Gonzalez defies Catalan partners

ELIZABETH NASH

Madrid

The Spanish Prime Minister, Felipe Gonzalez, wearing his authority as President of the European Union as gracefully as his habitual cashmere jackets, yesterday defied his Catalan government partners over plans for the next six months and in effect challenged them to pull the plug on his minority rule.

Heedless of threatening grumbles that have been emanating from the Catalan camp in recent days, Mr Gonzalez laid down his vision of Spain's EU presidency in parliament, at the core of which lie strict budget controls.

Mr Gonzalez pledged to prepare the Spanish economy to join the third stage of European monetary union, that of a single currency, by 1999 - a timetable that many consider ambitious, given Spain's undistinguished economic performance. To that end he promised to limit the budget deficit to 4.4 per cent of gross national product, an aim that would need a "rigorous and austere budget" for 1996 and 1997.

This was unwelcome news for the nationalist Catalan Convergence and Union (CiU) party, which has been urging a more relaxed timetable of budget restraint gradually leading up to 1999. Catalonia, the economic heartland of Spain, has been hit hard by the protracted recession, and the CiU's leader, Jordi Pujol, had thrown in his lot with the minority Socialist government in 1993 largely in expectation that his support would be repaid by co-operation on measures of economic recovery.

Mr Pujol yesterday cancelled a trip to Germany during which he was to talk to car manufacturers whose Catalan subsidiaries are in trouble. He expressed his disquiet over his party's relationship with the Socialists and indicated the partnership was coming to an end.

"CiU has fulfilled its programme and its promise to the electorate, and its commitment to the stability of Spain ... It really seems that we have reached the end of an era," Mr Pujol said in Barcelona. His party had put up with "a heap of scandals" that had discredited the government, rebounded against the CiU and "seriously affected collective morale". The worst of these was the illegal telephone tapping conducted by the secret intelligence service, Cesid, he said.

The Catalan leader has been angling for specific commitments from Mr Gonzalez in return for which he would continue to give his support. One of these was the budget, on which Mr Gonzalez appeared to turn a deaf ear to Catalan pleas.

The other is a commitment to bring forward general elections, due in 1997, to next spring. But Mr Gonzalez would not reveal his electoral plans, despite Mr Pujol's last-minute appeals. The Catalans want to hold their regional elections in November, before their reputation is further damaged by association with the government.

Mr Gonzalez has thrown an additional provocation at the Catalans, announcing that the cabinet would approve on Friday its long-promised white paper relaxing the abortion law. The proposal is deeply offensive to the Catholic CiU, but a shrewd move to stem the haemorrhaging of left- wing support from the Socialists.

Clearly Mr Gonzalez seeks to show that he, not the Catalans, determine the timing and content of government actions. But some suspect that Mr Pujol and Mr Gonzalez have tacitly agreed to end their formal pact and are staking out public positions the better to negotiate terms. A possible outcome is that the Catalans would be freed from the partnership, while permitting the government to survive until spring elections.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - 3-4 Month Fixed Contract - £30-£35k pro rata

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a 3-4 month pro rata fi...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £26,000+

£16000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager

£25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Freight Forward Senior Operator

£22000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This logistics firm are looking...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map