The decision by the left-wing CUP to reject the Catalan budget based on its current draft and continue negotiating has not come as a surprise at the Palau de la Generalitat. The Catalan president, Pere Aragonès, received the news in a meeting with vice-president Jordi Puigneró, economy minister Jaume Giró, and those in charge of the management of ERC and Junts. The CUP made the result public at 12 noon in Parliament and, half an hour later, the spokeswoman for the executive, Patrícia Plaja, made it clear that the government's response is to keep up the pressure to reach an agreement before Monday. Plaja has asked the CUP not to present its rejection amendment in advance of Monday's parliamentary debate, because "there is still time", but she also sounded a direct warning: "Catalonia will have a budget" and the government will meet its planned schedule. That is, it will start 2022 with the budget passed.
Meeting at the 'Palau'
Pending a new meeting of Aragonès and Giró with CUP spokespeople to find out first hand the reasons for the party grassroots' decision, the government spokesperson made it clear that the executive does not intend to reduce the pressure it has maintained on the far-left party in recent days, warning that passing the budget is necessary, that this draft is the most socially expansive in history and that without approving these accounts there will be no economic expansion to drive it. “What sense does it make for the CUP to say no to a budget that bear its stamp?” she wondered.
The key argument of the government is the importance of maintaining the 52% pro-independence majority that emerged from the Catalan elections in February, which has supported Pere Aragonès's executive until now. For this reason, Plaja avoided entering into discussion on the government's alternatives for passing the budget bill. The executive also affirms that budget support is part of the agreement that led to the investiture and that a no to the accounts would effectively break that pact - which also included the president's commitment to submit to a confidence vote at mid-term in 2023.
The CUP justified its 'no' to the accounts with a triple argument. Firstly, due to direct non-compliance in relation to budgetary commitments, but also because of what the party sees as the normalization of relations with the Spanish state and the fact that the Aragonès administration has not specified the path to progress towards self-determination.
While the press conference took place, Aragonès, Puigneró and Giró continued in their meeting at the Generalitat palace with the speaker of parliament, Laura Borràs, the leaders of the ERC and Junts parliamentary groups, Josep Maria Jové and Albert Batet, Junts secretary general Jordi Sànchez and ERC spokesperson in parliament, Marta Vilalta.
The new deadline for an agreement will end on Monday, when the full Parliament will have to debate the budget bill for the first time, including the so-called "amendments to the entirety" - that it, votes to throw out the draft budget. The government will have to pass this hurdle if it wants to have the budget passed by January 1st. For now, however, the Aragonès executive is keeping tight-lipped about its path if the CUP maintains its opposition to the project.