Monday, October 20, 2014

Deal on 2015 Catalan Government's budget is uncertain because of self-determination agenda

The Catalan Government is currently preparing its budget for the next year, which should be approved by the Catalan Parliament within the next two months. However, it is uncertain whether a new budget will be approved or the current one will have to be extended, since it is not clear which parties would back the new figures because of the current political agitation regarding the self-determination process and the horizon of likely early elections, transformed into a plebiscite on independence. 

ERC President, Oriol Junqueras
The governing centre-right pro-Catalan State coalition CiU needs the support from another party to approve the 2015 budget, since it does not have a majority in the Parliament. Its ally over the last two years, the left-wing Catalan independence party ERC, is reluctant to reach such a deal because the Government cancelled the original self-determination non-binding referendum vote after the Spanish Constitutional Court's temporary suspension. On Friday, the ERC's President stated in a radio interview that they will not back another budget to remain in Spain. Meanwhile, anti-independence sectors within the CiU coalition, namely the Christian-Democrat party UDC, are intensifying contacts with the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) to build an alliance in order to avoid early elections and govern until late 2016, when the current term ends. 

The Spanish Government is trying to promote such an anti-independence alliance between the UDC and the PSC, which would be built on the condition to work for a Constitutional Reform to better fit Catalonia within Spain, while independence demands are put aside. However, at the same time, the Spanish Government and the governing People's Party (PP) are refusing to even discuss such a Constitutional Reform. In this context, on Friday, the Spanish Deputy Prime Minister, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, stated that "the self-determination plan has been a failure" and confirmed they have started "talks with several political leaders in Catalonia" in order to "prioritise the legal path" and "the interests and welfare of the citizens". Furthermore, on the same day, the Spanish PM, Mariano Rajoy, asked the President of the Catalan Government and CiU's leader, Artur Mas, "to start governing" and "to work on getting the 2015 budget approved". 


The Catalan Government has an urgent file on the table: the approval of the operating budget for next year. On Friday, the Spokesperson for the Catalan Executive and Minister for the Presidency, Francesc Homs, insisted in a radio interview that the ERC is still "the priority ally" to approve the 2015 budget. However, a few minutes earlier, the ERC's President, Oriol Junqueras, confirmed that "it is impossible and it makes no sense" to approve "another budget of an Autonomous Community" of Spain, instead of working on a budget of an independent state. Junqueras emphasised that a regional budget "condemns" Catalan citizens to further budget cuts. Catalonia "is missing €5 billion" to match revenue and spending, he said.

The ERC demands early elections to vote on independence

According to the ERC's leader, it is urgent and "extremely important to hold elections as soon as possible", in order to declare independence and build a new country with its own budget. "Let's be practical for once; let's stop fuzzing around and let's do what a majority of people want to do: declare independence", after winning the early elections. Junqueras was particularly insistent about this argument, stressing the urgency for such a step.

Catalan Government's Spokesperson thinks pro-independence coalition is "highly probable"

Francesc Homs, from the pro-independence Liberal party CDC within the two-party CiU coalition, stated that the PSC has not offered its support to approve such a budget yet. Furthermore, Homs said that "it is totally reasonable" the fact that the UDC's leader, Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida, is holding meetings with several parties to open new talks regarding future scenarios. Despite this fact, Homs added that it is "highly probable" that pro-independence sectors of the CiU, namely CDC, will participate in a broad pro-independence coalition with the ERC and people from the civil society in an early electoral call transformed into a plebiscite on independence. The Catalan Minister, who is Mas' 'right-hand man', argued that such a broad coalition is likely to be built since "we share the same objective". However, Homs stated that after the alternative non-binding referendum on the 9th of November there will be "more elements" to fine-tune this broad coalition.

Rajoy considers self-determination "a failure" and works on new leadership in Catalonia

Besides, on Friday, the Spanish Deputy Prime Minister, Soraya Saénz de Santamaría, stated that the "self-determination plans have been a failure", insisting on the argument repeated over the last four days: Catalonia's self-determination democratic process has ended and the Catalan President's plans have failed. However, the Catalan President is organising an alternative non-binding referendum vote on the 9th of November that, even if he admitted that it will not have total legal legitimacy, it could become a great mobilisation of pro-independence forces. On top of this, the Catalan President set "the definitive referendum" in the form of early elections, which could be called within the next three months and where a broad pro-independence coalition could be built. Those elections would become a de facto referendum on independence and if such a coalition were to win, Catalans would clearly have voted for independence in a democratic election.

Probably because of this likely scenario, Sáenz de Santamaría, admitted that the Spanish Government has been contacting several Catalan political leaders. The objective would be to promote an alternative government alliance, built on the Christian-Democrat UDC and the Socialist PSC, which is federated to the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE), in order to put the independence agenda aside. The condition would be to start working on a Constitutional Reform that would grant Catalonia further powers to stay within Spain, a Reform that the Spanish Government has been refusing to even discuss so far.

On top of this, the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, stated on Thursday that the Catalan President "should start governing" and "approve the budget for 2015". Rajoy is contributing to the strategy to present the Catalan Government as being only concerned about the self-determination agenda and not working on the remaining issues. However, at the same time, Catalonia is posting better macro-economic indicators than the Spanish average in terms of unemployment reduction and it is leading the export, industrial and tourism sectors.

ACN

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