The Catalan Government “wins an arm-wrestle” within “the Spanish Government’s offensive”
The Catalan Government will be able to keep the number of new teacher positions this year, after the Spanish Government withdrew its complaint. However, the Spokesperson for the Catalan Government insisted that the Spanish Executive continues with “its offensive against Catalonia”, as among other issues it still refuses to pay 1.45 billion euros from the Competitiveness Fund. In addition, only 0.8% of the Spanish Government’s approved public works in 2011 are in Catalonia.
Barcelona (ACN).- After some weeks of discussions, the Spanish Government decided to take a step back and withdraw its complaint on the number of teacher positions that will be issued in 2011 in Catalonia. The Catalan Government announced 1,245 new teaching positions in Catalan public high schools to cover retirements and replacements. The Spanish Ministry for Finance considered that, following the criteria for public replacements under the new budget austerity guidelines, Catalonia was only allowed to issue 430 new positions this year. The Spanish Ministry filed a complaint to oblige Catalonia to amend public competition, into which more than 15,000 people are registered. The Catalan Government considered it an “unprecedented intromission into Catalan competence”, as the Spokesperson for the Catalan Government, Francesc Homs said. The Catalan Government reminded them that Catalonia has full powers regarding the management of the public school system, including human resources. It also reminded that precisely because the Catalan Government is following austerity guidelines, it issued 1,245 positions and not more than 3,600 as they did last year. Besides, Andalucía is issuing 3,796 new teaching positions in 2011, without any complaint from the Spanish Government. Andalucía used a technicality to overcome the restrictions, as some positions were included as “replacements” and others as “job consolidations”. Catalonia did not do so. However, the turning point was in Navarra, where a court agreed the regional government after the complaint from the Spanish Government on the exact same issue as the Catalan case. At the end, courts allowed Navarra to keep its initial number of position and not having to reduce it. Francesc Homs stated that “now [the Spanish Government] pretends it reached an agreement” but “the judicial reason does not back their stance”. “We have won this arm–wrestle” but the “unprecedented Spanish Government’s offensive” against Catalonia’s devolved powers continues, added Homs.
The Spokesperson for the Catalan Government explained that, in his view, the Spanish Government is trying “to put obstacles” in the running of devolved powers, as school management is entirely run by the Catalan Government. This case is just the last “intromission” of the Spanish Government into Catalonia’s powers, affirmed Homs. The Spokesperson brought up other cases, such as the short-distance train ticket price, which is managed by the Catalans since last year. However, the Spanish Government decided this spring to drop the price by 5% all over Spain, including Catalonia. In addition, the Catalan Government was the institution it had to pay for the price difference, although after discussions, Madrid decided to transfer the money to pay for this measure.
“An offensive against Catalonia”
Francesc Homs insisted that the Spanish Government is running “an offensive against Catalonia”. Homs answered Prime Minister José Luis Zapatero’s offer to negotiate the money from the Competitiveness Fund after the May 22nd local elections. The Spokesperson for the Catalan Government said that they have already fallen into a trap when negotiating with the Spanish Government, and he is sceptical about Zapatero’s real will. Homs explained that Zapatero promised on “many occasions” things that “later he did not keep”.
Only 0.8% of the Spanish Government’s public works approved in 2011 are in Catalonia
Finally, Homs insisted on Catalonia’s discrimination by the Spanish Government and the “offensive” against Catalan interests regarding infrastructure. Despite the legal obligation to invest each year at least the equivalent of Catalonia’s GDP share within the Spanish economy (19%) in transport infrastructure to compensate for a recognised historic lack of investment, the Spanish Government only invested 0.8% of its already approved public works in 2011. Homs pointed out that “we are still in mid-May”, but that the investment levels are extremely low and “the year started very badly”. Despite the austerity measures, the Spanish Government approved expensive High Speed Trains to rural areas in Extremadura or in Galicia, but only 0.8% of the total investment was for Catalan infrastructure.