The economy collapses up to figures only comparable to the Civil War, COVID-19 infections soar with the “new normal” and Pedro Sánchez exhibits his epidemiological optimism at the Conference of Presidents, after a coup and a bilateral negotiation without light or stenographers with the Basque Government to prevent the summit, the first face-to-face of the pandemic, from being a fiasco.
Sánchez urges communities to hire trackers and to act “with rigor” against leisure that generates new outbreaks
An hour before the appointment began, the Moncloa surprise announced the attendance of the lehendakari –That he had threatened not to attend–, while at the same time realizing an agreement on the deficit path and the debt capacity of the Basque institutions. Thus, he managed to cushion the Catalan squad Quim Torra, who was the only one of the 17 presidents who did not attend the conclave, although it caused a general feeling of grievance among the rest of the attendees, who did not overlook the “price paid” by the Executive to avoid the failure of the appointment. Still, during the meeting no one mentioned the matter, not even the PP’s territorial leaders, who did complain about the differential treatment of Euskadi, the result of its particular fiscal and legal status, during their subsequent press appearances.
It was the case of the Galician Alberto Núñez Feijóo, who during the meeting showed his most moderate facet and avoided the matter. But once out He demanded that “if there are fiscal rules for an autonomous community” to prepare the budgets for 2021, the rest of the autonomies should know theirs as well. The Minister of Territorial Policy and Public Function, Carolina Darias, announced in an appearance before the media at the end of the conference that the Government will convene in September the Council for Fiscal and Financial Policy, the body where the Minister of Finance and her autonomous counterparts set precisely the budgetary path for the communities.
“I hope that the Government has understood the message and we will return to institutional and political normality as soon as possible,” PNV president Andoni Ortuzar rejoiced hours after closing the agreement, and after defending that the Basque Country “is not just another autonomous community “but” a nation “that has” a special regime of self-government “. Along these same lines, he urged Sánchez to “comply with the legal system” in order to “first guarantee the bilateral relationship” and “then speak of our participation in multilateral forums” such as the Conference of Presidents.
As an autonomous socialist president ironized in conversation with this newspaper, the PNV is in Spanish politics what Germany is in football: a game of 11 against 11 in which it always wins. Not in vain, after assessing the economic impact and the decrease in income due to the fall in economic activity, the Basque and Spanish governments agreed on a deficit target of 2.6%, about 1.7 billion euros, an amount with which The Basque Country believes that it will be enough to offset the decline.
The agreement includes the commitment to convene the Mixed Commission of the Economic Agreement the “first fortnight of September”. The concretion of this date was the condition imposed by Urkullu to go to the La Rioja forum. The entity also sets the Basque public debt at 2020 at 15.9% for 2020 and states that, “in the event of a significant change in macroeconomic forecasts not attributable to discretionary directions” of the Basque Country, “they may be agreed upon in the Mixed Commission new objectives of budgetary stability “.
The three Basque Provincial Councils, for their part, will have their own system and will have the ability to use surpluses and remnants and will be compensated in the event that their reduction in income is greater than these.
Sánchez thus guaranteed not only Urkullu’s presence at the Conference of Presidents, but also brought Basque nationalism closer to the negotiation for the General Budgets that the Government wants to take the Lower House next September if Torra does not finally call elections in October.
For the rest, the bulk of the appointment that the Government took to San Millán de la Cogolla (La Rioja), revolved around the debate on the distribution of European funds, the epidemiological situation after the rebound in the contagions by COVID-19 and the possibility that the autonomies will receive in 2021 a new non-reimbursable fund from the State to face the economic reconstruction of their territories. The latter matter to which the Prime Minister did not close and which the PP will make, according to the interventions of its barons, as a condition for the Government to sit down and talk about the General State Budgets.
Sánchez’s constructive tone and optimism about the epidemiological situation
The tone of the appointment was, according to present sources, “good and constructive” by everyone. There was, however, no more specificity than Sánchez’s verbal commitment to allocate European funds to mitigate social and territorial inequality and the decision to condition the delivery of part of them to the Communities on the presentation of finalist projects. It is the first time, in fact, that a Conference of Presidents – beyond the previous 14 that had the sole objective of exchanging information on the health crisis – has been concluded without a written agreement. In fact, neither preparatory to the meeting was held nor was there an exchange of documents with the demands of the territories.
The Government explained that, unlike other EU funds, the reconstruction “is not going to distribute funds” between administrations. “It is not about distributing funds. It is about how we are able to articulate national plans that we have to present to the EU,” in the words of Carolina Darias. Behind closed doors, Sánchez warned those present that “if any project selected in an autonomous community has an incidence of execution, it would affect and impact the execution of the rest of the existing projects linked to that axis”, which justifies, in his opinion of the Executive, the governance that they have decided to manage the fund, centralized in the president himself.
Thus, only Sánchez’s verbal commitment remained to assume first-hand the management of the Recovery Fund to face the coronavirus crisis through a new Interministerial Commission that will be created for this purpose, in addition to a “high-level group “to deal with” public-private collaboration “. It also announced a Monitoring Unit for the Recovery Fund in the Cabinet of the Presidency of the Government in Moncloa; a sectoral conference with the autonomous communities and cities, to be led by the Minister of Finance; and that the Recovery Fund will be introduced in the regular debates of the next presidents’ conferences. Local entities will also participate in the governance process, as announced.
What the assistants consulted by elDiario.es agree on is the optimism of the president regarding the epidemiological situation, despite the outbreaks and the high number of infections, and the confidence he showed that before the end of December there may be a coronavirus vaccine.
Only the Castilian-La Mancha Emiliano García Page emphasized the health aspect of the crisis and the need to articulate coordination mechanisms between administrations, while the Andalusian, the popular Juan Manuel Moreno Bonilla, complained about the lack of information provided by the Government regarding the funds that the autonomies will receive on how, when and how they will reach the territories. “We only know that it will be conditional aid,” he added.
The president of Madrid, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, complained for their part that they are going to be distributed in a “discretionary” manner and defended that it would be good if the autonomies had “an option to express an opinion” in this regard. This after censoring that the territorial leaders came to the meeting “with everything distributed and everything presented”, criticizing the lack of “an agenda with a protocol” for the summit and showing their rejection of the “deficit a la carte”, in clear allusion to the agreement with the Basque Country.