New Catalan Government set to work
CNA / Sara Prim
Barcelona (CNA).- The 13 members of the new Catalan executive took office this Thursday in an institutional ceremony at Palau de la Generalitat, the seat of the Catalan Government. Economy, Foreign Affairs and Presidency, will be the main areas of the new Catalan government. 7 from the 13 members in the Catalan executive have been designated by former governing party CDC and 6 by left-wing pro-independence ERC, the two main parties composing cross-party list ‘Junts Pel Sí’. One of the novelties of this new government is that the Vice President will also head a department, in this case that of the Economy and Tax Office. ERC leader Oriol Junqueras has been designated to assume these two responsibilities. Another novelty is the creation of the Department of Foreign Affairs, which will be led by former MEP and ‘Junts Pel Sí top member Raül Romeva.
Catalan President Carles Puigdemont asked the new ministers to “be loyal” to the Catalan institutions and expressed his confidence that they will be “aware” of the citizens’ and the country’s “assignment”. Puigdemont asked the new administrators “to do things as well as possible, as well-explained as possible and as committed as possible”. “You assume a great honour, you will do it perfectly well and I will witness it”, he stated.
The President also thanked the outgoing Ministers for their “endurance” in “very difficult” moments. “You have been loyal servants of the country, to the government and to President Mas” he stated and emphasised the Ministers’ “dignity”.
In the afternoon, all the Ministers went to their new offices and met with their predecessors, who transferred the relevant portfolios to them. From today, the new Government starts work and the old one leaves office.
The Economy Department, a key area
Besides assuming the vice presidency of the new Government, ERC leader and ‘Junts Pel Sí’ number five Oriol Junqueras will be in charge of the Economy and Tax Office Department. “This is an enormously complex task”, admitted Junqueras after receiving the portfolio from former Catalan Minister Andreu Mas-Colell. Junqueras plans to approve the new public budget by May. “It is important to approve it because it would facilitate the management of our day-to-day activities” assured Junqueras and emphasised that his department’s “will” is to do so. “We hope that our majority in the Parliament will allow this”.
Regarding the relationships with the Spanish Government and the new Spanish Finance Minister, Junqueras expressed his wish for his staff to be “as cordial and well-mannered” as they are with other Spanish Ministers, and named current Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs José Manuel García Margallo as an example.
The relationship between current Spanish Finance Minister, Cristóbal Montoro, and current Catalan Minister for Finance, Andreu Mas-Colell, worsened in the last months, especially due to the extra control measures that Spain's executive imposed on Catalonia’s access to its part of the Spanish Liquidity Point (FLA). "It is arbitrary discrimination" against Catalan citizens and the Government's suppliers, stated Mas-Colell and announced that the Government would take the measures before the Spanish Supreme Court. The imposition of "specific and additional controls" due to "Catalonia's singularity" was presented by Montoro as a way to guarantee "transparency" and ensure that “the FLA won’t fund pro-independence whims”. Mas-Colell accused Spain's executive of trying to take political advantage of an "ordinary procedure between administrations" and urged the Spanish government to pay the pending 3,034 million euros from the FLA before the end of the year.
Earlier in the day, Junqueras also assumed the vice presidency of the government, from former Vice President Neus Munté. “With confidence, firmness, hope and security, working in a team, we are able to face all the challenges” stated Junqueras.
A new department “to explain” Catalonia to the world
The new government which has emerged from the 27-S Catalan Elections will have, for the first time, a Department of Foreign Affairs. ‘Junts Pel Sí’ top member and former MEP Raül Romeva will be leading this area. “We have a very important task” he stated, which is “to explain to the world what we want to do and what we can provide as a country and as a society”.
Romeva received the portfolio from Catalan Foreign Affairs Secretary, Roger Albinyana. Indeed, the figure of Albinyana shows “the importance” that this area already had in the previous government. Romeva admitted that they will have additional work to do, as he will set up a “sensible” and complex department “which hasn’t existed before”.
“It is important to find international connections to which we aim to explain our roadmap”, stated Romeva and assured that they “will call on everyone required, including the Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs”. Romeva also warned that the new government “will avoid” any polemic confrontation with the Spanish State. “We have never aimed for that and we will never do that” assured Romeva. On the contrary, he guaranteed “permanent dialogue” with all the other actors, whether they are called “Spain, Europe or the rest of the world”. However, the “quotidian” institutional field would be the EU, he nuanced.
Neus Munté, the Government’s spokeswoman
Former Catalan Minister for Social Affairs Munté recently assumed the role of Catalan Government spokeswoman, which she will continue to develop in Puigdemont’s government. Thus, Munté will represent the Department of the Presidency, the third of the three main areas which will define the new Catalan Government’s structure.
Munté was one of the names that radical left pro-independence CUP suggested to run for the Catalan Government’s presidency, rather than Artur Mas, but she repeatedly expressed her support for Mas. She became one of the main interlocutors between the Catalan and the Spanish Governments.
A younger and more feminine government
Besides Junqueras, Romeva and Munté, all the other Ministers of the new government were also designated this Thursday. Jordi Jané (CDC) will stay on at the head of the Catalan Ministry for Home Affairs as well as Meritxell Borràs, who will continue to be Catalan Minister for Public Administration.
CDC’s general coordinator and one of Mas’ right-hand men, Josep Rull, will be Catalan Minister for Planning and Sustainability and Santi Vila, who held this charge before, has been designated as Catalan Minister for Culture. Jordi Baiget will be in charge of the Ministry for Business and Knowledge. Joan Vidal de Ciurana will occupy Baiget’s former position as Government Secretary
Meritxell Ruíz will replace Irene Rigau at the head of the Education Ministry and is one of the new names, along with Toni Comín, the new head of the Health Ministry, Dolors Bassa, who has been designated as Catalan Minister for Employment, Social Affair and Families, and Meritxell Serret, who will work at the head of the Agriculture Ministry.
Carles Bundó (ERC) has been designated as Catalan Minister for Justice.
Mas renounces his seat in Parliament
After stepping aside, former Catalan President Artur Mas also renounced his seat in the Catalan chamber, which he occupied since 1995. From now on, Mas will focus on reforming former governing party liberal CDC. By renouncing his seat, Mas loses his granted immunity but the case against him for putting out the ballot boxes for the 9th of November consultation on independence will continue to be prosecuted by Catalonia’s Supreme Court.