The Lehendakari submits to the Provincial Councils and EUDEL 6 measures based on the “special nature of our self-government” to “strengthen the Basque Country” and emerge from the crisis
Following the meeting, the Lehendakari called on the President of the Government to arrange an "urgent" meeting of the Economic Agreement Mixed Commission
The Lehendakari, Patxi Lopez, submitted six specific measures to the Basque Provincial Councils and EUDEL to "adopt decisions jointly and severally" in order to help "to strengthen the Basque Country and emerge from the crisis", in view of the economic cuts proposed by the central government. Lopez expressed his gratitude for the willingness of the presidents of the provincial councils and EUDEL to "collaborate" at a meeting held this morning at the Lehendakaritza, which he described as of one of "mutual trust". The Lehendakari emphasised that the cuts will be made in compliance with the "special nature of our self-government". This means that the 5% cut in the salaries of civil servants will be made on the wage bill and not on bonuses, and that the provincial councils will decide whether town halls can get into debt over the next two years. The Lehendakari telephoned the President of the Government, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, calling on him to convene an "urgent" meeting of the Economic Agreement Mixed Commission. The Lehendakari considered the accusations levelled against him of "bowing" to the proposals of the Central Government as "unfounded criticism" in view of the fact that, even in the case of "compulsory measures, the Mixed Commission is convened in order to adopt our decisions, according to our own capacity for self-government.
This afternoon, the Lehendakari, Patxi Lopez, asked the President of the Government, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, to call an urgent meeting of the Economic Agreement Mixed Commission to determine what proportion of the 1200 million deficit attributed by the central government to the autonomous communities corresponds to the Basque Country.
The Lehendakari explained that the Basque Government is going to "lend a hand" in order to "cut expenditure and reduce the deficit", but will do this "in accordance with their own capacity for self government" and for this reason has demanded that Zapatero call a meeting of the mixed commission "at any time and on any day". Lopez considered that these accusations are "unfounded" as "the Basque Government does not bow to the authority of the central government. Even in the case of obligatory measures, the Mixed Commission is convened to adopt decisions in accordance with our own capacity for self government".
Following this morning's meeting at the Lehendakaritza with the presidents of the Provincial Councils of Bizkaia, Jose Bilbao, of Gipuzkoa, Markel Olano, of Alava, Xabier Agirre, and the President of EUDEL, Jokin Bildarraitz, in the afternoon, the Lehendakari held a press conference in Bilbao to set out the 6 specific measures he has submitted to other institutions in order to "jointly and severally accept" decisions that help to "strengthen the Basque Country and emerge from the crisis". The Lehendakari described the meeting as one of "mutual trust" and highlighted the atmosphere of "collaboration" among all parties.
After pointing out that the situation of the Basque economy is "better" than other autonomous communities because in the Basque Country our institutions adopted measures to promote "austerity and saving" in 2009 and 2010, the Lehendakari gave details of the measures designed to "curb expenditure and reduce the public debt of the Basque Country, taking into account the special nature" of Basque self-government. In this way, Lopez has proposed a 5% reduction in the total wage bill of civil servants in 2010 and the "compulsory" freezing of these salaries for 2011, in accordance with the salary allocation affected by the Decree of the central government. It is intended to extend this proposal to the staff of public companies. For senior posts, the proposed cuts will be "above the highest reduction applied to civil servants". Moreover, the Lehendakari has proposed "to rationalise public companies through the formation of groups, mergers or other formulas". This would involve "adjusting" staffing numbers and avoiding the duplications of jobs and responsibilities in order to provide government workers with stable employment by reducing the percentage of part-time workers and interns.
The "special nature" of Basque self-government is also behind the wish of town halls not to comply with the law forbidding them from getting into debt over the next two years, in view of the fact that, as Lopez explained, this issue does not affect Basque town halls.
The area in which the Lehendakari is not going to make any cuts are the social services as a search will be made for formulas to adapt to the current budgetary situation and to the sustainability of the system to guarantee "the level and quality" of these services. The Lehendakari emphasised that, "There will be no reductions of recognised rights" and pointed to the possibility of considering child benefit "a fiscal cost".
The Lehendakari asked the provincial councils and EUDEL to make "special" efforts in the fight not only against tax fraud but also benefit fraud, which he described as being "unacceptable".
Basque Public Policies Council
In addition to the Economic Agreement Mixed Commission, the Lehendakari announced the calling of the Basque Public Policies Council, a body envisaged in the future Municipal Law as being the appropriate forum for analysing public policies and for taking decisions on the "sustainability of these services".
With regard to a tax increase for higher incomes, the Lehendakari called for the reform of the fiscal system in order to introduce "measures that allow other sectors of society to contribute their share of solidarity and sacrifice in order to resolve the crisis". This reform would be examined by the Taxation Coordination Body.
With regard to investments, the Lehendakari confirmed that those investments that have already been budgeted "will not be affected". Should "additional resources" be obtained, moreover, these would used to make investments in order to stimulate the economy.
"Calm and trust"
With this proposal on the table, the Lehendakari rejected the criticisms received by the three provincial councils that accuse him of "bowing" to the measures adopted by President Zapatero. Lopez reiterated that "the Basque Government does not bow to the authority of the central government. Even in the case of obligatory measures, the Mixed Commission meets in order to adopt our own decisions in accordance with our own capacity for self government".
Lastly, the Lehendakari sent a message of "calm and trust in the Basque economy and society" and declared that the worst of the crisis was now over. "The end is now in sight", he added.