This document should never have existed; or, at the very least, it should have been very short, because loyalty between administrations and a spirit of dialogue should be a constant feature of inter-governmental relations. Regrettably, the contents of this document are nothing unusual in the history of relations between Catalonia and the Spanish State, as evidenced by the El Memorial de Greuges (Report of Grievances) or Report in Defence of the Moral and Material Interests of Catalonia (1885) and the Representation or Report of Grievances (1760) which was presented to Carles III by the representatives of the capitals of the ancient Crown of Aragon.
Behind many of the specific cases detailed in this document beats the penance that the Spanish State imposes upon us for our original sin: claiming our own identity. This has led to repression by dictatorships and the oppression of laws imposed against the will of the majority of our citizens. In particular, ever since the Nova Planta decrees, the State has sought to subsume our identifying traits: in language, in law and in all the country’s institutions.
However, as a people we are characterized by our resilience, our capacity to keep the faith, to overcome and to move forward, and this is why Catalonia – like the rest of Europe – was so heavily involved in the upsurge of industrialization in the 19th century, which ended up becoming another distinguishing feature of the Catalan character.
Thus aside from the unequal treatment and discrimination which will be fully detailed and evidenced later on, we have always maintained a grievance against the monolithic vision of the State and its centralist approach, to which everyone else, like it or not, is obliged to adhere.
In the last few years, the Spanish State has stifled and restricted the capacity of action of Catalan citizens in numerous ways: it has eradicated any kind of dialogue and undermined Catalonia’s capacity for self-government, both economically and legislatively, in the forms of laws, appeals to the courts, etc.
Although this document contains a large number of these grievances it does not cover them all, as the recentralization process of the Spanish State makes itself felt with every day that passes, as demonstrated by the recent ruling of the Constitutional Court on the participative process of 9N (9 November).
As you will see in this document, on the one hand the State suffers from ‘inaction’ when it comes to negotiations (transfers of powers, the Fiscal Pact, the right to decide) or complying with rulings that are not in its interests, while on the other it can be accused of ‘hyperactivity’ when it comes to recentralizing power and curtailing Catalan self-rule in every sphere: social policies, economic policies and institutional policies.
Since 1978, the successive governments of the Generalitat (the Government of Catalonia), from different political parties, have constantly sought solutions through dialogue and consensus, in the awareness that above and beyond anything else it is essential to guarantee the wellbeing of the Catalan people.
Everyone remembers the long process of negotiating the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia in 2006, which was first approved by the Parliament in 2005, then by the Spanish Parliament and put to a referendum among Catalans a few years later, and finally cut back by the courts. Also, the discussions to reach a Fiscal Pact in 2012, having clearly demonstrated the unsustainability of discriminatory financing for Catalonia that fails to reflect its economic and demographic weight; and finally the constant demand for Spanish institutions to provide the mechanisms to realize the Catalan people’s right to decide in 2014.
Not only have our citizens’ demands not been heeded, but we have come up against a solid wall. Since 2011, the Spanish state has paralysed bilateral relations between the State and the Catalan Government: none of the planned bilateral meetings of Spanish/Catalan government bodies to implement the Statute have taken place, nor have any transfers been approved or enlarged despite repeated demands from the Catalan Government to drive these forward.
In view of this situation of the Spanish State’s complete unwillingness to enter into dialogue, of mass demonstrations on the streets demanding the right to decide and, most importantly, to avoid being drawn into inaction, the Catalan Government did everything possible to ensure that 9 November 2014 would give a voice to the people of Catalonia – in other words, to exercise their democratic rights – and to give an outlet to the grievances of its citizens, who voted by a very clear majority in support of a change to the model of relationship between Catalonia and Spain.
There are many reasons why we have reached this point and this document reflects some of them; amongst others, the lack of dialogue described above, the economic stifling of institutions, the undermining of self-rule, the assault on the Catalan educational model, and the disparagement of our language. It should not be forgotten that all of this has a direct impact on our citizens.
One of the reasons that this economic suffocation has come about is the result of an unfair financing model in which Catalonia is the third autonomous region in terms of the amount of tax it contributes to the autonomous financing system, yet tenth in terms of the per capita resources it receives, putting Catalonia below the average. In January 2014, the new financing model for autonomous regions should have gone into effect, but one-and-a-half years later the Spanish Government is still refusing to implement this review.
Running parallel to this, Catalonia’s fiscal deficit with the central State Administration reached 15,006 million euros in 2011, 7.7% of GDP, which is approximately equal to all Catalan Government spending on health, education and social welfare in 2011, or the provision for Spanish Government spending on defence and security in 2011.
This fiscal deficit is a long-standing situation: in the last 25 years, Catalonia has suffered from an annual fiscal deficit equal to 8% of its GDP.
In view of this situation, the Catalan Government has had to pull out every stop to find new sources of revenue and reduce spending without it affecting the welfare state, yet often with an inadequate response from the State: the State has systematically contested in the courts any new form of tax system that would enable the Catalan Government to increase its revenue (tax on deposits in credit institutions, on the production of nuclear energy, the euro on every medical prescription, etc.); it has unfairly distributed deficit targets, keeping a large number of the permitted targets for itself; and it has failed to fulfil the commitments it has made.
A prime example of this is the implementation of the Dependency Act, in which the public financing commitment should have been split equally between the State and the Catalan Government: in 2014, the State set aside 192 million euros while the Catalan Government had to spend 909 million euros, more than four times greater. If the Catalan Government had contributed the same amount as the Spanish State, 65% of unemployed people would have been left out of this system.
Another failed agreement is the one on investments in infrastructures: the Statute of Autonomy reflects the State’s commitment to investing in Catalonia in accordance with its economic weight in order to resolve the country’s chronic infrastructure deficit. However, the State’s debt due to noncompliance with this agreement has now reached 3,967 million euros.
This is not a question of budgetary availability but one of lack of determination: while only 7% of the Catalan Suburban Railways Plan has been executed, the Madrid Suburban Railways Plan has been completed in full. It is the citizens of Catalonia who are suffering from the delays on this railway service on a daily basis.
This discretionary approach to the division of resources can be seen in other areas such as contributions to cultural facilities; provisions for culture in Catalonia were frozen in the general budget of 2015, yet those for the Prado, Reina Sofía and Thyssen museums and the Royal Theatre in Madrid were increased – and in the budget for the Rural Development Plan, the State contributed just 7.3% for the Catalan countryside against 23% for other communities.
This recentralization process has not only been enforced in the economy but also in the legal arena. Aside from the tax figures already mentioned, the State has filed 19 unconstitutionality appeals against Catalan provisions, most notably those that affect the Catalan retail model and those intended to tackle cases of energy poverty. Meanwhile, the Catalan Government has also been obliged to resort to the courts to defend itself against laws that attack its self-rule.
It is important to note that this litigation goes back many years, and that instead of scrupulously abiding by its commitments, the Spanish State has been in breach of them for a long time. Indeed, in spite of the fact that the Constitutional Court has ruled on various occasions on the State’s obligation to territorialize State funds destined for subsidies, the legislation passed by the State continues to disregard this constitutional case law and year after year plans for the centralized management of funds, to the detriment of organizations that are not affiliated to the State.
For over 15 years, the State has been breaching the rulings of the Constitutional Court in favour of the territorial management of the 0.7% of Income Tax Returns intended for social purposes, something that the Catalan Government has been protesting against since 1998, as it means that Catalan social organizations have failed to receive the more than 20 million euros collected in Catalonia.
Similarly, for more than 20 years the Spanish State has been breaching the law on study grants and has failed to transfer entitlement to the Catalan Government as recognized by the courts; and even 30 years since the first requests were submitted it has still not fully returned the ’Salamanca Papers’.
The final chapters of this document focus on elements of integration and social cohesion in the country: the Catalan language and the Catalan educational model, and it is here that the country is under constant attack. On the one hand, the passing of the Organic Law for the Improvement of Educational Quality has changed the educational model to the detriment of the continuity of the Catalan inclusive model and linguistic immersion system that has worked so well for more than 30 years. On the other, the constant disparagement of the Catalan language and its regular use – laws that impose the use of Spanish, the lack of joint official status, etc. – and the passive attitude of Spanish institutions towards hostile attitudes towards all things Catalan are factors that have unquestionably added to the reasons that have led the citizens of Catalonia to demand a new type of relationship with the State.
This desire for self-rule has a dual significance: on the one hand, to improve the standard of living of all the citizens of Catalonia, based on economic progress and the sustainability of the welfare state, and on the other, to fulfil their collective longing to be a people with the right to decide.