United front to defend the Catalan Social Emergency Law
The Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont, the mayors of Barcelona and other major cities in the country and local associations will meet this Tuesday to discuss a united response to the legal attack against the Catalan Social Emergency Law. The Spanish Government has asked the Constitutional Court (TC) to suspend parts of Law 25/2015, one of the more important legislative initiatives in Catalonia, which aims to protect the most vulnerable against energy cuts and other housing-related causes of poverty. The Catalan Government and the local representatives are expected to find a common strategy to deal with this legal challenge, which they consider a “serious attack” on the Catalan people and its institutions.
Barcelona (CNA).- The Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont, the mayors of Barcelona and other major cities in the country and local associations will meet this Tuesday to discuss a united response to the legal challenge against the Catalan Social Emergency Law. The Spanish Government has asked the Constitutional Court (TC) to suspend parts of Law 25/2015, one of the more important legislative initiatives in Catalonia, which aims to protect the most vulnerable against energy cuts and other housing-related causes of poverty. The Catalan Government and the local representatives are expected to find a common strategy to deal with this legal challenge, which they consider a “serious attack” on the Catalan people and its institutions.
The Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont, said that the meeting with the mayors and the social organisations will “represent the unity of the people of Catalonia” to offer “a coordinated response to avoid anyone being left behind”. Puigdemont praised the mayors of the most important cities in Catalonia for their willingness to take part in the summit and warned that what they face “is not a conflict between two administrations, but rather a conflict between the Spanish state and Catalan society as a whole”.
The mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, said the legal challenge is “immoral” and called for a new government in Spain to “restore” fundamental rights. Colau said the local government in Barcelona will continue to implement the law, that has stopped 639 evictions this year.
The mayors of major cities in the metropolitan area expect to discuss with Puigdemont and Barcelona’s Mayor Ada Colau a common response, which might include the option of disobeying a potential suspension of the law. Mayors Núria Marin, Dolors Sabater, Juli Fernández and Nuria Parlón explained to CNA that the legal challenge of the Spanish government to the law is a "serious attack" on Catalonia’s people and institutions.
The mayors of L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, Badalona, Sabadell and Santa Coloma de Gramenet regretted that Spain does not stand by those who are most vulnerable and assured that the local authorities will not allow its citizens to be abandoned. Their meeting will also be attended by organisations such as the Platform for People Affected by Mortgages (PAH), the Catalan Association of Municipalities (ACM), the Catalan Federation of Municipalities (FMC) and the Third Sector Table, amongst others.
L'Hospitalet de Llobregat calls for a new legal instrument
One of the instigators of the meeting, l’Hospitalet del Llobregat mayor Nuria Marín, hopes that it will serve to provide local authorities and social organisations with a "new legal instrument, both useful and effective". The instrument should allow them to continue promoting measures to guarantee the right to housing for those more underprivileged families until the TC issues a ruling.
While Marín has made it clear that she is "radically against" the decision of the Spanish government to challenge the law, she has ruled out disobeying the suspension because municipalities are there "to respect and enforce the laws". In this regard, she said she hopes the Catalan Government will find a new legal tool that will allow the implementation of all the housing policies needed.
The mayor of l'Hospitalet regretted the appeal of the People’s Party (PP) government, which she considered "inopportune, ineffective and against all logic". According to her, it "endangers" the work done by many councils. Marín stated that the move "goes against the interests of the most disadvantaged families" and recalled that "policy should be aimed at helping people and not the interests of the powerful".
Badalona considers disobeying
In the same vein, the Mayor of Badalona, Dolors Sabater, defended Law 24/2105 against social emergency as a "useful and effective tool" for municipalities in their fight against precarious housing and to "support families who are going through this emergency".
According to Sabater, it is precisely the paragraph of the law challenged in the Constitutional Court that has, until now, forced many financial institutions to make "a step forward" and show their willingness to negotiate a social rent for tenants and avoid evictions. "Now the Spanish government is on the side of the banks, instead of supporting the most vulnerable and the local governments cannot allow it”, she regretted.
Sabater said she expects to finish the meeting with President Puigdemont with a “common strategy to stop the attack on local governance and on the rights of the people”. She said, unlike Marín, that local governments should consider “the possibility of disobedience”.
Sabadell regrets the “equality of misery”
For his part, the mayor of Sabadell, Juli Fernández, said that the Spanish government is challenging the law and using the arguments of equality amongst citizens as an “excuse”. He warned that with this legal challenge of the social emergency law, what citizens have is an “equality of misery”. “A family in Sabadell could have a guarantee against heating disconnection but as in Valladolid they do not offer this guarantee, they’ve decided that, instead of offering it to Valladolid as well, they will ban it in Sabadell”, he lamented.
Fernández said that he hopes the meeting with Puigdemont will provide mayors with “ways of legally protecting” the citizens while applying the challenged law. The mayor of Sabadell said that local governments are facing many problems and urged all mayors to take a common stance to fight “this unfair suspension”.
The mayor of Santa Coloma de Gramenet, Nuria Parlón, said the Spanish government is “betraying the will of the people” by challenging such an important social law. Besides, she regretted that Madrid is putting local authorities in a “very dangerous legal position” while they still have to face a lot of “pressure” and take care of the most vulnerable in society.
In Santa Coloma, and by applying Law 24/2015, the Council was able to help up to 1,298 citizens in 2015. Those people received payments under the law against energy poverty, in up to 30% of the cases to avoid disconnection from gas, water and electricity services. In total, the Council spent last year 360,000 euros on this.