Failed budgets can bring down a government, as has just been seen in Portugal, and this decisive circumstance makes negotiating the accounts much more political than economic. That is why sometimes its approval depends on something completely unrelated to the Budgets, as has happened in this case with ERC and the future audiovisual law in which the Government is working. The last minute agreement that prevented Esquerra from requesting the return of the accounts this Friday has not clarified much about the content of that law, beyond the commitment of the PSOE to negotiate the text exclusively with the independence group.
Once again, the linguistic issue has become a key part of a budget negotiation. Last year it was ERC’s demand to suppress the mandatory nature of Spanish as a vehicular language in Catalan classrooms and this was the claim to reserve a quota – up to 7% has been spoken – on large platforms such as Netflix or HBO for productions in co-official languages. That was the main obstacle that was about to make the negotiation fail until five minutes before the deadline for the presentation of amendments to the Budgets expired.
The agreement is very minimal, so much so that in reality what it refers to is another future agreement. The PSOE has promised to negotiate the law with ERC. As the support of the Republican group seems essential, its spokesman, Gabriel Rufián, tried to make it clear in the press room of Congress: either there is a quota or the Government will not have someone to approve the law with.
Esquerra later distributed a text on its agreements with the PSOE that points out that “the best formulas will be sought to guarantee a percentage” of Catalan, Galician and Basque on the large audiovisual platforms. Minutes after Rufián, the deputy spokesman for the socialist group, Felipe Sicilia, took over in the press room, and the version changed slightly. Sicilia at all costs avoided talking about “quotas” and only alluded to the Government’s desire to “protect and improve the diversity of languages” in Spain.
The perseverance of ERC and the rest of the nationalists in demanding a mandatory percentage for the co-official languages - as it is foreseen for Spanish – has hitherto run into the Government, and more specifically, with the one responsible for drawing up the audiovisual law, the first vice president, Nadia Calviño. The also Minister of Economy is reluctant to impose that quota because she believes that it could endanger investments in Spain by large companies. ERC argues that it is not only a linguistic issue, but also an economic one, since the sector employs almost 27,000 people in Catalonia and generates 6,702 million euros.
The ERC spokesperson stressed with great emphasis that his group “has never spoken with Calviño” and that their negotiations have been through the ministers of the Presidency, Félix Bolaños, and of Finance, María Jesús Montero. Rufián’s forcefulness to deny any dialogue with the first vice president, in full conflict with the second vice president, Yolanda Díaz, for the labor reform, fell badly in the Government. Sources from the Calviño department responded to the ERC spokesperson that the Executive’s negotiators act “with the arguments and approval of all the ministries, in this case also of the first vice presidency.”
The audiovisual law was one of the reasons alleged by another independence group, Junts, to, in their case, present a request for the return of the Budgets. But neither the Government had the slightest hope of counting on the support of Carles Puigdemont’s party nor does it need it any longer after the positions expressed by ERC and the PNV. Another thing will be the negotiations for the audiovisual law, which will be at the expense of the nationalists. The two Basque groups, PNV and EH Bildu, in addition to the Galician deputy of the BNG, have avoided placing this question in the conversations on the Budgets. But all of them are as categorical as ERC in warning that the law will not go ahead with their support if a quota of productions in Catalan, Galician and Basque is not clearly established.
Minimum vital income
Both the PNV and ERC were not begging to desist from their threat to block the Budgets, but neither did they stop pressing the Government in the negotiation against the clock. The party president himself, Andoni Ortuzar, joined the public pressure with a message on Twitter early in the morning of this Friday in which he warned that there were only hours left for the closing of the deadline for submitting amendments and that his group did not rule out registering one.
Like ERC, the Basque nationalists put on the table a matter unrelated to the Budgets: the transfer to Euskadi of the management of the minimum vital income, an unfulfilled promise of the Government. The PNV had already reached an agreement on this matter in May 2020. It was then announced that the transfer would materialize that same October.
But the matter was delayed and the PNV always blamed it on the “closure” of the Minister of Inclusion and Social Security, José Luis Escrivá. Ortuzar attacked Escrivá two weeks ago with singular harshness. “A minister, in addition to technical knowledge, has to know the minimum rudiments of the office of politics. But Escrivá, the day they gave politics in his career, he made a pyre “, declared the president of the PNV Basque newspaper. This time, the nationalists say they have obtained guarantees that there will be no further delays and that the transfer will take place at the end of the year or the beginning of the next.
The 2020 agreement established that the Basque Country and Navarra would assume the entire part of the National Social Security Institute that manages the minimum income. The pact contemplated that it could be supplemented with the social income already paid by the Basque Government, as long as the limits set in it are not exceeded.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.