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CATALAN POLITICS

ERC moves toward deal allowing CiU to form stable government

Republican Left accepts need for austerity on path to independence for the region

The Catalan Republican Left (ERC), which emerged as the second political force in last month’s regional elections, is continuing to hold talks with the center-right nationalist CiU group aimed at allowing the latter to form a stable government.

Both groups campaigned on an agenda of independence for Catalonia but, coming as they do from opposing ends of the political spectrum, would seem on paper to make strange bedfellows. The ERC rejected an initial overture from CiU leader and acting premier Artur Mas for a coalition government.

However, ERC sources say the two sides are moving closer together on the crucial issue of next year’s budget for the region, which needs to include estimated cuts of four billion euros to meet the deficit-reduction target set by Madrid. The ERC publically acknowledges the “enormous economic difficulty Catalonia is going through.”

“The improvement in the receptiveness [of CiU] has been impressive,” the ERC official responsible for communication and strategy, Oriol Amorós, said Monday. “There are taxes [on the table] that before the elections you couldn´t speak about.”

Amorós said the ERC wants to achieve the “fairest budget possible” under the circumstances, but wants to reassure itself that “there will be no ideological cutbacks.” The ERC campaigned against cuts to health and education under the current administration led by Mas.

The ERC wants to reduce the burden placed on spending cuts to achieve the deficit figure by increasing some taxes, possibly including the reintroduction of inheritance duties. In order to justify spending cuts to its followers, the ERC wants a clear agreement with the CiU on the path to be taken on a referendum on independence for the region. “This is a budget of transition toward independence,” Amorós said.

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