The CiU gives 2 economic conditions for a stable pact with Spanish Government

Catalonia must be able to co-manage key infrastructures such as Barcelona’s Airport and receive a special economic agreement like the one the Basque Country and Navarra have. Artur Mas, President of the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Party (CiU), explained the main line of his economic programme today. Mas sent a message out to Prime Minister Zapatero (PSOE) and the Conservative People’s Party (PP).

CNA / Gaspar Pericay Coll

October 13, 2010 11:38 PM

Barcelona (ACN).- The Spanish Government has, on many occasions, needed punctual but also stable support from minority groups in the Spanish Parliament. In the past the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Party (CiU) offered this support, both to the Socialist government of Felipe Gonzàlez and to the Conservative government of José María Aznar. Zapatero has been looking for their support in the last years and especially in the last months. After having rejected the offer on previous occasions but saving some of Zapatero’s most essential initiatives such as the Labour Market Reform, Artur Mas officially put a price on it. The price includes two historical claims from the Catalan political and economical class: having a decisive role in the managing of essential transport infrastructures in Catalonia and having a new economic agreement between Catalonia and Spain with a model similar to the one used by the Basque Country and Navarra.

In a campaign meeting this morning, Artur Mas, leader of the moderate main Catalan nationalist force (CiU), announced that if the PSOE and the PP count on having their support in the Spanish Parliament, two conditions must be respected. These 2 conditions are historical vindications from Catalan political parties and businesses.

The first, which is more likely to be accepted, is the co-managing of key transport infrastructures such as Barcelona’s airport. In fact, there have already been resolutions from the Spanish Parliament formally asking the Spanish Government to allow Catalan public administrations and private sectors to have a say in the managing of Barcelona’s airport. The Spanish Government made an offer in this direction, but it was unacceptable for Catalan interests, as the Spanish Government would be controlling 51% of the board and thus being able to decide unilaterally in all the matters. The formula for having key infrastructures managed by wide consortiums including local, regional and state public powers together with the private sector has proven successful in places like the Paris airports.

The second demand, which is the axe of the CiU electoral economic programme, is having another economic agreement ruling the financial and fiscal relations between Spain and Catalonia. Catalonia’s taxes are collected by Spain’s Tax Agency, which depends directly on the Spanish Government. The Spanish Government then returns part of the money raised through financing services, new investments and Catalan public administrations, which also raise some part of the taxes. This system is not transparent and quantifying the difference between the money Catalonia gives and the money that it receives has been of historical vindication. In the last years, many studies have been issued, even from the Spanish Government, but a clear figure has not been given, as there is a dispute on calculation methods. It is somehow recognised that Catalonia’s fiscal deficit is between 8 and 12%. Catalan parties and businesses have asked for a reduction of this deficit, accepting the solidarity principle between territories but putting some limits on it. The 2006 Catalan Statue of Autonomy (Catalonia’s main law approved by referendum and the Spanish and the Catalan parliaments) limited this, but the Constitutional Court’s trimmed this part out. This economic agreement and this limitation in relation to the fiscal deficit was one of the main reasons and milestones of the Catalan Statute of Autonomy. When the Constitutional Court rejected this point, the Statute proposal for the economic agreement between Spain and Catalonia was changed, which deeply disappointed Catalan political parties, businesses and a large part of its society.

Now, as the current financial system is not transparent, Catalonia feels that is giving too much money in concept of solidarity. Some services in Catalonia cannot be paid for and there is a lack of investment from the Spanish Government. So the CiU is asking for a whole new agreement. This new agreement has been discussed and asked for by other parties and politicians in different moments, but the CiU is now making it a condition to give its support to the PSOE and PP, which is being wanted by the main Spanish parties. The proposed agreement is not unique or privileged, but rather similar to the agreements that 2 other Autonomous Communities, Navarra and the Basque Country, already have. In their cases, taxes are collected by their own Tax Agency. The Basque Country and Navarra then bilaterally agree every 5 years on what they will transfer to the Spanish Government to pay for the services it gives and to help poorer regions within Spain. The CiU wants the same type of agreement for Catalonia, as Catalonia would have more decision power and get a clearer picture of how much wealth it produces and how much money it gives to poorer regions. This issue is extremely controversial in Spain and has strong opposition from the PP and PSOE. Artur Mas argues that since the economic agreement fixed in the Statute is not respected, Catalonia wants a new one.