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Catalonia snubs meeting on regional finances

"Everything has been decided,” complains Catalan government spokesman Francesc Homs

The economic commissioner of the Catalan regional government, Andrew Mas-Colell, refused to attend a meeting of the Council for Fiscal and Financial Policy on Tuesday chaired by Finance Minister Cristóbal Montoro as a protest against austerity measures imposed by Madrid.

“It doesn’t make any sense to attend a meeting in which everything has been decided,” Catalan government spokesman Francesc Homs said Tuesday.

Catalonia has said it will join Valencia and Murcia in asking for a bailout from the central government, as it has run out of funds to pay its debts. Madrid has said regions accepting a bailout will have to accept stringent conditions on reducing spending and their deficit, and has threatened to take over the reins of their finances if they fail to meet their targets.

Homs argued that since the European Commission had agreed to give Spain more time to bring its public deficit back within the European Union ceiling of 3 percent of GDP, Madrid should do likewise with the regions because their financial situation is unsustainable.

The central government has ordered the regions to reduce their budget deficit to 1.5 percent of GDP this year. Brussels agreed a deficit target for Spain for this year of 6.3 percent of GDP instead of the initial figure of 5.3 percent. The target for next year is 4.5 percent, with the 3-percent goal to be met in 2014.