People’s Party delays approval of Catalan Government’s 2015 budget “to stop independence”
The conservative Spanish nationalist People’s Party (PP), which runs the Spanish Government, has appealed against the Catalan Executive’s 2015 budget bill, which will delay its definitive approval and implementation by up to one month. The new budget was supposed to be approved this week by the Catalan Parliament, after months of negotiations between the governing centre-right pro-Catalan State coalition CiU and the left-wing Catalan independence party ERC. The new bill will increase social spending and also increase funds for Catalonia’s own tax administration and for the launch of a Catalan Social Security agency. The Catalan Government accused the PP of “parliamentary filibusterism” and warned them that the appeal “will not stop the [self-determination] process” nor the creation of “state structures”. However, it will damage families in need, as it will delay the implementation of new social programmes.
Barcelona (ACN).- The conservative Spanish nationalist People’s Party (PP), which runs the Spanish Government but only holds 14% of the seats in the Catalan Parliament, has appealed against the Catalan Executive’s 2015 budget bill. The PP’s initiative will delay the budget’s definitive approval and its implementation by up to one month. The new budget was supposed to be approved this week by the Catalan Parliament, after months of negotiations between the governing centre-right pro-Catalan State coalition CiU and the opposition left-wing Catalan independence party ERC. The new bill will increase social spending but it will also increase funds for Catalonia’s own tax administration and for the launch of a Catalan Social Security agency. The PP stated that these so-called “state structures” are against the Spanish Constitution and has taken the new bill to Catalonia’s Council for Constitutional Guarantees (CGE), an advisory body that should put forward its opinion on the issue in the next two to four weeks. However, despite the CGE’s opinion not being binding, the Catalan Parliament has to wait to hear it before the bill can be approved. Furthermore, the PP’s parliamentary Spokesperson, Enric Millo, emphasised that they have taken this measure “to stop the independence process”. The Catalan Government accused the PP of “parliamentary filibusterism” for delaying the bill’s approval for a maximum of four weeks, but knowing that it will be approved in the end. The Catalan Minister for the Presidency, Francesc Homs, warned the PP that the appeal “will not stop the [self-determination] process” nor the creation of “state structures”. However, this delay will damage families in need, as it will delay the implementation of new social programmes, such as the fund to fight energy poverty (households that cannot pay their energy bills), highlighted Homs.
The Catalan Parliament was supposed to approve the Generalitat’s budget for 2015 on Thursday. However the PP’s last-minute action has obliged it to reschedule the bill’s approval and delay it until the CGE issues its non-binding opinion. The PP could have filed the appeal earlier, but it waited until the last day before the deadline to do so. The decision has been taken after a meeting of Catalan leaders of the conservative party.
They have argued that the bill may go against several articles of the Spanish Constitution and the Catalan Statute of Autonomy (Catalonia’s main law). They believe that a few institutions, such as the Catalan Ombudsman, the CGE, Catalonia’s Anti-Fraud Office and Catalonia’s Court of Audit do not have their budget independence sufficiently guaranteed with the new law. However, the main argument is the allocation of public money to create the so-called “state structures”, which are the basic structures a Catalan State should have, such as its own tax administration and Social Security system. The PP believes that such structures go beyond the current powers of the Catalan institutions.
The budget goes against “the general interest”, states the PP
Enric Millo justified the appeal to the CGE in “honouring legality” but also in “stopping” Catalonia’s self-determination process. “If this budget is that of the [self-determination] process, today this process is going through a revision”, stated Millo. The CiU and the ERC agreed on calling early elections on 27 September, which will be transformed into a ‘de facto’ referendum on independence, after years of trying to hold a referendum mutually-agreed upon with the Spanish authorities. Since the Spanish Government is not accepting the Scottish way for Catalonia, such a ‘de facto’ referendum will take place through early elections. Before September, the CiU and the ERC also agreed on launching the basic state structures in order to be ready and make them grow quickly if Catalans vote for independence and the transition has to be sped up.
However, according to Millo, the budget “has nothing to do with the interests of the majority of Catalans” and go against “the general interest”. For this reason, the PP “felt the obligation” to appeal against them. However, the new bill is backed by two groups representing 52.5% of the Catalan Parliament. Furthermore, around two-thirds of the Catalan Parliament is backing the creation of a Catalan State, regardless of whether it is fully independent from Spain (which means it could be independent or part of a confederated or federal Spain). In addition, up to 80% of the Catalan Parliament would agree on granting Catalonia higher levels of self-government, including the capacity to collect its own taxes.
The Catalan Government accused the PP of “filibusterism”
The Catalan Executive’s Spokesperson, Francesc Homs, warned the PP that its “parliamentary filibusterism will not stop the projects that the majority of Parliament promotes”. Furthermore, Homs criticised the PP for ignoring the opinion of the CGE when it goes against the recentralisation actions of the Spanish Government but now choosing to appeal to this institution to delay the budget approval. Homs referred to the CGE’s opinion which ran contrary to the Spanish Government’s initiatives against Catalonia’s tax on bank deposits and its actions in the telecommunications field. The CGE stated that the Spanish Executive was invading the Catalan Government’s powers and was recentralising competences, but the PP ignored the CGE. Now, it is using the body it ignored “to put obstacles in the normal functioning of the Parliament”, Homs complained. However, he stressed that the budget will be approved and the creation of state structures will not be damaged. The only “damages” will be for families in need, highlighted Homs, who will see how some social measures benefiting them will be delayed by between 2 and 4 weeks because of the PP’s “filibusterism”.
The other parties criticise the PP except Spanish nationalist Ciutadans
The rest of the parliamentary parties criticised the PP’s appeal for delaying the budget, except the populist and anti-Catalan nationalism party Ciutadans (C’s). The C’s consider the creation of state structures to be “unbearable” and justified the appeal. Meanwhile, the ERC insisted that Catalonia’s self-determination process is to continue despite the obstacles from the PP and the Spanish Government. The Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) accused the PP of “putting obstacles” in the path of the budget’s approval, doing “damage” to the citizens, although they also noted that this year the budget was not approved in December but in early February. The Catalan green socialist and post-communist coalition ICV criticised the PP for transforming the budget “into a legal battle”, but also criticised the CiU and the ERC for having damaged “other state structures” with years of budget cuts (referring to the public healthcare and education systems). Finally the alternative left and radical independence party CUP emphasised that according to them, the budget bill “does not include state structures” since the bill does not allocate enough funds to actually develop them and have them take all the responsibility and powers in their fields of action.