The Catalan Government is studying legal options to oblige the Spanish Government to pay the money it owes them

The Spanish Government refuses to transfer some of the funds that it is legally obliged to pay Catalonia in 2011. Without this money, the Catalan Government will have difficulties meeting the deficit objective for this year. The Catalan Minister for Finance, Andreu Mas-Colell, considers the stance of the Zapatero Government to be “rude” and ignorant to the needs of Catalonia. Furthermore it forces the finances of Catalonia to be put in the spotlight. Every single Catalan political group, including the Socialists and the People’s Party, have criticised the decision of the soon to be former Spanish Prime Minister, and have expressed their support for Mas-Colell.

CNA / Gaspar Pericay Coll

December 7, 2011 10:30 PM

Barcelona (ACN).- On Spain’s public holiday celebrating the Constitution on Tuesday, the Spanish Government announced it will not transfer €759 million to the Catalan Government. The Catalan Minister for Finance, Andreu Mas-Colell, attacked the “rude” attitude of the Spanish Government regarding the payment of money it legally owes Catalonia. If the Spanish Government pays the Catalan Government less in 2011 –despite existing laws and agreements obliging them to pay them the total amount agreed-, the Spanish Government’s deficit will fall. The problem is that Catalonia’s deficit will subsequently increase, as funds foreseen in the 2011 budget will not be in the Catalan Government’s accounts because Madrid will not have transferred the total amount. In a radio interview on Wednesday morning Mas-Colell criticised the unacceptable policy of transferring the Spanish Government deficit to the Autonomous Communities, and Catalonia in particular, by not honouring legal obligations. The Catalan Minister for Finance explained that his government is studying legal options –such as going to court– in an effort to oblige Madrid to pay up. In addition, the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, stated that “serious people pay their debts”, and regretted that Prime Minister José Luís Rodríguez Zapatero leaves office “without having honoured the agreements he made”.

Opposition parties, including the PP and the Socialists, support the Catalan Government

All opposition parties in Catalonia, including the Socialists –that form part of Prime Minister Zapatero’s Government– and the People’s Party –who will run the next Spanish Government– criticised Madrid’s decision and expressed their support to the Catalan Government. The Spokesperson for Economic Affairs in the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), Rocío Martínez-Sampere, announced they “will not criticise the Catalan Government if they do not meet the deficit objective” in 2011 “because of Madrid’s refusal to pay” the money it legally owes the Autonomous Community. In addition, the PSC asked Mas-Colell “to use all the tools necessary” to claim the money.

Enric Millo, Spokesperson for the People’s Party (PP) at the Catalan Parliament, criticised Zapatero’s decision and said it “can’t be defended and is unjustifiable”. He stressed that Catalonia is legally entitled to receive the funds on time. However, Millo refused to clarify if the new Spanish Government, run by the PP, will transfer the money. Mas-Colell expects “a gesture of good will” from the new Spanish Government, which would “have a [positive] effect on the 2011 budget”.

The Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party ‘Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya’ (ERC), said, ironically, that the Spanish Government announcement was “a nice way to commemorate the Constitution”, as yesterday was a public holiday in Spain that celebrates the law of laws.

The Catalan Green Socialist Party ‘Iniciativa per Catalunya Verds’ (ICV) stated that the refusal of the Spanish Government to pay the money it legally owes Catalonia is “unacceptable”. ICV stressed that it was “a new failure” of the Spanish Government in relation to Catalonia’s funding, “coinciding with the 33rd anniversary of the Spanish Constitution”.

Other failures by the Spanish Government: the Competitiveness Fund

The €759 million the Spanish Government has refused to pay this year is a legal obligation, as is the transfer of €1.45 billion from the Competitiveness Fund. The Catalan Government has asked for the payment to come on time, in order to meet its public deficit target. The payment of the €1.45 billion from the Competitiveness Fund had not been included in the 2011 Catalan budget, because Madrid has said it would be paid in 2013 and not this year, despite numerous Catalan claims. However, the €759 million referred to yesterday had been included in the budget to meet the 2.66% deficit objective, since the Spanish Government had repeated on several occasions it would pay this year. If the €1.45 billion were paid, the Catalan Government’s public deficit would be closer to the 1.3% deficit objective requested by the Spanish Government. However, Catalonia already announced in the spring that without the money, it could only reach a public deficit of 2.66% in 2011, without seriously affecting basic services.

A legal obligation

The money requested is foreseen in the Catalan Statute of Autonomy, approved by the Spanish Parliament as an organic law, as a way to compensate for an historical lack of investment in transport infrastructure in Catalonia. The money had to be paid in 2008 already, but it never arrived in Barcelona. One year ago, the Spanish Vice President for the Economy, Elena Salgado, ensured in the Spanish Parliament that this money would be paid this year. She changed her stance on the issue on Tuesday. Now, after signing legally binding agreements stating that the money would be paid in 2011, the Government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero –from the Spanish Socialist Party– announced it will not pay the €759 million, because “a new Government will take office in 2 weeks” and the incumbent Government has no authorisation to do so. The Catalan Minister for Finance regretted that the announcement has come in December because it gives the Catalan Government very small reaction time.