Spanish budget passes in Congress with support from pro-independence parties
Biggest Catalan parties in favour of split with Spain divided over whether or not to lend their support to the spending plan
The Spanish Congress has approved the 2022 budget bill on Thursday thanks in part to support from Catalan pro-independence parties ERC and PDeCAT.
If the spending bill does not undergo any changes in the upper house they will be definitively approved, but if any changes are introduced they will have to return to Congress to be ratified before 31 December.
In total, the budget bill received 188 positive votes from government coalition partners the Socialist party (120) and Unidas Podemos (34), Catalan pro-independence forces ERC (13) and PDeCAT (4), Basque parties PNB (6) and EH Bildu (5), plus votes from Más País (2), Més Compromís (1), Teruel Existe (1), New Canaries (1) and the Cantabrian Regionalist Party (1).
The approval allows Pedro Sánchez’s executive to carry out its second budget plan.
ERC and Spanish government deal
One of the largest hurdles the Spanish government had to overcome to see their planned disbursement approved was the agreement with the largest Catalan pro-independence party in the chamber, Esquerra Republicana.
Earlier this week the two sides formalised a deal that will see a 6% quota for Catalan, Basque and Galician language programming on streaming platforms such as Netflix.
In addition, there will be an extra €10.5 million designated to promote the creation of audiovisual content in minority languages spoken in Spain: Catalan, Basque and Galician.
Specifically, the audiovisual law will force companies such as Netflix, HBO and Amazon Prime to offer European productions in 30% of their content. Out of these, half of it has to be in languages spoken in Spain – this is 15% of the total, of which 40% has to be in Catalan, Basque or Galician. That is 6% of all films and series and 20% of the European content.
The agreement also includes other public investment, so that Catalonia sees its share in the overall expenditure raised from 17.2% to 19%, roughly its weight of Spanish GDP – the long-standing fiscal deficit complaint of pro-independence parties continued when the 2022 budget was presented, since the share for Catalonia was once again lower than its contribution to Spain's economy.
Junts discrepancies and Catalan budget
The two governing parties in Catalonia - Esquerra Republicana and Junts per Catalunya - voted differently on the Spanish budget.
On Monday, amendment motions against the 2022 Catalan budget failed, allowing the spending plan to continue its parliamentary path to becoming fully approved.
This came from a deal between the senior partner in the Catalan government and left-wing opposition party En-Comú Podem, allies of the junior coalition partner in the Spanish government.
However, the junior partner of the Catalan government, Junts per Catalunya, were far more sceptical of the prospect of negotiating with ECP, or indeed any party not explicitly in favour of a Catalan republic. ECP are the only party non-aligned on the independence question.
As such, JxCat rejected participating in talks with ECP, despite the fact that they are in charge of the economy ministry under Jaume Giró. Hours after the government deal with the anti-austerity party was announced, party spokesperson Elsa Artadi expressed disappointment over the agreement.
According to the JxCat politician, "the pact with ECP alters the pro-independence majority that made the government possible and this will come at a price." Artadi requested an "urgent" meeting with Esquerrra's leadership.
Spanish 2022 budget
The budget will see 17.2% of funds allocated to Catalonia, below its GDP share (19%).
The Socialist-led cabinet wants to give €2.23 bn to Catalonia, more than last year, €1.99 bn, 16.5% of the total.
Yet, the long-standing fiscal deficit complaint of pro-independence parties is set to continue, despite the fact that more money will be granted to Catalonia than in 2021.
17.7% of the budget will go to Andalusia, a populous region in the south, followed by Catalonia, the second-most populous, with 17.2%. 9.3% will go to the Valencia region while 8.9% to Madrid, less than in 2021.
In early October, Spanish president Pedro Sánchez announced the budget would include a €400 voucher for people turning 18 to spend in the culture industry, such as on books or tickets to concerts or the theatre.
Also included in the spending plan is a monthly housing grant of €250 per month for young people aged between 18 and 35 years with an annual income of less than €23,725. Those up to the age of 35 will be able to access this aid for the next two years.