“Catalonia and the State are on different tracks”
In response to recent admonition of a “head-to-head train wreck” between Catalonia and the Spanish State, the head of the Government said this afternoon that “Catalonia and the State are already on different tracks and going in different directions”. “There isn’t any train wreck” he concluded, “but rather a growing distance between those trains”.
Along this line, President Mas affirmed that Spain “has a serious constitutional crisis” on its hands and that “the powerful demonstrations in Catalonia are only its most evident expression”. The President added that the “constitutional crisis in Spain surely has many different accents that correspond to many different motives, but the most pronounced accent is from Catalonia”.
Speaking before Parliament, the head of the Catalan executive affirmed that after thirty-five years in the current constitutional pact, “we find ourselves moving along a path on which we continue to lose tools and resources, on a dead end that is leading us nowhere.” He also said that the Constitutional Court’s sentence on the congressionally approved Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia in 2010, which struck down several key components, “expelled the majority of Catalan society from that pact and from the constitutional consensus.”
Faced with the current situation in Catalonia, Artur Mas noted that “it is unlikely” that the State “would take any sort of political initiative” beyond “saying ‘no’ to everything – ‘no’ to the Statue, ‘no’ to the fiscal pact, ‘no’ to the referendum”. “When an overwhelming majority demands to be heard, they are ignored; when they demand to vote, efforts are made to silence them”.
From “angry Catalans” to “hopeful Catalans”
Confronted with this situation, the President suggested that Catalonia “has not become tired of Spain; it has grown tired of the Spanish State”, and that there are increasingly more and more Catalans which “have disconnected from that State, which they do not see as, or feel to be, their own”.
For the President, this disaffection and disconnection, which “might have been be legitimately expressed as anger, continues to be expressed more and more as hope.” “The massive popular demonstrations of the past several years, they are not only the demonstrations of angry Catalans, but above all they are those of hopeful Catalans,” he affirmed.
“Catalonia has begun to make its way out [of the recession]”
The economic recovery and the welfare state in Catalonia were also central to the President’s address this afternoon in the Catalan Parliament. The head of the Government emphasized that “Catalonia has begun to make its way out [of the recession], despite the hard times many people are still going through” and noted that “we are turning things around in a tremendously delicate situation”.
Artur Mas also warned that Catalonia’s public finances “are being gravely threatened”. He explained that the Government of Catalonia “has done everything and more” to make regional public finances sustainable, but cautioned that “we have arrived at the end of the road; there is no more margin to continue to reduce spending without putting the quality of our public services at risk”. “This Government does not want to do that” he assured.
The President reiterated that in only three years, his Administration reduced the deficit by more than half, from 4.6% to less than 2% of GDP. “We have done everything and more” he said, to “achieve the deficits imposed on us by Madrid”, which he described as “arbitrary and unjust” because “they do not correspond at all with the weight of our public spending nor with the importance of our responsibilities”.
The President also reported that the central government continues to withhold payment for its debts incurred with the Government of Catalonia and that it is not complying with Spanish law on autonomous community financing, because it has still not revised the model that should have come into effect in 2014.
Destruction of self-government
During his address in the Catalan Parliament, the head of the Government also noted that the economic recovery in Catalonia is also hampered by the State’s “continuing systematic operation to dismantle and destroy self-governance” in Catalonia. He offered as examples the new Education Law spearheaded by Minster Wert and the Law of Guaranteed Market Unity, and emphasized that “everything points to an attempt to convert the autonomous regions, including Catalonia, into purely administrative units providing services, without any political profile and with diminished capacity to make decisions”. “Without decision-making capacity, there is no possibility of constructing a project that is ours, that belongs to our country” he said, adding that “in this critical juncture, the spirit of the democratic transition and of the constitutional pact has faded”.
Re-establishing bonus payments for public-sector employees
In the area of self-government, the head of the Catalan executive emphasized that the Government expects to reinstitute bonus payments for public-sector employees in the 2015 budget. Reiterating that it was the Spanish central government that got rid of public sector bonus payments in 2012, President Mas also noted that the Government is also currently outlining “how to restore hour and payment conditions for temporary workers”.
Artur Mas, who reaffirmed his commitment to allocating the proceeds from the new taxation on bank deposits to improving the salaries of public employees, asserted that maintaining the temporary bonus freeze “would only make sense within a framework of shared sacrifices within the State to better control public deficit”. He added, however, that “as that is not the case, it doesn’t make sense for Catalonia to keep making sacrifices that do not apply to anyone else”.
More than 70 projects from the Government
During the third part of his address, President Mas spoke about the more than seventy projects that the Government of Catalonia is implementing or has planned to help Catalonia with its economic recovery, social welfare, quality of democracy, and self-government. These examples, he said, should show that “the Government is working on all fronts to lift the country” and “not just on a single one, as is sometimes said with malintent and certain a lack of truthfulness”. Moreover, the Chief Executive said, it is important to remember that all of this is being done “with a reduced decision-making capacity and reduced resources” due to the actions of the central government.
Speaking on the economic recovery and the creation of jobs, the President underlined measures such as the Law of Professional Training and Qualification, the completion of the new L9 line of the Barcelona subway system, and the New Plan for the right to housing, which has been endowed with €480 million until 2016.
In terms of social welfare, the President emphasized that “the Government’s agenda shows a clear social priority” despite the lack of economic resources it has at its disposal. He recognized the Government of Catalonia’s “remarkable efforts” in this field, pointing to the fact that it is also covering 83% of the costs of the Dependency Law, eight percentage points more than in 2008. In this sense, the President lamented that “the State is the last one in line to contribute resources”. He also reaffirmed that the Government will continue making “a concerted defence of the Catalan school model” which is widely recognized in Europe, despite the “systematic attacks from the central government”.
Concluding with remarks regarding democracy and transparency, President Mas expressed the Government’s “clear and evident determination” to institute “a system of general good practices and to fight against irregularities and corruption” in Catalonia, “wherever it may come from and whoever may be doing it”.