Catalan Government and En Comú negotiate budgets in three-hour meeting

Meetings go ahead awaiting a shift from CUP

3 min
The representatives of the commons after the meeting with the government on Thursday

BarcelonaPresident Pere Aragonès, Pere Aragonès, began negotiations with En Comú yesterday to get the budgets through Parliament, after the government's priority partner, CUP, positioned itself against it. This Thursday morning first thing a technical meeting between En Comú and representatives from the Presidency and Economy Departments was held. It lasted from quarter past nine in the morning until almost twelve noon: the secretary general of Economy, Jordi Cabrafiga; the secretary general of the Presidency, Núria Cuenca; and the director general of Interdepartmental Coordination, Marc Ramentol, on behalf of the Government; and the deputies Joan Carles Gallego –who leads the negotiation– and Susana Segovia, as well as the group coordinator, Ximo Balaguer, on behalf of En Comú.

Thus, unlike yesterday's first meeting, in which there were only representatives of Esquerra and En ComThis marked a change from yesterday: whereas only ERC and En Comú members attended the first meeting, the Department of Economy, led by JxCat, joined the second meeting. The Department's head, Jaume Giró, was not present, however. The department states that he has had last-minute changes in the agenda. Nevertheless, Giró spoke with En Comú leader Jèssica Albiach over the telephone and had breakfast with MP Joan Carles Gallego.

Even so, Giró's absence also reflects some JxCat leaders' unease with the negotiation with En Comú. Party spokeswoman Elsa assured in an interview on Catalunya Ràdio that activating plan B meant a "change in the rules of the game", since it means that the budgets can be carried forward with a majority different from the pro-independence majority "of 52%" that allowed the investiture. Does this mean that Junts will veto En Comú? Party sources deny it, and claim their goal is to get the budget approved – remarking that Giró drafted them – and that if En Comú does not set any unacceptable conditions they will not hold back the negotiation. At the moment, they are open to negotiate the conditions that En Comú Podem has put on the table. However, they warn that they "will not give in to En Comú over issues where we did not yield to CUP", sources of Junts affirm, an allusion to an increase in taxes or pulling out the candidacy to host the Winter Olympics.

In any case, the same sources regret that, after months of negotiating with the CUP, the anti-capitalist left does not give negotiation a chance, allowing the budget to be processed. And they also get at their coalition partners, ERC, asserting that they made an agreement with the CUP that they have not fulfilled.

Catalan Justice minister Lourdes Ciuró in an interview with Radio Estel collected by the ACN, has assured that "Junts continues negotiating the budgets with the CUP", but has admitted that "it is also necessary to approach" conversations with En Comú after the CUP registered their amendment to the budget. She insisted that, be that as it may, "there is a 52% pro-independence vote that would have to be the one that took the budget forward," but if the anti-capitalists "are not up for it," the country cannot be left without a budget.

En Comú Podem's conditions

En Comú Podem has presented its conditions to the Government, which avoid going into tax matters and focus on demanding more resources for the Health Service –both primary and mental health and a public dentistry service–, greater investment in rail and metro infrastructure and the deployment of a law for green neighbourhoods, as well as a reindustrialisation plan. En Comú is also against the Hard Rock casino and hotel project, as they consider that it does not represent the "model" to which they aspire for the country. Party sources explained that they "discussed the matter" in the meeting this morning and, although they have no red lines, they are optimistic that agreements can be reached on issues such as those relating to the field of health. En Comú is interested, these same sources claim, in closing an agreement soon: the opening of talks with the Catalan Government coincides with the party's III Assembly, which takes place this weekend, which could complicate their agenda, although they insist that they will prioritise the budgets.

At the same time, the Government insists that contacts with CUP will be maintained. After the anti-capitalist left set a price on the withdrawal of the amendment to the totality – scrapping the Winter Olympics candidacy, the Hard Rock project, the Catalan racetrack and holding a referendum – the executive is studying its demands and will transfer what margin there is to reach an agreement. The Government is considering increasing investment on housing, which the CUP demands rise to €1bn. In any case, what Junts per Catalunya will not do – despite the fact that CUP also demands it – is to withdraw its amendments to the anti-eviction law, Europa Press reports. JxCat wants landlords with few properties to be compensated when forced to offer cheaper rents to vulnerable people.