High-level meeting in Catalonia to improve the fight against corruption after the latest scandals
The President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, organised a summit with top representatives from all the public powers involved in the fight against corruption and fraud to exchange ideas and come up with a set of measures. Political parties were not invited and some of them have protested. After the meeting, Mas explained that the attendees agreed to transform the Transparency Agreement from 2001 regarding the funding of political parties into a law in order to enforce it. Furthermore, the Catalan Government will allocate more resources to the judicial powers investigating the main corruption cases. The attendees agreed to compile the initiatives discussed in a document and meet again in two weeks’ time.
Barcelona (ACN).- On Wednesday at noon, the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, met with the top representatives from all the public powers involved in the fight against corruption and fraud in Catalonia in order to exchange ideas and come up with a plan to strengthen efforts and measures. Mas called for the meeting last week following the numerous corruption scandals that popped up in Spain and also in Catalonia. After today’s meeting, Mas summed up the goal: “we need to clean up”, as corruption has become a major concern for citizens. The Catalan President invited top representatives from the legislative, judicial and auditing public bodies, but not the political parties, a fact that has created controversy since some parties protested. According to Mas, who addressed the press after “the summit”, the attendees agreed to transform the Transparency Agreement from 2001 regarding the funding of political parties and electoral spending into a law in order to enforce it. It is “a powerful agreement but it has not been honoured as it should have been”, stated Mas. Furthermore, the Catalan Government committed to allocate more resources to the judicial powers investigating the main corruption cases. In addition, Mas asked for a public pact to agree on the moment that a public servant who is suspected of being corrupt should be obliged to resign, in order to balance the innocence presumption with the “health of the democratic system”. The attendees agreed to compile the initiatives discussed into a document and to meet again in two weeks’ time in order to come up with a definitive document with more specific initiatives that will be explained to the citizens. Most of the opposition parties criticised the form of the meeting, with the lack of political parties and with the aim of providing ideas to the Catalan President. The Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), the People’s Party (PP), the Catalan Green Socialist and Communist Coalition (ICV-EUiA) and the anti-Catalan nationalist and populist party Ciutadans (C’s) considered the meeting to be a photo-opportunity and insisted that it is the Catalan Parliament, where there are committees related to transparency, where these measures need to be debated.
The President of the Catalan Government and leader of the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU), Artur Mas, organised what he called “a summit” to come up with a plan that the Catalan President can put on the table for a broader discussion and then enforce it. The attendees were the President of the Catalan Parliament, Núria de Gispert; the President of the Supreme Court of Justice of Catalonia, Miguel Ángel Gimeno; the Director of the Public Prosecutor Office of Catalonia, Martín Rodríguez Sol; the Catalan Ombudsman, Rafael Ribó; the Chairman of Catalan Public Audit Office, Jaume Amat; and the Director of the Anti-Fraud Office of Catalonia, Daniel de Alfonso.
When he was leaving the Generalitat Palace, the seat of the Catalan Government and where the meeting took place, Amat stated that the meeting went “very well”. He also confirmed that in “a few days they will be meeting again to concrete the measures that are still pending”. He said that, after the next meeting, “the President will have a plan with specific measures” to put in place. In addition, also while leaving the meeting place, De Alfonso did not want to disclose any details of the conversation. However, he was satisfied with the results. “It has been a very serious meeting” that “has gone very well”.
Sending a clear message
The Catalan President offered a press conference after the meeting, in which he explained that they will be meeting again on the 22nd of February to come up with a specific list of measures. Meanwhile, the actors involved will elaborate an internal working document that will reflect on the measures and issues discussed in today’s meeting. According to Artur Mas, the meeting was “tremendously useful”. “There is the will to send a clear message that we must clean up this country; we have to end with all the practice of irregularities, fraud and corruption”, he stated.
Two early measures
The Catalan President wanted to disclose two early initiatives. Firstly, the Catalan Government will put “all the human and material resources” required to investigate the main cases of corruption. Secondly, the Transparency Agreement approved by Catalan political parties in 2001 will be translated into a law in order to strengthen its compliance. This auto-limitation agreement refers to the funding of political parties and spending in the electoral campaigns. “It is a very powerful agreement but it has not been honoured as it should have been”, Mas explained. The Catalan Parliament will work on this new law through its committee to develop a Catalan Electoral Law and the committee for Public Transparency Law, which both have been re-activated this week. The aim is to have the three new laws approved by the end of this year.
An agreement regarding the resignation of those involved in corruption cases
In addition, Mas also announced that he will push for a nationwide pact with all parties to agree on a protocol regarding the resignation of the public servants who are affected by a case of corruption or fraud. Mas’ aim is to find a balance between the presumption of innocence and the “health of the democratic system”, reaching a consensus among all the parties. Mas insisted that he does not believe that a person should automatically resign at the start of an investigation in which they are accused, because this does not mean they are guilty. For Mas, a good solution would be to imitate the judicial power, where a judge is only put aside from his or her position when there is “very obvious and checked evidence”; a resignation that could even be forced before a trial begins.
By introducing this nuance, Mas sent a warning signal about the risk of over-reacting to the first hint of suspicion, because if there is a permanent climate of suspicion towards the public powers, “the danger to democratic health will be huge”. Mas insisted that “irregular behaviours need to be proved” and that “the correct functioning – in general terms – of many public institutions has to be separated from the incorrect practice by a few”. In any case, Mas emphasised that there is no single society in the world “100% free from corruption”, but Catalonia must keep as close to this goal as possible, and that “there is still a long road to walk”.