Barcelona (ACN).- The Catalan Finance Minister, Andreu Mas-Colell, did not attend the Fiscal and Financial Policy Council (CPFF), which took place this Tuesday afternoon in Madrid. The Catalan Government announced its absence this morning, as a protest against the Spanish Government’s unilateral decisions made beforehand that make the CPFF no longer a forum for discussion. Andalusia’s Minister quit the meeting after one hour for the same reasons. The CPFF is where the Spanish Government and the Autonomous Communities discuss the regions’ financial situation and funding. However, since the People’s Party (PP) runs the Spanish Government and most of the Autonomies, the Catalan Government claimed that decisions are taken beforehand among PP representatives. In fact, the Spanish Government meets before each CPFF with the representatives from the Autonomies it manages.
The Catalan Finance Minister protested against the Spanish Government’s unilateral decision to make the deficit target for the Autonomies stricter in 2013, passing from 1.1% to 0.7% of their GDP. This measure should have been debated in today’s CPFF and an agreement adopted before the Spanish Government’s decision. Instead of attending the meeting, Mas-Colell sent a letter to the Spanish Finance Minister, Cristóbal Montoro, in which he asked for the same public deficit flexibility the European Union gave to the Spanish Government. Mas-Colell emphasised that a greater reduction of Autonomies’ public deficit is not realistic in the current economic context without dramatically affecting basic public services. In fact, the Autonomous Communities entirely manage Spain’s public health and education systems, as well as social policies, being responsible for around 40% of the country’s global public spending (although some Autonomies such as Catalonia are responsible for a greater share of public spending since they manage additional public services, such as police and prisons).
For the first time in democracy, the Catalan Finance Minister, Andreu Mas-Colell, refused to attend the CPFF. Instead of having an empty chair at the meeting, the Spanish Government decided to remove the chair and the Catalan flag from the CPFF, which does not meet with a regular frequency. The Andalusian Finance Minister, Carmen Martínez Aguayo, decided to quit the meeting after one hour because decisions had been taken beforehand and as a protest against the Spanish Government’s unilateral decision to oblige the Autonomies to meet stricter deficit targets in 2013. Martínez Aguayo announced she would take this decision to the Constitutional Court, as it had not been debated and approved in the CPFF.
The CPFF decisions are binding for 15 of the 17 Autonomous Communities, except the Basque Country and Navarra. These two Autonomies have special economic agreements, have a bilateral relationship with the Spanish Government and raise all their taxes. The rest of the Autonomies share a common fiscal scheme. Within this fiscal redistribution scheme, Catalonia contributes extensively, as one of Spain’s richest territories. Official studies have stated that Catalonia’s solidarity with Spain’s poorer regions annually represents an average of 8.5% of the Catalan economy, some €17 billion per year.