The Catalan President threatens early elections if the Spanish Government intervened in Catalonia
In an interview with the Catalan Public Television Broadcaster, the Catalan President and leader of the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU) recognised that the Spanish Government could intervene the Catalan Government. “It could happen, I won't deny it”, he said. Furthermore, he warned that “the mistrust level will be very high” if the Spanish Government does not pay the money it owes the Catalan Executive. Mas said that “if Madrid wants to intervene Catalonia’s self-government”, he would call early elections. In addition, he said that further budget cuts will be needed.
Barcelona (ACN).- The President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, sent a warning message on Monday to Madrid in an interview with the Catalan Public Television Broadcaster (TV3). If the Spanish Government forces an intervention of the Catalan Government, Mas will call for early elections. “I do not want them, and I will not look for them”, he said, but “if in any moment Madrid decides to intervene Catalonia’s self-government”, the Catalan President would call citizens to the polling stations. It is expected that many Catalan citizens would consider an intervention of the Catalan Government by the Spanish Executive as an attack on Catalonia. “The situation is very delicate”, the Catalan President warned. Mas, who is also the leader of the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU), complained about the Spanish Government not paying for the money it owes Catalonia: If the Spanish Government does not pay for its debts towards the Catalan Executive, “the mistrust level will be very high”. Nonetheless, he expected the Spanish Government to rectify part of its budget proposal for 2012 and pay what it owes. Furthermore, Mas expressed his wish to bilaterally meet with Spain’s Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, to discuss a new fiscal agreement between Catalonia and Spain by which Catalan citizens would cut their contribution to the rest of Spain by 50% and thus would have more money to pay for basic services and infrastructure in Catalonia. Currently, official studies state that Catalonia gives 8.5% of its GDP to pay for services and infrastructure in the rest of Spain every year. This represents a fiscal transfer of some €17 billion per year, when the Catalan Government’s deficit in 2011 was around €7 billion. However, Mas was pessimistic about convincing Rajoy. However, the Catalan President said that a new fiscal agreement between Catalonia and Spain will be “inevitable”. Furthermore, the Catalan President said that greater budget cuts will be needed this year. In some areas “we have reached our limit” and “we cannot further” reduce the budget. However, money is missing and “we will have to undertake further budget cuts” he affirmed.
The President of the Catalan Executive qualified the Spanish Government as “not very serious” for saying it does not owe anything to Catalonia except guaranteeing its liquidity. “This is false”, Mas stated. He reminded official reports recognising the previous debt of €759 million that the Spanish Government owes Catalonia. Furthermore, the current legislation specifies that €219 million corresponding to 2009 should be paid in 2012. Both amount to almost €1 billion. In addition, there is another amount pending to be transferred: more than €1.4 billion from the Competitiveness Fund, whose payment is being delayed because of the crisis. “Pretending that things are not like this shows the [Spanish] government is not very serious”, he criticised.
Mas admited that Saturday’s meeting between the Catalan and Spanish Finance Ministers (Andreu Mas-Colell and Cristóbal Montoro respectively) “did not go well”. In that meeting, Mas-Colell asked for the money the Spanish Government owes Catalonia and he also asked for greater investment to be made in Catalonia in 2012, in relation to territorial investment made throughout Spain and planned in the Spanish Government’s budget proposal. In fact, not only does the Spanish Government not plan on paying for the debts it has with the Catalan Government, but it would not meet the current legislation that states it has to invest the equivalent of Catalonia’s share in Spain’s GDP. In other words, according to the law, 19% of all the territorial investment made by the Spanish Government has to be made in Catalonia, in order to compensate for an historical and recognised lack of investment. However, the Spanish Government’s current budget proposal only foresees investing 11% of the total amount. The Catalan President stated that, if the Spanish Government does not rectify its plans, they “will have to vote ‘no’ to the budget, and this will represent an inflexion point”.