April 28, 2016
What took them so long?
Relations between the Spanish government and the Catalan regional government appear to be thawing. After nearly two years without an official meeting, last week Mariano Rajoy received Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont who presented him a long list of demands. Today, their respective deputies will meet to discuss the Catalan government's requests on social and fiscal policy, and the mutual invasion of competences. Some progress appears to have been made since on reducing the recourse to mutual challenges before Spain's constitutional court, as the Catalan PP leader Xavier García Albiol told the press a joint committee of the Spanish and Catalan governments which also hadn't operated for years had reached agreement on a number of issues to avoid constitutional court challenges, including the transformation of the Catalan finance institute into a bank, a Catalan child protection service, or a Catalan project to reduce red tape. On the other hand, just last weekend the central government raised another three constitutional challenges, on taxing empty homes, on local government, and an equality law, based on the argument that they encroach central government competences.
Why now? The timing of these meetings is rather odd, with the government in a caretaker capacity. La Información guesses that the PP government wants to signal its readiness for a dialogue at a time when the other major political news in Spain is the failure of the opposition to agree on a government. On the Catalan side, the fiscal position of the regional government is precarious, and its finance counsellor Oriol Junqueras had earlier arranged a hasty meeting with Luis de Guindos to discuss the situation. So, the Catalan government has an interest in the normalisation of relations. But Junqueras, who doubles as Puigdemont's deputy, is not optimistic that progress will be made at his meeting with Rajoy's deputy Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría today.