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Council of Ministers

Government challenges candidature of Carles Puigdemont to Presidency of the Regional Government of Catalonia before Constitutional Court

Moncloa Palace, Madrid, Friday 26 January 2018
Pool Moncloa/J.M. Cuadrado

The decision responds to the political commitment and constitutional duty to use all the legal instruments available in defence of democracy and the rule of law, claimed the Vice-President of the Government. The government also declared the Venezuelan Ambassador to Spain to be 'persona non grata' in strict application of the principle of reciprocity.

​The Council of Ministers agreed to challenge the resolution adopted by the President of the Regional Parliament of Catalonia, Roger Torrent, on 22 January in which the MP Carles Puigdemont was nominated as candidate to the Presidency of the Regional Government of Catalonia.

The Vice-President of the Government and Minister for the Presidency and for the Territorial Administrations, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, highlighted that the government has "a political commitment" and "a constitutional duty" to use all the legal instruments available to protect Spain, the rule of law and the constitutional and statutory legality in Catalonia, "with full respect for procedures".

"As the government, we must use all the instruments that the law and the Constitution have provided us with to avoid that someone who has voluntary fled justice, who has placed himself outside of the law and of the courts from illegally being invested, heads up a regional government", she declared. Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría recalled that Carles Puigdemont is subject to an arrest warrant in Spain for such serious criminal offences as rebellion, sedition, misuse of public funds, malfeasance and disobedience, "offences that he has refused to be held accountable for before the Supreme Court".

Sufficient legal arguments

The Vice-President of the Government pointed out that the government requested two reports from the Council of State: a mandatory report on challenging the resolution of the President of the Regional Parliament of Catalonia, and another consultative report to see its opinion on various issues, such as the delegation of the vote of those MPs who are absent from the regional parliament or outside the country, and the possibility of a an electronic investiture, an investiture without the presence of the candidate or an investiture by delegation of votes of those who are not present in the chamber.

The government, she explained, received the reports on Thursday. "The consultative report was favourable, and the mandatory but non-binding report shares the legal arguments but disagrees with the government on the timing". The Vice-President of the Government pointed out that the government respects the legal criteria of the Council of State, but considers that it has "sufficient legal arguments to take on the political commitment" to prevent Carles Puigdemont from continuing with his challenge to the rule of law.

In response to questions from the press, the Vice-President of the Government underlined that "we are living in unprecedented times" in our country, whereby someone is trying to be invested while subject to an arrest warrant. That is what the government wants to avoid, "this is the crux of the matter", she remarked.

Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría added that "taking into account that there are other MPs", it now falls to the President of the Regional Parliament of Catalonia to take the decision to push on with the nomination of a person who meets the requirements and is free to exercise the Presidency of the Regional Government of Catalonia.

Response to Venezuela

The Council of Ministers listened to a report from the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Alfonso Dastis, on the decision taken by the Government of Venezuela to declare the Spanish Ambassador in Caracas 'persona non grata'.

The Minister for Education, Culture and Sport and Government Spokesperson, Íñigo Méndez de Vigo, pointed out that "given a measure of this nature, the government responds proportionally, and has hence decided, in strict application of the principle of reciprocity, to declare the Venezuelan Ambassador to Spain 'persona non grata' ".

Íñigo Méndez de Vigo added that the government wishes to maintain relations with Venezuela based on respect, friendship and cooperation, a wish that the actions of the Government of Venezuela are complicating. He also stressed that the continuous "out of line" statements made by the President of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, against Mariano Rajoy will not mean that the government lets up in its defence of the fundamental rights, democracy and prosperity of all the people of Venezuela, within the framework of the European Union and of bilateral relations.

As regards the deadline for the Venezuelan Ambassador to Spain to leave our country, he specified that he will receive the same treatment at the Spanish Ambassador in Caracas of 72 hours. However, he clarified that the Venezuelan Ambassador is not in Spain because he was called back to his country for consultations.

Protection of policyholders

The Council of Ministers examined a report from the Minister for Economic Affairs, Industry and Competitiveness, Luis de Guindos, on the Draft Bill on the Distribution of Insurance and Reinsurance, which is in line with a transposition of an EU Directive.

The Government Spokesperson explained that the new legislation guarantees transparency, professionalism and competence, and protects private insurance users regardless of the operator of the policies. The text also establishes a new system for the disciplinary and sanction regime for breaches.

European system to guarantee human rights

The government submitted Protocol Number 15 amending the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights of the Council of Europe to Parliament, which contains measures, above all of a procedural nature, to improve the effectiveness of the European system to guarantee fundamental rights and freedoms.

Íñigo Méndez de Vigo pointed out that the Protocol strengthens the validity of the principle of subsidiarity, sets a term of four months to file claims and caters for the request from the European Court of Human Rights to unburden itself of less substantial issues.

Revision of spending on subsidies

The Council of Ministers approved the Action Plan to revise spending on subsidies by the Public Administration Services as a whole, drawn up by the Independent Authority for Fiscal Responsibility (Spanish acronym: AIREF).

The aim is for AIREF to audit this spending, a commitment contained in the Stability Programme 2017-2020, outlined the Minister for Education, Culture and Sport.

The Council of Ministers established the conditions on Friday under which this audit will be performed and the seven main areas to be studied: Central Government procedures, medication dispensed under a prescription, active employment policies, university grants, the promotion of R&D+i and talent, business competitiveness and the State company Correos y Telégrafos.

Transfer of shares in Abertis

The government authorised the transfer of shares from the company Abertis to the company Atlantia, which would take place in the event that the latter's takeover bid is accepted.

Íñigo Méndez de Vigo recalled that this is a regulated requirement and, if the bid made by Atlantia meets the legal conditions, the Council of Ministers has granted is authorisation thereto.

Appointment of José Luis Ayllón

The Council of Ministers agreed to appoint José Luis Ayllón as Chief of Staff of the Presidency of the Government. José Luis Ayllón has been State Secretary for Parliamentary Relations since December 2011.

The Council of Ministers also appointed Cristina Ysasi-Ysasmendi Pemán as Assistant Chief of Staff of the Presidency of the Government.

Application of Article 155

Following its ordinary meeting, the Council of Ministers held another meeting to adopt measures relating to the application of Article 155 of the Constitution in Catalonia, agreed by the Upper House of Parliament on 27 October 2017.

Confidence in Spanish economy

In his weekly assessment, the Government Spokesperson mentioned the figures from the Labour Force Survey (Spanish acronym: EPA) corresponding to the year 2017, which show an increase of 490,300 in the number of people in work. Íñigo Méndez de Vigo pointed out that most of these jobs are under permanent employment contracts, are full time and are in the private sector. He also highlighted that the unemployment rate now stands at 16.55%, the lowest rate since 2008.

"These employment figures confirm the good results of the economic policy carried out over recent years, principally based on the reform agenda and on budget and fiscal consolidation, which has also led to a sustainable, constant and integrating model of economic growth", he declared. The minister expressed his conviction that 450,000 more jobs will be created in 2018 and that we will beat "the always prudent forecasts that we send Brussels if we are capable of removing any type of political doubts and uncertainties".

Íñigo Méndez de Vigo also underlined the figures announced this week on the export sector, the higher rating from Fitch Ratings on Spain's long-term solvency and the fall in the Spanish risk premium to 77 basis points. "This is all good news that shows the confidence in and credibility of Spain and its economy", he claimed.

On another note, the Government Spokesperson described the decision by the European Commission to allocate a subsidy of 578 million euros, the most significant under the Connecting Europe Facility, for the financing of an underwater cable between Spain and France that will allow the interconnection of their electricity systems as "tremendously important". "This was one of the goals of this term of office", he remarked.

Non official translation