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Catalonia rejects giving away power recognised by its main law and regrets the Spanish Government's recentralisation

On Friday, the Spanish Government approved a €37.7 billion reform of Spain’s public sector which fosters the elimination of Autonomous Community bodies considered to be “redundant”. Instead of directly obliging the Autonomous Communities to eliminate them – which might be very tricky legally speaking, the Spanish Executive will link their suppression to the deficit targets allowed to the regional governments and the funds provided. However, in the case of Catalonia, most of the bodies included in the reform are recognised by Catalonia’s main law, approved in 2006 by the Spanish Parliament and through a binding referendum. The Catalan Government and most of the political parties are accusing the Spanish Executive of trying to recentralise Spain. In addition, the Catalan President said that unfortunately Madrid “teaches lessons” but “does not do its homework” and eliminates Ministries without competences.

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22 June 2013 12:00 AM

by

ACN

Barcelona (ACN).- The Catalan Government and most of the political parties in Catalonia accused the Spanish Executive of trying to recentralise Spain with its public sector reform. The President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, said that unfortunately the Spanish Executive \u201Cteaches lessons\u201D but \u201Cit does not do its homework\u201D and \u201Celiminates Ministries\u201D whose competences were transferred to the Autonomous Communities decades ago, such as the Ministries of Health, Education and Culture. On Friday, the Spanish Government approved a reform of Spain\u2019s public sector that fosters the elimination of some 200 Autonomous Community bodies considered to be \u201Credundant\u201D with the argument that there is a similar body at Spanish level. According to calculations made by the Spanish Executive, the reform would save \u20AC37.7 billion and would also include the suppression or merging of 57 state bodies. Instead of directly obliging the Autonomous Communities to eliminate their \u201Credundant\u201D organisations \u2013 which might be very tricky from a legal point of view \u2013 the Spanish Executive will link their suppression to the deficit targets allowed to the regional governments and the funds it provides them. In other words, by using the obliged reduction of public deficit levels, the Spanish Government will push the Autonomous Communities to eliminate such bodies if they want to see the deficit targets relaxed or have additional funds to finance other public services such as schools and hospitals. However, in the case of Catalonia, most of the bodies included in the Spanish reform to be eliminated are recognised by Catalonia\u2019s main law, the Catalan Statute of Autonomy, which was approved in 2006 by the Spanish Parliament and through a binding referendum. In addition, the redundancy of many of them is widely debatable, since they give a closer and more accurate service to the citizens and companies than the Spanish equivalent. For these reasons, the reform is mostly seen in Catalonia as an attempt to recentralise power.


The reform aims \u201Cto fatten up\u201D the State competences and \u201Cto slim down\u201D those of the Autonomous Communities

The Catalan Finance Minister, Andreu Mas-Colell, emphasised that Catalonia \u201Cwill never give away any power\u201D. In addition, Mas-Colell stated the reform \u201Cis a new attempt to recentralise\u201D Spain, which aims \u201Cto fatten up\u201D the State competences and \u201Cto slim down\u201D those of the Autonomous Communities. The Catalan President also stated that \u201Cthere are [Spanish] Ministries with hundreds of civil-servants who do not have any function because all the power has been devolved\u201D to the Autonomous Communities. Artur Mas mentioned the Ministries of Health and that of Education and Culture, but also other bodies such as the Imserso (which now only organises trips for retired people since social care is exclusively managed by the Autonomous Communities) or Puertos del Estado, which exists despite the fact that the main harbours are run by specific consortiums between the Spanish Government, the Autonomous Communities and Town Halls, and secondary ports and marinas are exclusively run by the Autonomous Communities.

Catalonia will have eliminated 25% of its public companies by the end of 2013

Furthermore, the Vice President of the Catalan Government, Joana Ortega, asked the Spanish Executive \u201Cto do its homework\u201D because it is the government level with \u201Cthe greatest work\u201D to do to reduce redundancies. She explained that around 9 months ago she sent a report to the Spanish Executive that underlined Madrid\u2019s \u201Cconstant power invasions\u201D into issues the Catalan Government has exclusive power over. Ortega insisted that the Catalan Statute of Autonomy entitles Catalonia to make its own reform, which it has already started to undergo for the last 2 years and a half. \u201CWe are already making a reform and therefore we do not feel concerned\u201D by the Spanish Government\u2019s reform, she added. Since 2010, the Catalan Government has eliminated 18% of its public companies and independent bodies. By the end of 2013, the Catalan Executive\u2019s plan is to eliminate 25% of these structures, aiming to make the public sector more efficient.

The Catalan Ombudsman and the Public Audit Office are targeted by the Spanish Government

Some of the organisations the Spanish Government aims to eliminate include the Catalan Ombudsman, the Catalan Meteorological Service, the Catalan Public Audit Office and the 35 international business offices throughout the world run by the Catalan Government. The Spanish Government is presenting them as redundant but, for instance, the Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister recognised a few months ago that the Spanish Embassies were lacking a truly professionalized network of business offices to help Spanish companies enter new markets and attract foreign investment. In addition, the Catalan Meteorological Service (SCM) recently showed its added value with the accurate forecast it did for the Val d\u2019Aran floods. Thanks to the SCM, prevention work started four days before the floods and therefore there were no casualties. Another example is the Catalan Ombudsman, which chaired the European branch of the International Ombudsman Institute (IOI-Europe). This body was created in 1984, a few years after Franco\u2019s dictatorship and the repression of the Catalan language and culture by the Spanish public powers. Nowadays, the Catalan Ombudsman listens to citizen complaints regarding public services and the respect of fundamental rights. This institution has particularly targeted Barcelona\u2019s Zona Franca Detention Centre for Foreigners, run by the Spanish Home Affairs Ministry, creating contention between the Spanish Government and Catalan powers about possible violations of human rights.

All the Catalan parties, except the two Spanish nationalist ones, reject the reform

Besides the reactions of the Catalan Government, which is run by the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU), all the rest of Catalan parties except the two Spanish nationalist ones have criticised the reform as being centralist. The Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC) thought that the Spanish Government\u2019s reform is \u201Ca Coup d\u2019État\u201D against the Catalan institutions. The ERC insisted on asking the Spanish Executive to eliminate the Ministries without power and on withdrawing funds from the Army instead of reducing funds to local governments. The Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), which is federated to the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE), rejects eliminating \u201Cbodies that are providing services to the citizens\u201D, \u201Csuch as the Catalan Ombudsman\u201D. For the PSC this institution is \u201Ca gain for democracy\u201D. However, the PSC is open to reducing certain bodies, at Catalan and also at Spanish level, to make the public sector more efficient. The Catalan Green Socialist and Communist Coalition (ICV-EUiA) stated that \u201Cthe victims\u201D of the Spanish Government reform will be \u201Cdemocracy, public services and [Catalonia\u2019s] self-government\u201D. The ICV-EUiA thinks that the reform is clearly \u201Cideological\u201D and it is \u201Can attempt to recentralise powers\u201D, as \u201Cit already did with the Labour Market Reform\u201D. Finally, the radical left-wing and independence party CUP also rejected the \u201Crecentralising and privatising\u201D reform. Against this reform, the CUP proposes \u201Cthe institutional disobedience\u201D and \u201Cto speed up the process towards independence\u201D from Spain.

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  • The Spanish Deputy Prime Minister (left) and the Spanish Minister for the Public Sector (right) on Friday (by R. Pi de Cabanyes)

  • The Spanish Deputy Prime Minister (left) and the Spanish Minister for the Public Sector (right) on Friday (by R. Pi de Cabanyes)