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Key week in the negotiation of the Spanish government budget. The deadline to submit what are called "amendments in full" to the draft budget - that is, effectively rejecting the whole budget project presented by Pedro Sánchez - ends on Friday, and the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) has not yet decided what it will do, but has warned that rejection is an option it has on the table. The conditions for not declaring its rejection and then working towards a possible passing of the accounts were made clear today by ERC spokesperson, Marta Vilalta: the state must protect Catalan in its proposed audiovisual law and must render accounts on its level of compliance with the agreements reached in the budgets of the previous year.

Vilalta stated this position at the usual party press conference on Monday, explaining that there have already been some initial meetings in which the Republicans have set out these two conditions, but so far they have not received any responses. With respect to the language issue, Vilalta called on the Sánchez executive to "thread the needle" so that Catalan is protected with the "necessary percentages and quotas" in the catalogue offered by television channels or major streaming platforms such as Netflix and HBO.

This condition from ERC comes after the presentation of the Spanish state's audiovisual bill, which obliges the major platforms to offer an ample catalogue in "Castilian or other languages of the Spanish state" - implying no protection at all for Catalan, Basque or Galician, whose content on the platforms, under this proposal, is certain to be marginalised in favour of the Iberian linguistic giant, Castilian.

While for the last two weeks, ERC has been saying that it was far from taking a position of approving the budgets, it is now focused on urging the Spanish government to materialize the two claims it is making so that it could thus vote in favour of the accounts. Thus, Vilalta demanded that the Sánchez executive needs to get to work on these issues in order to "move on in the negotiation."

Asked if the transfer of Catalonia's suburban railways from Spanish to Catalan control is also one of the conditions for approval, she insisted that the two demands set out by ERC are the linguistic issue and the compliance with previous agreements, and that "beyond that there will be the rest of the demands", although adding that the transfer of rail management "is very important".

With regard to the request by governing partner Together for Catalonia (Junts) to present a "common front" by pro-independence forces in the budget negotiations, Vilalta avoided a clear answer on whether or not they favoured this, limiting herself to saying that the two parties are already talking and are coordinating “every day”. However, she took the opportunity to launch a request: that the negotiation be in all areas: "It is as important to coordinate in the framework of the state budget as at the dialogue table." This same debate was already broached last week by Pere Aragonès and Albert Batet in parliament.

Optimism over Catalan budget

In parallel to the negotiation of the Spanish state budget, the other accounts up for discussion now are those of Catalonia, and Vilalta asserted that negotiations continue with the pro-independence CUP as a priority partner, despite the insistence of other parties to support them if they are needed, such as the left-wing Comuns and the Socialists (PSC).

Although CUP deputy Eulàlia Reguant has said this Monday that there is a long way to go in the negotiations, Vilalta said that "regardless" of these assessments, they are working to make the support possible: "We are convinced that we will work out a deal".

Asked about the suspension of Unidas Podemos MP Alberto Rodríguez, Vilalta once again railed against the "constant judicialization of politics and interference from the courts", and called on the speaker of the Spanish Congress, Meritxell Batet, to stand up for the rights of deputies, but she ruled out demanding her resignation.

This morning, it has also transpired that a court in Madrid has proposed to the Supreme Court the CUP's Reguant should be put on trial for refusing to answer the questions from Vox's private prosecution at the pro-independence leaders trial, where the CUP MP was called as a witness. In response to the news, Vilalta said that ERC will "always" defend the rights of deputies. The same reflection was made on Friday by the speaker of the Catalan Parliament, Laura Borràs, who was critical of Batet, saying that she was not respecting the autonomy of the Spanish parliamentary chamber.


In the main image above, ERC spokesperson Marta Vilalta / Marc Puig