Catalan budget for 2024 at risk after Comuns file total amendment

Left-wing party wants government to withdraw urban plan for Hard Rock casino complex

Catalunya En Comú leader Jéssica Albiach looks at Catalan president Pere Aragonès speaking in parliament
Catalunya En Comú leader Jéssica Albiach looks at Catalan president Pere Aragonès speaking in parliament / Jordi Borràs
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | Barcelona

March 5, 2024 10:35 AM

March 5, 2024 07:31 PM

Catalonia's 2024 budget is in jeopardy after left-wing En Comú Podem (Comuns) announced it would submit total amendment proposals to the spending plan.

The party led by Jéssica Albiach is making the approval of the budget plan complicated, which is currently going through the parliamentary process after being approved last week by the governing Esquerra Republicana and the opposition Socialists.

Albiach had already warned that they would take this step if the Catalan government did not withdraw the urban plan for the Hard Rock casino complex, a red line for the Comuns to pass the budget.

Despite the pressure added by this move, Albiach has stated that they have not "walked away from the negotiating table" and will continue talks with the government.

Albiach, however, called for "more leadership and less blackmail" from the government. "We receive proposals, we dialogue, we negotiate. But we do not accept pressure or blackmail," she warned.


Albiach called on the government to discard "the project of the biggest casino in Europe, because it’s a nonsense project that would be harmful for mental health, precarious work, and safety."

Even with the total amendment proposal, the Comuns could still withdraw it until the last moment before the vote is held and the budgets would be passed, sources close to the executive said.

It is planned that the first parliament plenary session to debate the budgets will be held next week, on March 13 and 14, with the final vote taking place in early April.

Even though the executive's budget already have the support of the Socialists, they still do not have a combined majority to have the spending bill passed, and need at least one other party to vote in favor of or abstain from the voting.

Catalan government spokesperson Patrícia Plaja said the Comuns' amendment was "bad news for citizens" and questioned whether they were "genuinely willing" to approve the budgets.

"There is no room for negotiation on the Hard Rock project and the Comuns are aware of this," she added.

Hard Rock casino complex: a red line for Comuns

Although negotiations with En Comú Podem were more advanced than talks with any other party, the Hard Rock casino-hotel complex project has stalled discussions, since the Comuns demand that the government commit to not approving the urban plan of the project.

Esquerra is caught between a rock and a hard place: while the Comuns link their support to the rejection of the project, the Socialists base theirs on its approval. But Esquerra insist that this is a technical matter and not a political decision.

More than ten years after it was first proposed, and after several changes of ownership, the Hard Rock project would see the construction of a casino complex in Vila-seca and Salou, Tarragona.

The current plan includes a large casino, two hotels, a large swimming pool, a commercial area and a conference centre with a combined capacity of 15,000 people.

The casino complex project has been controversial over the past decade, sparking debates among political parties about the country's tourism and economic model. 

Catalonia's 2024 budget: key points at a glance

The 2024 budget is expected to be the most expansive in history, increasing by 6.3% to €43 billion compared to last year's budget. 

Health will receive the largest share, with an additional €636 million bringing the total to €12 billion, followed by education with an additional €682 million to reach €7.5 billion. 

Spending on culture will see the highest percentage increase, at 19.5%, reaching €566 million and now representing 1.7% of the total budget. Esquerra aims to reach the 2% target by the end of its term. 

Since Catalan president Pere Aragonès took office in 2021, the budget has increased by 34%. The government attributes the increase to the robust economy and the suspension of fiscal rules.