The Council of Ministers approved the creation of the State Research Agency, which responds to a demand from the scientific community contained in the Science, Technology and Innovation Act 2011.
The Vice-President of the Government, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, highlighted that its aim is to "foster research and the development of innovation in Spain", and that it constitutes "one of the most significant reforms of this legislature in this field".
The Minister for Economic Affairs and Competition, Luis de Guindos, added that the main goal of the agency "is to ensure more effective and more flexible funding of research while guaranteeing its control and a strict system of accountability".
The agency will provide greater stability to public subsidies for R&D, explained Luis de Guindos, because it will enable multi-year planning of its resources and will have "an independent evaluation system adapted to best international practices". This evaluation will be carried out taking into account the results obtained from the funding provided to the different research plans. It will also lead to a reduction in administrative burdens which, according to the minister, "will result in a much more flexible interaction between researchers".
Pool Moncloa / J. M. CuadradoLuis de Guindos highlighted that the agency will receive funding from both the General State Budget and from the private sector. He said that "its structure will also be very simple and with zero cost".
In this regard, he specified that it will have 300 professionals from the State Secretariat for R&D+i, and it will manage "approximately 75% of all the non-financial credit resources" provided to the agency. It is scheduled to be up and running in 2016.
The minister reviewed the actions in the field of R&D+i during the course of this term of office and pointed out that "the latest milestone was the approval of the Higher Council for Scientific Research (Spanish acronym: CSIC) management programme", the research flagship" in Spain. "It has never had a strategic plan, which is surprising, and hence, this will be the first time that a government has approved a strategic plan for the CSIC", he underlined.
Electronic communications in the Administration of Justice
The Council of Ministers established the procedures so that, as from 1 January 2016, all communications made by legal professionals - lawyers, court attorneys and other social graduates - will be exclusively electronic. The Royal Decree will apply to the regional territory covered by the Ministry of Justice (Castile-Leon, Castile-La Mancha, Murcia, the Balearic Islands, Extremadura, and Ceuta and Melilla) and in all the legal jurisdictions: civil, criminal, administrative and employment.
The Minister for Justice, Rafael Catalá, explained that, at present, lawyers, court attorneys and other social graduates must present documents physically, during office hours and to the corresponding jurisdictional body. In contrast, under the new electronic system, these professionals can send documents from their office 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Pool Moncloa / J. M. CuadradoElectronic communications will also be used for notifications sent from courts to different bodies that are party to proceedings. Rafael Catalá pointed out that the system must also be operational by 2017 for State law enforcement agency records, and will also be extended to notaries and registrars.
The Minister for Justice highlighted the savings to be made under this initiative in terms of time, administrative burdens and the use of paper, which he estimated amount to some 70 million euros a year for the General State Administration alone. According to the minister, the new system will provide security, will have a lower impact on the environment than at present and will improve access to justice for persons with disabilities.
Towards a digital justice system
Rafael Catalá framed this measure within the process of the modernisation of justice that has taken place in this term of office. The application of new technologies will allow parents, for example, to record births in the civil registry directly from the hospital, and that the administrative division courts of the Spanish National High Court now only operate electronically.
The minister also mentioned that judicial auctions are held electronically, the possibility of citizens consulting their case files via the Electronic Judicial Office, access by public authorities to the Central Register of Criminal Offenders and the automatic dispatch of information on gender-based violence from the judicial bodies of the Region of Madrid.
Rafael Catalá pointed out that the Ministry of Justice has invested 276 million euros and has trained 9,500 civil servants in what is a "major cultural change" that will present "substantial new features" as from 1 January. He also underlined the signing of agreements and periodic meetings with the regional governments to coordinate actions in this field and thus ensure the operation of a system that goes "one more step" towards digital justice that is brought much closer to our citizens.
Renewal of vehicle fleet
Pool Moncloa / J. M. CuadradoThe government approved the Plan to Boost Mobility with Alternative Energy Vehicles (Spanish acronym: MOVEA), which regulates the direct granting of subsidies for the purchase of alternative energy vehicles in 2016 and unifies State aid under one plan contained in the MOVELLE and PIMA Aire Programmes. Furthermore, another new feature is the implementation of rapid and semi-rapid recharge points for electric vehicles in public access areas.
The Vice-President of the Government explained that the initiative, with a provision of 16.6 million euros, seeks to boost sustainability, reduce contaminating emissions and diversify energy sources in the transport sector, thus reducing dependency on petrol.
Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría specified that these subsidies will be allocated to the direct acquisition, leasing or renting of new vehicles that use electricity, liquid petroleum gas, compressed or liquefied natural gas, or hydrogen fuel cells as their means of propulsion, as well as for electric motorcycles and electric motor-assisted bicycles. Petrol and diesel vehicles are excluded from the plan.
The amount of the subsidies varies according to the category of vehicle, the type of fuel and the maximum authorised weight. In the case of electric vehicles, it depends on their range. The amounts go from 200 euros to 20,000 euros. On a general basis, applications can be made from 1 January 2016 to 15 October 2016.
On another note, the government has agreed to extend the PIVE 8 Plan until funds run out or until 31 July 2016. The PIVE [Programme to Incentivise Efficient Vehicles] Plan has had eight rounds of aid between 2012 and 2015, with a total payout on the part of the State of 1.12 billion euros.
Once the present round is concluded, it will have resulted in the replacement of a total of 1,185,000 old vehicles for the same number of new vehicles and a reduction in emissions of 850,000 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, thanks to the greater energy efficiency of the new vehicles.
Reform of the public administrations services
Pool Moncloa / J. M. CuadradoThe Council of Ministers received the quarterly report monitoring the measures taken by the Commission for the Reform of the Public Administration Services, which, according to the Vice-President of the Government, also serves as a global balance of the actions undertaken in this field to date.
Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría pointed out that the measures have led to a saving of 30.34 billion euros for the public authorities and 3.07 billion euros for citizens and companies. She also underlined that the reform has led to the elimination of 2,305 public corporations and bodies and that 86% of the measures proposed have been implemented. Among other figures, she quoted the 5 million electronic invoices received by 7,700 administrative bodies and the 40 million exchanges that have taken place on the information platform with access to the public authorities.
In the same field, the government has approved a new raft of measures to reduce administrative burdens and improvements in the regulations. These span seven ministerial departments and range from the simplification of procedures at the Spanish Patents and Trademarks Office and electronic bureaucracy in such varied areas as animal transportation, gaming and various registries, pointed out the Vice-President of the Government. Moreover, it has boosted the "citizen file" at the General Access Point, a private area where citizens can consult the status of their files and access personalised information in regard to their relations with public authorities.
Exceptional aid to dairy sector
The government regulated the granting of exceptional aid allocated to offset the economic difficulties in the dairy sector. The Vice-President of the Government pointed out that the aim is to provide short-term liquidity to producers so that "their operations can remain open, while the rest of the medium- and long-term measures take effect and prices in the international markets recover".
Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría explained that Spain will allocate more than 25.5 million euros to the dairy sector from the European Commission funds earmarked to this end, in addition to 20 million euros charged to the State Budget, aimed at livestock farmers who have suffered the worst effects of the crisis. The two sources of funding together amount to additional liquidity of 45.53 million euros for operations in the dairy farming sector.
- Approval of distribution of 114.3 million euros to fund the Rural Development Programmes of the Regional Governments.
- Collaboration agreements between the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport, Red.es and the Regional Governments of La Rioja, the Canary Islands, Asturias, Galicia and Castile-La Mancha to extend access to ultrafast broadband at educational institutions, with an investment of 67.19 million euros.
- Authorisation of public tender for the first phase of the integration of the High-Speed Rail Line in Leon.
Pool Moncloa / J. M. CuadradoThe Vice-President of the Government announced that, given that the Regional Government of Catalonia has started to meet the conditions established, the region will receive today more than 300 million euros corresponding to the ordinary Regional Liquidity Fund (Spanish acronym: FLA). Of this sum, almost 110 million euros are allocated to the direct payment of suppliers in the healthcare sector, the pharmaceutical sector (101 million euros) and healthcare agreements (7.1 million euros). In order to proceed to the transfer of the remaining amounts under the FLA, "it will be sufficient to continue meeting the conditions", added the Government Spokesperson.
As regards Spain's participation in the international initiatives to combat Jihadi terrorism, the Government Spokesperson reiterated that "there is no further news" on this issue: our country is very active in complex theatres, and has always met the requests for aid "made to us", acting with parliamentary support and coordinated at a national and international level, because on these issues, she highlighted, "our unity helps weaken terrorists; the unity of all of us who are on the side of civilisation weakens those on the side of barbarism".
As regards the debate on Atresmedia in which Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría will participate with the leaders of PSOE, Ciudadanos and Podemos, the Vice-President of the Government said that this "is one more debate" and that the government and the party that supports it are "a team" and as such will share out the tasks and decide on who will go where.
The Minister for Economic Affairs and Competition, Luis de Guindos, stressed that in collaboration with the Regional Government of Andalusia, the government will continue to act in a "constructive" manner to resolve the difficulties of the company Abengoa, a business project which in his opinion, is "important and viable". To that end, it is necessary to analyse "the accounting and real debt situation" of the group, he concluded.