Mas urges autonomous communities to “stand firm” in face of the “disloyal” attitude of the Spanish government

The Catalan President in a parliamentary session criticised what he considers to be “acts of disloyalty” by the Spanish government. He said it is unfair that regions have to assume most of the burden of Mariano Rajoy’s adjustment program and emphasised the fact that Madrid has yet to pay much of its debts to Catalonia. Mas accused Rajoy of “lacking respect” for the autonomous regions and said this could lead to a “break down of relations” between administrations.

Rafa Garrido

July 18, 2012 07:20 PM

Barcelona (ACN).- The Catalan President Artur Mas has urged all autonomous communities in Spain to “stand firm” in face of the “disloyal attitude” of the Spanish government led by Mariano Rajoy. In a parliamentary session in Catalonia, Mas said recent plans by Rajoy to further adjust the region’s deficit targets were unfair. He said the autonomous communities are responsible for about 35% of spending, however the Spanish government asks them to assume 64% of the whole adjustment package. Meanwhile, he said, the Spanish state administration only takes on 31% of the cuts despite representing 52% of overall spending. “They ask us to cut double the amount that we should be cutting, whereas the Spanish state takes on only half as much as it should.”, he denounced, adding: “And we should be happy about it? No, we say no!”.

Artur Mas said the Catalan government “stands firm” in face of the situation and urged all other autonomous communities to do the same. The Catalan President, who has been introducing 10% cuts in Health and Education and a reduction in public sector workers’ salaries, said the debate was not about whether austerity was the right thing to do. “The problem is not if we are in favour or against forced austerity measures: the problem is whether the very concept of the State is respected”, he explained, adding: “If this is not respected because it is thought the state refers only to the general administration (and not also the autonomous system) then dialogue breaks-off, or at least it gets very difficult to negotiate”. The Catalan government is very concerned because some of the recent announcements by the Spanish government challenge its devolved powers and is pushing an agenda of recentralisation.

Mas regretted what he considers to be a lack of “institutional loyalty” from the Spanish government. “Debts should be recognised, paid and the effort should be fairly distributed. Without this, there is no institutional loyalty at all”, said the Catalan president. Catalonia has a structural deficit of resources because it annually pays about €18 billion to the rest of Spain but it does not receive a fair amount of public investments in return. In fact, the Spanish government has not paid the Generalitat from the legally-binding competitive fund for the last two years and has also not settled its infrastructure debts in Catalonia. Furthermore, it does not intend to do so in the near future, something that infuriates Catalan officials. Despite being one of the richest parts of Spain, after all tax-money is distributed amongst the provinces, economical pressures and the new austerity measures are considered, Catalonia is ranked below some of the regions that it is currently subsidising. Moreover, since Spain does not pay its debts, Catalonia finds it harder to meet its deficit targets, a situation that paradoxically could prompt an intervention from the central government.

The opposition

The leader of the People’s Party (PP) in Catalonia, Alícia Sánchez-Camacho, disagreed with Mas’s attitude and urged him to have “a sense of state responsibility”. “You want to use the weak situation in Spain to advance your independence and separation discourse”, she said. According to her, the government of Mariano Rajoy has been very “helpful” in Catalonia and the collaboration between both administrations has been useful. “Do not ruin it at the very last minute”, she added. Conversely, the leader of the Socialist group in the parliament, Joaquim Nadal, said that it was time to directly oppose austerity. “Do you not think it’s time for a change of policy?”, he said, adding that every day “we are closer to Greece”. The leader of the Green Party, Joan Herrera, said that Mas was also responsible for the situation because his party had voted in favor of the Spanish law of budgetary responsibility that opens the door for the regions to be “treated like simple subjects”.