Politics 01/06/2022

Generalitat and State agree to convene bilateral meeting to address investment crisis

Surprise meeting between Aragonès, Puigneró and Minister Sánchez to address investment deficit in Catalonia

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President Pere Aragonès and Minister Raquel Sánchez on Wednesday in Barcelona.

BarcelonaBefore bringing the Catalangate crisis to a close, the Generalitat and the Spanish government have clashed again over another major controversy: the State's investment deficit in Catalonia , which a report by the Ministry of Finance has uncovered . This Wednesday Catalan president Pere Aragonès, the vice-president Jordi Puigneró, and Spanish Transport Minister Raquel Sánchez all met to discuss the matter. Although the meeting was not on their agenda, all three coincided in the presentation of a new Google office in Barcelona.

In little over than twenty minutes, they agreed to convene the Bilateral Infrastructure Committee to address the situation. This is one of the bilateral committees created by the Catalan Autonomy Statute that the Spanish an Catalan governments decided to bring back last summer to give dialogue between administrations a new opportunity. Sources from the Ministry of Transport explained that Sánchez committed to address "the situation of the execution of infrastructures" in Catalonia and, in addition, to do so "project by project". "It will serve to advance in the boost to investment, overcome existing difficulties and accelerate the development of works in progress", the same sources claim.

The meeting took place at Aragonès's proposal, who wanted to convey in private what he had said in public two days ago: that the report offers an "unacceptable" portrait of the state's budgetary execution in Catalonia and that an "immediate reversal" is needed. Generalitat sources confirm there has been an agreement to convene the bilateral committee, but warn that this is not enough. "It is a technical meeting, but this goes beyond meetings and words. It is time to execute", say the same sources. The president himself has addressed journalists when leaving the meeting: "It is the hour of keeping promises, not of words". Vice-president Puigneró had harsh words for the Spanish government this morning. In an interview on Catalunya Ràdio he said: "Either they are useless or they are liars".

A compromising report

The report that started the controversy is problematic for the Spanish government in two ways: because the data is crystal clear –35.7% of executed investment in Catalonia compared to 184% in Madrid – and because the data cannot be contested by the government, since the numbers were produced by the State itself. Even so, in an interview in Rac1, the minister tried to justify that the problem is that when the Socialists took over, "many works" had been stopped and that reactivating them needs some time. She even asked not to make comparisons between regions as this could generate "tension".

The investment deficit is attributable to the State, but it also affects Aragonès. Firstly, because the detractors of his commitment to dialogue are once again questioning the results of this strategy. Secondly, because the last two General State Budgets – including 2021's which is the one the report at the origin of the controversy is about – were passed with the support of ERC.

One last detail to bear in mind is that if the meeting of the infrastructure committee takes place, it will mean a certain détente in the relations between the two governments, since the Generalitat put them on hold over Catalangate espionage scandal. This committee, however, does not have a very positive record so far: it was created in 2007 and since then it has only met twice, in 2018 and 2021.

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