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Mariano Rajoy stresses that "a fugitive from justice" cannot be elected "president of a democratic institution"

Tuesday 30 January 2018

When asked about events unfolding in Catalonia, Mariano Rajoy expressed his wish to see the law upheld and for the regional parliament, "like any other institution" to observe "the ruling handed down by the Constitutional Court", since that is "what tends to happen in any normal democracy" and, furthermore, this is "a basic principle of democracy".

The candidature of Carles Puigdemont to the Presidency of the Regional Government of Catalonia

In this regard, the President of the Government underlined that the ruling of the Constitutional Court on Saturday made it clear that "Mr Puigdemont cannot be a candidate if he is not present and that, moreover, he can only be present following the authorisation of a judge". Mariano Rajoy added that this is "pure common sense" because "you cannot be a fugitive from justice, reside in Brussels and intend to be elected as the president of a democratic institution".

Furthermore, President of the Government Rajoy remarked that "it would be the climax of the spectacle given by Mr Puigdemont over recent months" if he finally managed to gain access to the Regional Parliament of Catalonia. Should that happen, he explained, "we would have to abide by the decision adopted by the judge, in this case of the Supreme Court". According to the President of the Government, Carles Puigdemont "is causing a serious problem for everyone, even for the pro-independence parties".   

Pool MoncloaMariano Rajoy also added that "the sensible thing now is to propose a candidate who has the backing of the House, who is not subject to judicial proceedings because, if not, we will also be in a provisional situation". Everything else, he said, means "further entangling the situation and wearing people out", "harming the economy" and "breaking the rules of co-existence".

The President of the Government also defended both the current security measures around the Regional Parliament of Catalonia and the actions by the State law enforcement agencies on 1 October because, he explained, "this was very difficult and strenuous work in a situation of tremendous complexity".

Appeal before Constitutional Court

Mariano Rajoy explained that if the government had not appealed against the candidature of Carles Puigdemont before the Constitutional Court, then he would have been invested on Wednesday, either by delegating his speech to someone else or by electronic means, "and hence we would have a person who is not present at the plenary session of the Regional Parliament of Catalonia being elected as President of the Regional Government of Catalonia, thus violating all norms of common sense, logic and reason". He also added that the legal ground on which the appeal was lodged was that the Speaker of the Regional Parliament of Catalonia had proposed Carles Puigdemont as candidate.

As regards the negative response from the Council of State on this issue, the President of the Government argued that, as President of the Government, "he has certain obligations", such as "avoiding foolish situations like this". He added that the Council of State, "under its own criteria", said that "the government's appeal should not be upheld". However, the government believed that it should appeal to the Constitutional Court anyway. "In all honesty, we are satisfied because what we wanted was to avoid a plenary session being held without the candidate being present".

Role of King Rey Felipe VI

Pool MoncloaMariano Rajoy asserted that, during these past months of the pro-independence challenge, the government has "broadly speaking" been backed by both the PSOE [Spanish Socialist Workers' Party] and by Ciudadanos. These two political forces supported the government in triggering Article 155 of the Constitution, in calling elections on 21 December and also in the recent appeal before the Constitutional Court. "The fact that three political forces, with major representation from the Spanish people, agreed on this is a very positive fact".

The President of the Government also highlighted the role played by the Head of State in this process because this also served to help re-establish legality". "The King has shown himself to be a balanced, sensible person who is aware of the situation and the speech he gave back then was very important".

Regional financing

The President of the Government, after admitting that the solution to the current situation could lie in the reform of the model of regional financing, clarified that this requires, among other things, "an interest in reaching an agreement". On this point, he recalled that Carles Puigdemont did not attend the Conference of Regional Presidents, at which talks began on the system of regional financing, and furthermore, the Regional Government of Catalonia has not taken part in the meetings of the Fiscal and Financial Policy Council.

Pool MoncloaMariano Rajoy also defended adopting State Pacts on such fundamental issues as regional financing, water distribution and pensions. "I believe that this is the legislature in which agreements need to be reached because no-one has a majority".

As regards the future of pensions, the President of the Government highlighted that "these were maintained" in difficult times and now "that things are going a little better", certain decisions need to be taken.

At any event, he added that "the most effective solution is job creation" because "when jobs are created more people pay in to the Social Security system, and hence, pensions can be improved".

General State Budget for 2018

As regards the Budget for 2018, Mariano Rajoy pointed out that this is "a sufficiently important issue as to hold a debate rather than making it conditional upon other decisions that are entirely unrelated". He underlined that the economic situation of Spain is "good", and hence the Budget "could provide decisive support for continuing down the path of economic recovery".

The President of the Government underlined that no agreement has been reached yet on the public accounts for 2018, although it is his intention to work to achieve this. For the time being, he added, the 2017 Budget has been extended, although certain things will need to be approved by Decree-Law. For example, "this year, as a result of the increase in tax collection and the economic recovery, the autonomous regions will receive 4 billion euros more than they received in 2017", he announced.

Wage gap

Pool MoncloaAs regards the wage gap between men and women, the President of the Government stressed that the greatest difference between people is between those who have a job and those who do not. After highlighting that at present there are more women in work in Spain than ever before, he recalled that the law obliges the same wage to be paid for the same work.

Mariano Rajoy recalled that his government has taken measures to combat the wage gap separating men and women and that, thanks to this, since 2012, this difference has dropped by four points, and hence we are now above the European average. "We are heading in the right direction, but there is still a long way to go".

Lastly, when asked about Venezuela, President of the Government Rajoy stressed that "this is a problem of democracy" and that he advocates the same for Venezuela as for Spain. He also pointed out that the Government of Venezuela has not only flaunted democratic rules, but is also "leading people to a critical situation".

Non official translation