A first pact has been reached by the Catalan government over the 2023 budget: it is with Catalunya en Comú, and adds the alternative left party's eight seats to the 33 of the governing Republican Left (ERC). However, with 41 of the 135 seats in Parliament now committed to supporting the budget project, an agreement with the Catalan Socialists (PSC) or Together for Catalonia (Junts) is still essential to pass the budget, and this was the context in which the Catalan presidency minister, Laura Vilagrà, placed the agreement reached with the party led by Jéssica Albiach: to put pressure on the Socialists and Junts. The minister warned that, politically, these parties "cannot afford" for no agreement to be reached, asserting that it "would not make sense", and saying that she was convinced "all the parties will face the responsibility" of closing the deal in the coming days.
"There is no reason why this budget approval cannot happen," Vilagrà affirmed, appearing before the media to explain the agreement with the Comuns. Not only that, but the minister also insisted that the government is in a position to pass the project immediately, before the end of the year.
According to Vilagrà, who appeared accompanied by the economy minister, Natàlia Mas, the talks with the other two major parties are well advanced, affirming that ten technical sessions have been held with Junts, and 12 with the PSC, in addition to two more political meetings; and that all of this has led to the detailing of more than 100 measures. Tomorrow the final meetings are planned with both parties.
However, the words of the presidency minister contrast with the views given by the first secretary of the PSC, Salvador Illa, who today made it clear in the corridors of Parliament that, in the opinion of his party, the talks have not yet made sufficient progress. Junts also asserted on Monday that the talks were not yet advanced enough, and that they had still not addressed the area on "the national axis" - that is, on everything connected to Catalonia as a country and its future independence. At the moment, the government is preparing a technical extension of the existing budget.
Warning from Albiach
The agreement with the Comuns was signed this afternoon by the president, Pere Aragonès, and the Comuns leader, Jéssica Albiach, at the Palau de la Generalitat. Albiach stressed that "it is the responsibility of the government of the Generalitat to get the support of three parties" and warned that the budget agreement must arrive "intact" to the time when the budget is voted on.
Albiach expressed her satisfaction with the agreement, highlighting that by the end of 2023, 20% of the health budget is to be dedicated to primary care, which represents another 2,550 million euros. She also underlined elements relating to housing rights and energy sovereignty, as well as a new tax to adjust the Catalan wealth tax to the similar tax passed at Spanish level, which should allow 12 million euros to enter the Catalan coffers. In addition, she mentioned the push to impose a tax on port emissions from large ships and to modify the tax on homes that were empty. "Never before have 8 deputies achieved so much," she boasted.
Vilagrà also stated that it was a "good agreement", while Natàlia Mas affirmed that the aim is to create a "social shield" with an action plan backed by 555 million euros of funding.
Economy minister Mas downplayed the increases in taxation and the possibility that these will make it more difficult to reach an agreement with Junts. She assured that that party is aware of the agreement and agrees on the need for a increase in wealth tax agreed with the Comuns, given that it must serve to compensate the increase approved by the Spanish state's new tax, and prevent those resources from going into the central administration. Regarding the modification of the tax on empty homes, she stressed that it will only affect those who have large housings in the housing sector.