Governability in the State

ERC agrees to protect the Catalan language in the audiovisual law and endorses the processing of the state budgets

ERC leadership ruled out the amendment in a last-minute meeting yesterday morning

3 min
Pedro Sánchez and Gabriel Rufián in an image in the Congress

MadridEsquerra does not present an amendment to the general state budget, after managing to shield the Catalan language with quotas in the new audiovisual law. This was announced by the party yesterday midday, just before the deadline for registering the document requesting the return of the accounts to the Spanish government. At the last minute, the Republicans have reached a pact with the PSOE to protect the co-official languages in the law that the executive wants to promote and which had become the main obstacle.

Negotiations had intensified in the last few hours as the deadline to present the amendment to the totality ran out. For days, several ERC spokespersons had been warning that this was a possibility, just as they had done in 2019, which led Spanish politics to new elections that were held on 28 April. Last year the context was very different: the PSOE aspired to bring together groups that were vetoing each other -Cs on the one hand and ERC and EH Bildu on the other-, but Unidas Podemos managed to tip the balance towards the investiture forces. This unravelled the procedure of the vote on the whole and the negotiation of the partial amendments was not excessively difficult.

This year, however, with the scenario of variable geometry ruled out, the Republicans were aware that their affirmative vote was taken for granted and have taken advantage of this to raise the price. The shielding of the Catalan language in the new audiovisual law had become one of the main conditions raised by ERC, but not the only one: the degree of execution of what was agreed for the 2020 accounts is rather low and, as an example, the commission that was to evaluate whether the agreements were being fulfilled on a quarterly basis has not even met.

The amendment in its entirety is no more than a first warning, because between now and the vote on Thursday next week there is time until the last minute to withdraw it. However, it does not have the same impact depending on who presents it. There are other parties such as Junts that are calling for the budget bill to be returned to the government, but the PSOE could negotiate a change in its voting direction later on when the definitive procedure is completed. The same is not true of ERC: its 13 MPs are more necessary than Junts' four for the executive to pass the debate on the whole, so that agreement in this case becomes more urgent. In any case, the accounts could advance without the votes of the Republicans if they are supported by the PNV, EH Bildu, PDECat, Más País, Compromís, Partido Regionalista de Cantabria, BNG, Teruel Existe, Nueva Canarias.

Overconfidence in the government

Many of the parties that have been supporting the Spanish government warned that the Minister of Finance, María Jesús Montero, arrived at the budget negotiations with an excess of confidence. This morning the president of the PNV executive, Andoni Ortúzar, assured that all scenarios were open a few hours before the deadline. However, they have reached an agreement so that the Basque Country can fully manage the minimum vital income and will not present an amendment to the budget. At a press conference, the spokesman in Parliament, Aitor Esteban, has warned that the global pact for the budget is not closed.

EH Bildu, on the other hand, has been less belligerent and days ago said it would not oppose the first vote. However, its spokesperson in Parliament, Mertxe Aizpurua, has stated in an interview in Euskadi Irratia that the abertzales will not hand out a "blank check" to the executive and that they will negotiate amendments to the articles and some political agreements. Basque pro-independence supporters are very insistent on the repeal of the labour reform and the last few days have revealed the underlying goal of obtaining benefits for ETA prisoners. Beyond the words of Arnaldo Otegi, however, Aizpurua has stated that this issue is not part of the talks with the PSOE.