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Spanish Government aims to recentralise power by eliminating some Catalan institutions

The Spanish Executive has presented a 720-page report in which it proposes 120 measures “to eliminate duplications” and “improve the coordination” between government levels in order to “rationalise” and “increase the efficiency” of the public sector. However, the initiative proposes a true recentralisation of Spain, since almost all the measures point towards transferring powers and services back to the Spanish Government. The Catalan Executive and the non-Spanish-nationalist parties have announced a common front to stop “the pruning” of Catalonia’s self-government. Madrid’s document proposes the direct elimination of several institutions that are defined in the Catalan Statute of Autonomy, approved by citizens through a binding referendum. Furthermore, it cancels pending power devolutions, which had been planned for years but whose effective transfer has been constantly delayed.

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04 December 2013 02:22 PM

by

ACN

Barcelona (ACN).- The Spanish Executive has presented this week a 720-page report in which it proposes 120 measures “to eliminate duplications” and “improve the coordination” between government levels in order to “rationalise” and “increase the efficiency” of the public sector. Behind the apparently well-intentioned objectives, the initiative proposes a true recentralisation of Spain, since almost all the measures point towards transferring powers and services back to the Spanish Government. The document does not foresee eliminating bodies at Spanish level that have been existing for decades almost without powers; instead it proposes to recharge these bodies with powers. If the plan is finally implemented, it will be a hidden Constitutional reform. The Catalan Executive and the non-Spanish-nationalist parties have announced a common front to stop “the pruning” of Catalonia’s self-government. They will meet next Monday to discuss the strategy to adopt. On Wednesday, the Spanish Minister for the Economy, Luís de Guindos, denied that the plan was aiming to recentralise power and said that the reform only aims “to rationalise public services and resources”.


Madrid report’s justifies the recentralisation of bodies and management with the argument of saving money, although there are many examples around the world of decentralisation practices that improve efficiency. In addition, the plan explicitly goes against the current Constitutional framework and the principle of subsidiarity. In fact, the report includes the many laws and Statutes of Autonomy that would have to be changed.

The plan eliminates Catalan institutions

The Spanish Government’s document proposes the direct elimination of several institutions that are defined in the Catalan Statute of Autonomy, which is Catalonia’s main law and was approved by the Spanish Parliament and citizens through a binding referendum. For example, this is the case with the Catalan Public Audit Office and the Catalan Ombudsman, whose suppression had already been suggested by the Spanish Government in June when they presented a first draft of the report presented this December. Back then, the Catalan Ombudsman responded to the initiative by proving that his office was 14-times more efficient than that of its Spanish peer.

Going against the Catalan Statute of Autonomy

Furthermore, Madrid’s initiative cancels pending power devolutions, which had been planned for years but whose effective transfer has been constantly delayed. This is the case for instance with school grants, which have been due to be transferred from the Spanish Ministry of Education to the Catalan Executive since 1996, but whose effective transfer has perpetually been delayed by the successive Spanish Governments. The report now proposes cancelling that pending transfer, despite the fact that it is included in the Catalan Statute of Autonomy approved in 2006 and reviewed by the Constitutional Court in 2010.

Centralising purchases

On top of this, the Spanish Government plan recommends that all the Catalan Executive’s purchases should be bought by a centralised body, which would offer the items to the Autonomous Communities on demand. This means that Catalan ministries, agencies, departments and public institutions such as hospitals and schools would have to buy their office materials such as paper and pens by placing an order with this newly-created Spanish agency, which would accept – or not – the order in an unclear time-frame and would send – or not – the materials with an unclear time-frame as well.

The main Catalan parties oppose the measure and will create a common front

The main Catalan parties see a clear political intention in the report, aiming to recentralise Spain and to take powers away from the Autonomous Communities and specifically from the Catalan Government. For this reason, on Tuesday the Vice President of the Catalan Executive, Joana Ortega, called for a meeting on Monday afternoon with the parties sitting in the Catalan Parliament. The only two that refused to attend were the two Spanish nationalist parties, which together hold 20% of the parliamentary seats: the People’s Party (PP) – running the Spanish Government – and anti-Catalan nationalist party Ciutadans (C’s).

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  • The Spanish Deputy Prime Minister (left) and the Minister for Finances and Public Sector (right) presenting the initiative's first public draft in June (by ACN)

  • The Spanish Deputy Prime Minister (left) and the Minister for Finances and Public Sector (right) presenting the initiative's first public draft in June (by ACN)