Parliament validates decree to pay Court of Auditors bonds
Decree passed with support from pro-independence parties, while Socialists and En Comú abstain
BarcelonaThe Catalan Parliament has approved the Government's most controversial decree since it took over two months ago: the creation of a Complementary Risk Fund for public workers. It has been devised to pay the €5.4m bail demanded by the Court of Auditors from 34 current and former government officials over the Catalan administration's foreign action between 2011 and 2017. It seeks to prevent the accused from having their assets seized.
The decree has created controversy due to doubts about its legality. However, shortly before Parliament sat the Council of Statutory Guarantees, an advisory body to the Generalitat, ruled unanimously that it does deem the fund unconstitutional, although it did make some recommendations on how to improve it. This is not the end of the road, however; the Court of Auditors is yet to decide whether it accepts this solution, and both the Prosecutor's Office and Catalonia's High Court are examining the case.
The debate in the Parliament was expected: intense from the first minute. It had all the ingredients to be so. To begin with, it has been held just over an hour after the Council of Statutoy Guarantees was delivered, which gave members little time to prepare their interventions. Catalan Minister of Economy Jaume Giró took pride in the "impeccable" content of the decree and has stated that from now on it will help all officials whose assets may be seized as a result of legal cases relating to their work for the administration before there is a final court ruling. He also criticised Cs and Vox, who strongly opposed the decree. Giró accused them of giving up on politics and resorting systematically to the courts. The debate even allowed coalition partners to stage a reconciliation, after disagreements over this issue last week. Aragonès has applauded Giró, whose hand he shook at the end of the intervention. Other pro-independence MPs also approached him to congratulate him when he finished the session. Parliament will now process the decree as a bill to introduce the recommendations made by the Council of Guarantees.
The fact that the Generalitat's advisory body has said that the decree is legal has had little effect on the three rightwing unionist parties (Cs, Vox and PP), which have again accused the Generalitat of "irregularities", "robbery", "swindling" and "stealing from Catalans". Vox and Cs have announced new lawsuits against the Government and complaints to Catalonia's High Court, as well as appeals to Spain's Constitutional Court. The Socialists, on the other hand, said the Council of Statutory Guarantees' decision dispelled their "doubts" on the fund, but did not vote in favour because of the government's "mistakes" in managing the crisis the decree set off in the public body used to make the payments (Institut Català de Finances). En Comú abstained for the same reason. CUP, on the other hand, backed the decree despite chiding the government for acting "late" and "lacking an anti-repressive strategy".
The next step
With the issue resolved in the Catalan Parliament and the Council of Statutory Guarantees, all the attention moves to the Court of Auditors, based in Madrid. This misnamed administrative body - it is not part of the State's judicial structure - is awaiting a report it requested from the State Attorney's Office to decide whether to accept the fund that the Government has created as a way to pay the bonds. If the answer is no, it will be back to square one and a new solution for the bails will have to be found. The uncertainty, then, continues.