April 14, 2021

The coronavirus crisis freezes the government’s legislative plans

The coronavirus crisis threatens to push ahead the legislative agenda foreseen by the coalition government for the first semester of 2020. Pedro Sánchez’s executive was planning to move forward up to 92 bills throughout the year. Approximately half of them, in the first semester. But the unstoppable spread of the disease COVID19 has scuttled these plans, at least for now, and has pushed the government to enact a state of alarm. The situation could even affect the General Budgets, whose approval was announced before the summer.

The Government of PSOE and Unidas Podemos had set its legislative priorities for this first year at the meeting held by the ministers at the Quintos de Mora farm, in Toledo, in early February. There, it was defined which laws would go first and which later, with an approximation of the dates by which the rules should be ready.

The plans have been carried out until last week, when the Sexual Freedom bill was passed. The fight that began within the Executive did not prevent the introduction of the “only yes is yes” into the Penal Code, as the Prime Minister had requested, from taking its first step in the week of 8M. Along with this project, the Council of Ministers also approved the Education Council.

But the situation in recent days has changed the forecasts. Last Tuesday, the Council of Ministers approved a special package of measures aimed at tackling the problem of home evictions. Changes that were not foreseen in the initial agreement signed by Pedro Sánchez and the leader of Unidas Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, and which gave more protection to the most vulnerable people.

The government spokeswoman, María Jesús Montero, announced the measures last Tuesday at the usual press conference after the Council of Ministers. But the appearance was nothing unusual. Along with her, the Minister of Health, Salvador Illa, responded to the journalists. By then, the Community of Madrid and the Executive had agreed, not without differences between them, to close the educational centers in the region, which brings together half of the cases of coronavirus diagnosed in Spain.

The same Tuesday night, after an extraordinary meeting of the Eurogroup, Pedro Sánchez appeared from the Moncloa to send a message of calm and report on the measures that his Government was going to take. The president returned to address the Spanish on Thursday, after an extraordinary Council of Ministers that approved a first package of shock measures aimed at alleviating the social and economic effects of the coronavirus crisis. This Friday, Sánchez announced the state of alarm for the entire country.

This Saturday will open an unprecedented period in the history of Spain. A state of alarm had never been decreed before, except for the specific case of the 2010 air traffic controllers strike. But then the mission entrusted was to restore and ensure air traffic. Now, it is about avoiding the spread of the virus, preventing the collapse of the health system and guarantee the basic supplies of the most affected population.

In this context, various government sources consulted by eldiario.es confirm the impossibility of maintaining the plans, at least in the short term. No one dares to anticipate which part of the agenda will or will not be maintained. Nor, of course, how long the current situation will last.

For example, the Child Protection Bill coordinated by Pablo Iglesias was almost ready. Currently, there is no approval date in the Council of Ministers.

But there are more cases. One of the first measures of the coalition was the declaration of the climate emergency with the commitment to implement measures to reduce CO2 emissions in 2050 within 100 days. The text, which is now ready, was due to reach the Cortes in March.

At the labor level, the Minister of Labor, Yolanda Díaz, finalizes the details of the measures announced in favor of the self-employed. At the moment, it is also unclear when it can be approved, since the department is now focused on adapting the legislation to the complicated situation in which the labor market is due to the impact of the coronavirus.

Along with these projects, the processing of the 2020 General Budgets is also in the air. Spain maintains the 2018 ones extended and the President of the Government committed himself to his inauguration, and then, to take the project to Congress with enough time so that were approved before summer.

But the deadlines are running out. Although the Minister of Finance, María Jesús Montero, insisted last Tuesday that the plan is maintained, the economic impact that the coronavirus crisis is already having may ruin the budget plans of the Government and its parliamentary allies. This same Monday there will be a meeting of the Eurogroup that will set new limits on the deficit and the indebtedness of the euro countries. At the moment, there are two positions: the States that are betting on just opening their hands a little and those that, like France or Italy, ask to take advantage to lift the toughest restrictions of the stability pact. Spain, for the moment, is in the first group.

Be that as it may, the reality is that the coronavirus has disarmed the initial plans of the Government, which now must concentrate all its efforts on tackling a crisis that may underpin the legislature or spoil it. It will depend on how the measures, the times and their communication are managed.


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