D, he added. Homs explained that the Catalan Government has adopted a set of seven measures at political, judicial and institutional level to guarantee the preservation of Catalonia\u2019s self-government. The first initiative is to formally ask the Catalan Council for Constitutional Guarantees (CCGC) for a report assessing the constitutionality of the Spanish Government\u2019s measures to reduce the Autonomies\u2019 spending on education and healthcare, drafted in April. The report would be the base for a future appeal to Spain\u2019s Constitutional Court. The Catalan Government believes that some of the measures invade its jurisdiction and they are not enough to reduce public spending to the levels announced. Therefore it asked for further measures to be adopted, and it urged Madrid to adopt decisions in the areas it manages, with the objective to unblock restrictions and give the Catalan Government more room to adopt its own initiatives to reduce the public deficit. A second measure is that the Catalan Executive has asked for a report to identify the duplicities between both government levels, in order to detect the Spanish Government\u2019s \u201Cexcess of fat\u201D. Homs gave some examples of the Spanish Government\u2019s redundancies, like maintaining the Spanish Ministries of Education, Health and Culture while their powers are managed by the Autonomies. Homs also criticised the Spanish Government\u2019s resistance to fully accept the consequences of devolution because of its \u201Creluctance\u201D and \u201Cmistrust\u201D. Another initiative is to ask that all the infrastructural projects in Spain be approved with a cost-profit report, in order to prevent spending public money building high-speed trains to places without a need for it. Other measures relate to social affairs, merging municipalities, and the Catalan public media. The Catalan Left-Wing opposition parties (PSC, ICV, and ERC) asked the Catalan Government, which is run by the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition \u2018CiU\u2019, to be \u201Cbraver\u201D and not to limit its actions to a \u201Csmokescreen\u201D. On the contrary, the People\u2019s Party (PP), which runs the Spanish Government, accused the Catalan Government of \u201Ccrying out\u201D and \u201Clying\u201D.


The Catalan Government believes the Spanish Executive is invading its jurisdiction

In Spain, public education and healthcare are directly managed by the Autonomous Communities, which have exclusive powers in some specific areas, such as human resources. Three weeks ago, the Spanish Government imposed a set of measures in order to reduce the Autonomous Community spending on education and healthcare. Some of the measures directly affected the management of education staff, an area directly dependent on the Autonomies. The Catalan Government coincides in the need to reduce public spending in those two public services, but considered the adopted measures to invade its jurisdiction and, in addition, not being enough to reduce spending to the level announced. The project was meant to save \u20AC10 billion in 2012, \u20AC3 billion in education and \u20AC7 billion in healthcare. However, reports issued by the Catalan Government at the end of April showed the Spanish Government\u2019s calculations were wrong, as the measures would only save 10% of the announced amount, passing from a \u20AC10 billion reduction to only \u20AC1 billion.

The Catalan Government asked Madrid to adopt measures unblocking reforms

The Catalan Government has reduced spending in healthcare and education over the last year and a half. In addition, it has adopted measures such as the drug prescription fee in order to decrease public spending in healthcare. However, the Spanish Government has asked Catalonia for an additional reduction of \u20AC1.7 billion in those two areas, although according to the Catalan Government, the measures adopted last month by Madrid only allow for a \u20AC170 million reduction. Therefore, the Catalan Government is asking the Spanish Executive for further reforms, and in particular to adopt measures in the areas Madrid directly manages that impede the Autonomies to adopt their own measures.

Identifying the Spanish Government\u2019s \u201Cexcess of fat\u201D

A second initiative adopted by the Catalan Government is to prepare a report identifying administrative duplicities in the Catalan and Spanish Governments. The objective is to identify \u201Cthe excess of fat\u201D of the Spanish Government, which lately has accused the Autonomies of creating duplicities. According to Homs there are three \u201Cblatant\u201D examples of such duplicities, the Spanish Ministries of Education, Health and Culture, which are maintained although their powers have been transferred to the Autonomies. Homs accused the Spanish Government\u2019s \u201Cmistrust\u201D and \u201Creluctance\u201D as the cause of such duplicities. He said the Spanish Government believes it is \u201Cthe lord of everything\u201D in Spain. He concluded that the Spanish Government has \u201Ca lot of flesh to cut off\u201D.

Defending small town halls

Homs also explained that the Vice President of the Catalan Government, Joana Ortega, who is in charge of public administration, has contacted the Catalan municipalities\u2019 associations to draft a strategy for a hypothetical unilateral change in Catalonia\u2019s municipalities\u2019 map coming from Madrid. The Spanish Government has been saying that small town halls might be merged, an initiative that has faced significant opposition throughout Catalonia. Many Catalan politicians have agreed to merge municipal services in order to improve efficiency, but not to completely eliminate organisations with many centuries of history. Some proposals might go towards strengthening supra-municipal bodies, while reducing the size of some town halls, but without going as far as to fully eliminate them.

More appeals to the Constitutional Court

Another of the measures announced on Tuesday is that the Catalan Government will not avoid bringing any measure adopted by the Spanish Government that would go against Catalonia\u2019s self-government to Spain\u2019s Constitutional Court, established in the Catalan Statute of Autonomy and the Spanish Constitution. However, Homs clarified that they will do so if the measure cannot be modified though parliamentary negotiations, although the PP has an absolute majority in the Spanish Parliament and mathematically does not need the votes of any other party.

Social affairs and Catalan public media

The Catalan Government will send a formal requirement to the Spanish Government to implement all the judicial sentences that Madrid does not respect, affecting Catalan interests. Homs pointed out one example: citizens may tick a box in their Income Tax form, in order to allocate 0.7% of their revenue to social affairs. According to the Constitutional Court, the Catalan Government should directly manage the money because it controls social policies. However, the Spanish Government does not respect the sentence and it directly manages the money.

Another aspect the Catalan Government will be vigilant with is public media in Catalonia. The Spanish Government issued a decree enabling the privatisation of media in Spain\u2019s Autonomies. The Catalan Government said that the Catalan Public Broadcasting Corporation cannot be managed by Madrid, and this is \u201Cred line\u201D not to be crossed by any means and \u201Cabsolutely untouchable\u201D

No transport infrastructures in Spain without a prior cost-benefit report

The final initiative announced on Tuesday is that the Catalan Government will push for a parliamentary agreement to request that no transport infrastructure is built in Spain without the prior cost-benefit report, which would be binding. This measure is adopted to impede the Spanish Government deciding to prioritise billion euro public works that do not have an economic return guaranteed, such as many high-speed train lines built throughout Spain. The reason behind is that the Spanish Government has found money to build high-speed railways to Galicia or Extremadura in 2012, but it does not have much smaller amounts to improve freight railway in Tarragona or Barcelona ports, which are essential assets for Catalonia\u2019s and Spain\u2019s economies.

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  • The Spokesperson for the Catalan Government, Francesc Homs, on Tuesday (by M. Bélmez)

  • The Spokesperson for the Catalan Government, Francesc Homs, on Tuesday (by M. Bélmez)