Minority government secures stability as 2023 budget approved in parliament
Spending plan approved by unionist and pro-independence parties for first time in a decade
The Catalan government's budget for 2023 was approved in Parliament on Friday with the only party in the cabinet, Esquerra, voting in favor, along with anti-austerity En Comú Podem and the Socialist Party.
With this key vote in the chamber, the government has been able to secure stability for the coming months although it has been in minority for months after Junts quit last October. Indeed, the pro-independence party now in opposition sided against the bill, along with far-left pro-independence CUP, and unionist Ciudadanos, People's Party, and far-right Vox.
Some weeks ago, governing party Esquerra reached deals with the Socialists and En Comú Podem.
The 2023 budget is a record-high spending plan of over €41bn, which, according to its backers, aims to "modernize" the Barcelona airport, increase health spending, and promote renewables.
The deal between Esquerra and the Socialists was difficult to broker, but it eventually happened after the former accepted some of the latter's demands, including contentious major projects relating to the Barcelona airport, the Hard Rock hotel-casino in the Tarragona area, and expanding a metropolitan highway, the B-40.
Pro-independence and unionist blocs blur in Parliament
It is the first time in 11 years that an explicitly unionist party – in this case, the Socialists – cooperates with the approval of a spending plan of a pro-independence government.
In 2012, the old center-right Catalan nationalist party, CiU, managed to pass the budget thanks to the abstention of the conservative, unionist People's Party.
That year, the pro-independence push began in Catalan institutions and, since then, the law has failed to pass on five occasions and has passed on five more thanks to only pro-independence parties – on two occasions, En Comú Podem, ambiguous about independence but in favor of a referendum, abstained.
Debate prior to final vote
"The agreement has the signature of the Catalan president and the head of the opposition on it," Socialist MP Alícia Romero reminded Esquerra during the debate prior to the vote.
"We will make sure it is complied with entirely, from A to Z, from the first to the last point," she added.
En Comú Podem, on the other hand, was direct about their disapproval of certain parts of the bill despite making clear that they would vote in favor of it.
"This isn't our budget. It's possible to say it's not the best budget. But it's possibly the best budget possible," the party's Joan Carles Gallego said, describing it as necessary in order to contend with "the right and those who remain immobile."
Pro-independence opposition blasts Esquerra
Junts, the former junior government partner that left the cabinet last October after disagreements with Esquerra over how to achieve independence came to the fore, was clear about their reasons for voting against the budget bill.
"There is no strategic coordination within the independence movement, nor is there strategic unity in Madrid or Europe or an amnesty and self-determination," Jordi Munell of the more hard-line pro-independence party said. "All we've seen is [Esquerra] facilitate the Spanish government's term in office, its stability, and its budget."
Far-left pro-independence CUP also told Mr. Aragonès they did would not back his budget. "People don't like and we don't like your government, your policies, or the ways you move forward with them," MP Eulàlia Reguant said.
Unionist right criticizes budget
Far-right Vox, the conservative People's Party, and liberal Ciudadanos vociferously opposed the Esquerra-Socialist-Comuns budget agreement.
Joan Garriga of the far-right party, for one, accused the budget bill agreements between the pro-independence left, unionist left, and non-aligned left of fostering "separatism and anti-Spain sentiment."
Garriga also accused the Catalan government of having a "foreign ministry that does not have the authority to do what it does and that is not loyal to the Spanish government."
The liberal party Ciudadanos' Nacho Martín Blanco, meanwhile, charged that the spending plan was "not the one Catalonia needs."
Instead, he argued, it was the one "Mr. Aragonès needs to stay in power," highlighting Esquerra's challenges governing in minority.
When it was conservative party MP Alejandro Fernández's turn to take the stand, he lambasted the Catalan government for their stated desire for dialogue as a way of addressing the independence conflict while rejecting all of his party's proposed amendments to the bill.
"Here everyone talks about their desire for dialogue and whatnot but it turns out a cordon sanitaire has been placed around us," he said.