The Government manages to put the legislature on track with a Budget pact that it has ended with ERC and that revolves around an increasingly consolidated majority of the legislature. From here, and with the pension reform already lined up with the support of that same majority – although without the agreement of the employers – the Executive concentrates on the complex negotiations of the labor reform, which are now accelerating, to reach the final of the year with the two main objectives promised to Brussels approved: the rise in contributions of 0.6 points that replaces the repealed sustainability factor of the last reform of the PP in 2013 and the great change in the regulation of the labor market to reduce the temporality and rebalance the negotiation between unions and employers.
The Executive still has many challenges ahead, it is experiencing internal discussions about how to face, for example, the social protests in Cádiz or the imminent mobilization of the police against the gag law, and it is still behind in some of the polls published recently, but at least in Parliament the situation is much more comfortable than could be expected with a majority as heterogeneous as the one that gave the investiture to Pedro Sánchez. Since then – January 7 is two years old – the 167 yeses that the president had have grown and these Budgets could reach 188 votes, because some important parties such as ERC (13) and Bildu (5) have passed from the abstention of then to the yes of now. And also the PDeCAT has joined, which with its four seats returns to support the Budgets after a negotiation with the Treasury. ERC’s approach to the Commons, allies in the Executive since they are within United Podemos, is also seen in La Moncloa as good news to consolidate the majority and avoid the uncertainty that independence always generates. The “fright” of a possible arrival of PP and Vox to La Moncloa as an alternative to this majority also has its effect, as admitted by Gabriel Rufían, ERC spokesman.
The political and especially the economic situation are far from offering guarantees of a second part of the placid legislature, but the Executive aspires to celebrate at the end of the year, if it manages to agree on the labor reform with unions and employers, a much better situation than the that could be imagined when, in the middle of a pandemic, it suffered to carry out the states of alarm. Other controversial reforms, such as the memory law, which ERC is reluctant to support if there is not a partial repeal of the amnesty law that the PSOE discards completely, go into the background and do not seem absolutely priority for the Executive as the reform labor.
The satisfaction of the Government was very evident after closing the agonizing agreement with ERC, focused on the audiovisual law and the mandatory quota of 6% of production in Catalan, although the concern over the drift of the protests in Cádiz and the controversy over the use of A police tank was evident, but the spokeswoman, Isabel Rodríguez, tried to satisfy both parties, protesters and police: “Our sensitivity is with the feelings of the workers in the Bay of Cádiz. Let’s face a reindustrialization, which requires major transformations, to respond to the unease of these workers, “he said on the one hand, and on the other:” We respect the work of the State security forces and we know that they do it with the weighting required. Always trust in the State security forces and bodies ”.
The negotiation with ERC was closed at the last moment before the vote, as almost always, with a pact on the audiovisual law that also implied an agreement on Budgets. The Executive is on the way to adding about 190 favorable votes to the Budgets, well above those it would need to carry them out, after keeping intact the support that had already allowed it to carry out the accounts of last year.
The agreement with ERC contemplates the obligation to include a quota for official languages of 6% of the content offered on audiovisual platforms, according to sources from the pro-independence formation and the Executive, somewhat below the 7% initially claimed by the Republicans. Among the concessions taken by ERC in exchange for its support to the Budgets, there is also the paralysis of the reforms planned at the headquarters of the Higher Police Headquarters in Via Laietana, in Barcelona. Esquerra wants to turn the building into a “memory center” because it was the place where the Francoist police held and tortured the militants against the dictatorship.
ERC has negotiated very hard knowing that the Socialists needed their 13 votes to approve the Budgets. The interpretation made by the independentistas of the consequences that the agreement will have for large productions is very clear. “Out of 100 Netflix movies, 30 have to be European productions; of these, half in the language of the State [castellano]; of these, 40% in Catalan, Basque or Galician. In other words, 20% of European films must be in Catalan, Galician or Basque. 20% of the European catalog. If the content that is offered is available, dubbed or subtitled in a co-official language, it must be included in the offer ”, indicate the Republicans. Again, language has been the key to unlocking Budgets with ERC. Last year it was the treatment of Catalan as a vehicular language in the education law, and this year it has been the audiovisual law. In addition, there are agreements on infrastructures and common investments in this type of budgetary agreement, but the key is in the audiovisual law. Furthermore, it has been agreed that RTVE, which already had a 50% share of European work broadcast, must reserve a minimum of 15% of its annual broadcast time for works in one of the co-official languages.
The Government will establish tax incentives to prevent the mandatory quota for co-official languages from scaring off large platforms, the reason why the Executive was more reluctant to meet the demands of the independentists. In addition, there will be public money to support this agreement: 10% of the ICAA Film Protection Fund will be dedicated to financing productions in co-official languages. The autonomies will also establish dubbing help lines in these languages, and the State will also promote them. Pedro Sánchez’s Cabinet wants to turn Spain into a large European film production center and the Ministry of Economy, responsible for audiovisual law, feared that this quota would be a problem for large multinationals that already have important projects in Spain, such as Netflix.
The negotiations have been arduous and lengthy. “I have slept little tonight,” said Rufián to underline it when he appeared in Congress to announce the agreement. “It has been difficult. The PSOE must always be forced. We do not say it, United We can also say it ”. Regardless of the audiovisual law, the agreement not to carry out further reforms in the Via Laietana police station holds strong symbolism for the Republicans, who will continue to insist on its conversion into a memory center. Other concessions started by ERC are the realization of a Social Security audit and different investments and transfers to Catalonia worth 50 million euros. Rufián explained the agreements accompanied by representatives of EH Bildu, who the day before had also announced his favorable vote on the accounts.
The Executive has also closed the support of the four PDeCAT deputies. “We were not essential, but we were significant for the Government,” explained its spokesman, Ferran Bel. The demands of this group, the most temperate of the independence bloc, were above all local investments and the commitment that non-profit entities that provide social and health services -very widespread in Catalonia- will be able to access European funds. Who has not yet announced their agreement is the PNV, although its support is discounted. The Basque nationalists were still negotiating with the Government on Tuesday some of their demands.
Of the groups on the left, in addition to the CUP, which rarely supports the government, only the BNG has taken down again. The only deputy of the Galician nationalists, Néstor Rego, who voted against last year’s accounts, will abstain this time after failing to achieve a compromise for the public intervention of Alcoa’s factory in crisis, in A Mariña (Lugo). Más País (two deputies) and Compromís, Nueva Canarias, Regionalist Party of Cantabria and Teruel Existe, with one each, will complete the endorsements for the Executive. The voting of the first sections of the Budgets begins this Tuesday electronically and will continue until Thursday. That day the text will be ready for later examination in the Senate and its final approval in Congress before the end of the year.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.