Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez had announced that the final extension to the country's state of alarm would last for a month. Finally, the fifth extension will last for two weeks, like all the others, meaning that Spain's emergency status will apply, if Wednesday's parliamentary vote passes, till June 7th. This has been agreed, once again, by the Socialist-Podemos government and the right wing Ciudadanos (Cs) party, according to government sources. The two-week limit was one of the conditions set by the party led by Inés Arrimadas. On the part of the government, it agrees to find the "necessary legislative reforms" for an "orderly exit" from the state of alarm without the need to carry on resorting to this instrument. Meanwhile, the Socialists are still holding talks with two of the Catalan pro-independence parties, ERC and JxCat, in an attempt to secure their support this Wednesday.
As Cs requested, the two sides have agreed on the need to extend the state of alarm for another 14 days, "the time strictly necessary." In this regard, the Spanish government "undertakes to analyze the measures and, where appropriate, the necessary legislative reforms that will allow an orderly exit from the state of alarm and the management of the pandemic at this time, without the use of the constitutional tool of the declaration of the alarm". During this last period of extension of the state of alarm, the executive undertakes to communicate to Cs its conclusions in order to reach agreement on necessary measures and reforms.
On the other hand, the Spanish government agrees to prolong by a month - from three months to four - the tax moratorium for people affected by the coronavirus, without interest on the arrears. The executive has also agreed to "speed up the payment of benefits for ERTOs [temporary layoff schemes] and unemployment for those who have not yet been paid so that they can receive it during the month of June at the latest." The special payment to self-employed people and the exemption from paying their normal tax contributions will be extended beyond the validity of the state of alarm.
Finally, the two parties have agreed to push to make the month of July, usually part of the summer parliamentary recess, into a normal working month in the Congress of Deputies "for the purposes of speeding up parliamentary work and recovering part of the work backlog caused by Covid-19".
Waiting to know ERC's position
On Monday, deputy PM Carmen Calvo sketched a proposal for a "graduated" state of alarm that would last a month, until the end of the de-escalation from coronavirus lockdown. Calvo explained that "if some territories move ahead quickly, the alarm may be lifted for those territories.” The state of alarm can be proclaimed for the whole of Spanish territory, or just a part. But the state of alarm she contemplated when speaking was one that would last a month and not just a fortnight.
Calvo also guaranteed that it will be "the last" extension and that "it will be radically different". Among other aspects, the health minister Salvador Illa would remain as the only minister to have special emergency powers, while in the ministries of interior and transport, the previously centralized competencies would now be returned to the autonomous communities.
At present, the Spanish government is still in the midst of last-minute negotiations with ERC and JxCat, demanding the return of powers to the Catalan government and asking for president Quim Torra to be recognized as a "competent authority" - that is, having special powers of his own during the de-escalation period.