30/07/2021

Constitutional backing of bail guarantee

2 min
Jaume Giró and Pere Aragonès in Parliament

The Council of Statutory Guarantees (CSG) has backed the Government's decree to act as guarantor, through the Institut Català de Finances (ICF), for the €5.4m bonds the Court of Auditors has imposed on 34 current and former Generalitat senior officials over the Catalan administration's foreign action between 2011 and 2017. The CSG voted unanimously to validate the plan despite requesting two modifications that Parliament, by majority, has incorporated into the bill: that the involvement of the ICF is "exceptional" and "limited in time" and that it is made clear that those affected have to return the money to the Generalitat in case of a final ruling.

In any case, the position of the CSG is clear and leaves no room for doubt: it states that the Generalitat's Complementary Risk Fund, endowed with €10m to defend its public servants from lawsuits, is legal, and that channelling said fund through the ICF i also legal: "In no case can it be considered as a case of waste of public funds" nor does it "involve a case, by action or omission, of theft of public money"

Thus, the CSG's decision paves the legal and political way for the Government's last-minute solution when it could not find any banks willing to guarantee the bonds. In Parliament itself, in addition to the predictable vote in favour of pro-independence parties (ERC, JxCat and the CUP) and the opposing vote of the Spanish right (PP, Vox and Ciudadanos), the main opposition group, the Catalan Socialists' Party, has abstained, and so have En Comú-Podem, the Catalan branches of the parties that form the Spanish coalition government. So everything points to a hypothetical and eventual solution that would require both the State Attorney's Office, which has been asked by the Court of Auditors to give its opinion on the ICF guarantees, and the Public Prosecutor's Office, to also accept the path proposed by the Generalitat. Naturally, there is no guarantee that the CSG's position will also be adopted by these bodies, but in any case a first relevant legal position is established, which cannot simply be ignored.

The fact that there are now more possibilities of finding a way out of the harmful, exaggerated and performative economic punishment (it is a bail that in practice becomes a sentence) pursued by a Court of Auditors whose neutrality is clearly in question, would be one more step on the road to de-judicialising a matter that will only find a solution through political channels. As long as judicial repression continues, it will be very difficult to get the political dialogue, which is already complicated in itself and starts from very distant positions, on track.

The outcome of this case, which may still drag on for a few weeks, will be decisive in creating a climate that is minimally conducive to resuming the dialogue scheduled for after the holidays. Until the courts lose the leading role they have had all these years, there will be no real guarantees of political negotiation

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