Politics 02/08/2021

Bilateral Commission agreements "insufficient" says Catalan government

The Generalitat and the State agree to reduce conflicts of competence, to transfer the management of grants and an extra €200m for a provision in Catalonia's Statute of Autonomy

3 min
The meeting of the Bilateral Commission Generalitat-Sido to the Ministry of Territorial Policy

MadridThree years later, the Generalitat and the Spanish government have met again in the Bilateral Commission, which has reached an agreement to work in five areas that will be evaluated between the end of January and the beginning of February in a new meeting. The Catalan delegation has put management of European funds on the table, but Moncloa has made it clear that it was not the appropriate forum to do so. According to the Minister of Territorial Policy, Isabel Rodríguez, it has been agreed to reduce the constitutional conflict in relation to competence clashes between regional and central government; to complete the transfer of the management of scholarships; to create a working group to study the viability of transfers on Sea Rescue, labour legislation and professional training; to reactivate the commission on economic and fiscal matters and the commission on investment in infrastructures. An €200m investment related to the third additional provision of the Catalan Statute of Autonomy has also been agreed: €100m will de transferred immediately and another €100m will be transferred before the end of the year.

"It has been a fruitful and executive meeting," Rodríguez said at a press conference, and she praised the fact that "dialogue within the constitutional framework" with Catalonia has been resumed. The minister appeared first and took advantage to announce agreement on the expansion of the El Prat airport. The agreement was reached this morning in a secret meeting between the Minister of Transport, Raquel Sánchez, and the Catalan vice-president, Jordi Puigneró, the Secretary of State for Transport, Isabel Pardo de Vera, and the president of Aena, Maurici Lucena. The two governments will give further details with a joint press statement and this Tuesday minister Sánchez will explain the agreement.

Generalitat and State have decided, thus, to turn the page of the estrangement between the two administrations that had prevailed in recent years, at least in terms of sectorial issues. The last Bilateral Commission was in the Palau de la Generalitat, with the Catalan Meritxell Batet as head of Territorial Administrations and Elsa Artadi (JxCat) as Catalan minister of the Presidency. This time Laura Vilagrà (ERC) headed the Generalitat's delegation and Isabel Rodríguez, who took over from Miquel Iceta, that of the Spanish government. If on August 1, 2018, an unbridgeable distance was evidenced by the willingness of the Government to talk about self-determination, this time the political conflict will be addressed at the table of dialogue and the Bilateral commission limited itself to devolving some competences and various sectorial issues. In total, some 56 demands, according to the Generalitat.

The Bilateral Comission has taken place amid a climate of détente between the Catalan and Spanish administrations, after the pardons and Pere Aragonès's endorsement of dialogue. Nevertheless, in recent days it has been rarefied as a result of Aragonès's absence at the conference of regional leaders on Friday. It is a decision that the Spanish executive did not like.

In addition, there were disagreements as to what should be on the agenda. The Catalan government wanted to take the opportunity to talk about European Funds, but the Moncloa has refused to include this issue. In fact, this was addressed with the rest of regions this Monday in the sectorial conference on the plan for recovery, transformation and resilience. At the subsequent press conference, the Minister of Finance, María Jesús Montero, stressed that the Bilateral Conference deals with matters that have to do "exclusively with Catalonia", but not those that have a multilateral perspective.

Right wing cries foul

Despite the fact that the Spanish government has already made it clear that it will not make exceptions with Catalonia in the Bilateral Commission, rightwing parties have criticised the meeting, especially after Aragonès's absence on Friday. The deputy secretary of Communication of the PP, Pablo Montesinos, has claimed there is a "hidden agenda" in these meetings, and Cs Catalan MP Nacho Martín Blanco has accused the Generalitat of "institutional disloyalty" for attending the commission this Monday and not the multilateral forum of last Friday. He also reproached the Spanish government for falling into the Catalan administration's "perverse logic".