The weeks pass, the meetings continue, but no other agreement on the 2023 Catalan budget has been reached since the one the minority government reached before Christmas with the alternative left En Comú Podem (Commons). The governing Catalan Republican Left (ERC) continue to argue that there are no "budgetary obstacles" and that the agreement should be "imminent". But the Catalan Socialists (PSC) question the political will of the government and keep their 'all or nothing' bid on the table which includes the macro projects of the Hard Rock leisure complex, the expansion of Barcelona-El Prat airport and the construction of a stretch of the Fourth Beltway in metropolitan Barcelona. In this context, ERC accuses the Socialists of "blackmail" and, although they avoid setting "deadlines" or "red lines", they do put pressure on Salvador Illa's party: "It shouldn't go beyond this week. Every week that goes by is one week fewer" in which the budget for the year already underway will be available to the public. The Republicans do not clarify what they will do when this deadline runs out. Meanwhile, former governing partner Together for Catalonia (Junts) have also said that they have not left the negotiating table, and portray ERC as "hostage" to the Socialists.
In a press conference after the ERC executive meeting this Monday, spokesperson Marta Vilalta affirmed that, "into the third week of January, we don't understand how the PSC or Junts continue for another week with an incomprehensible blockade". ERC's national spokeswoman and deputy general secretary has criticized that "the only thing they are doing is preventing more money from reaching everyone". For one more Monday, she responded to question after question that "there are no budgetary obstacles" to an understanding with the Socialists, that "we are close" to being able to close a deal, and denounced that some are resorting to "blackmail" or "delaying for delay's sake”.
Illa: "Negotiate means giving way"
This Monday, the leader of the largest opposition party, the Catalan Socialists, Salvador Illa, questioned the Catalan government's will to reach an understanding on the budget. "We made the offer [to negotiate the budget] in August. There has always been a willingness to agree. What I don't know is whether this willingness is also there on the part of the government. Willing to negotiate, not to agree," he said in a press conference in the Basque Country. These were the first words of the Socialist leader about the budget after a meeting with the Catalan president, Pere Aragonès, on Saturday, which failed to reach any agreement.
Illa remarked that the proposal made by his party regarding the budget is "a package" and, therefore, he argued, "negotiating means that everybody has to give way". The leader of the Socialists admitted that the negotiations are very difficult and affirmed that his party makes "reasonable demands". In spite of everything, there are still proposals to which the government is very reticent, such as the expansion of the El Prat airport, the Hard Rock project and the beltway between Sabadell and Terrassa.
For Illa, the ball is currently in Aragonès's court. "We are waiting for the government to say whether it accepts or not. If they do not accept, it can't happen. I am respectful of all political positions. If they don't accept it, Aragonès, who is in charge, will have to turn to other groups to get the necessary support," he explained.