Rajoy rejects Catalan call for more fiscal powers

21 Sep 12
Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy has turned down calls for more fiscal independence for Catalonia, the country’s wealthiest autonomous region.

By Nick Mann | 21 September 2012

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy has turned down calls for more fiscal independence for Catalonia, the country’s wealthiest autonomous region.

At the end of talks with Catalan president Artur Mas yesterday, Rajoy said such an ‘economic accord’ was incompatible with the Spanish constitution.

‘The president of the government reiterated to Artur Mas his conviction that this extremely serious economic crisis will only be overcome through joint responsibility and cohesion, and never through division or institutional instability,’ his office said in a statement.

Last week, an estimated 1.5 million people took to the streets of the Catalan capital Barcelona to call for independence for the region. Critics of the current financial system claim Catalonia pays more in tax revenues than it receives back from central government. They want the region to be able to raise and spend its own taxes.

But Rajoy told Mas that ‘the instability generated by certain political initiatives has a highly negative effect on the recovery of confidence required for Spain to emerge from the economic crisis’.

Spain’s prime minister ‘reiterated his willingness to move forward with frank and loyal collaboration through dialogue that is sensitive to the diversity of Catalonia and Spain, and respectful of the legal framework, which is the primary requirement of any action taken by a governing figure’.

He also ‘favourably received’ the request made by the Catalan government last month for €5bn to be made available to service the region’s debt.

Mas said his meeting with Rajoy ‘did not go well’ despite the ‘fiscal pact’ being an ‘aspiration shared by practically the entire Catalan population’.

He criticised the ‘centralist-slanted’ interpretation of the Spanish constitution which was being used to rebuff Catalonia’s call for greater fiscal independence. ‘No legal framework can be used forever to cancel out the peaceful, democratic, majority will of a people,’ he said.

The Catalan president is now expected to call regional elections within the next few weeks to enable his Convergence and Union coalition government to push a more separatist policy agenda. Polls last week put support for Catalan independence at nearing 50% of the region’s population.

Mas stressed, however, that the region’s future lay within both the European Union and the eurozone. ‘Whatever decision we make, we will do it within the framework of Europe and the eurozone,’ he said, adding that ‘there can be no total separation’.

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