The Government Spokesperson, Íñigo Méndez de Vigo

The Government Spokesperson, Íñigo Méndez de Vigo, took stock of the first 100 days of a legislature which, in his opinion, has been characterised by “dialogue” with the political parties “to reach consensus and approve a reformist agenda”.

​The Council of Ministers authorised the creation of two committees of experts to revise the models of regional and local financing with the aim of strongly backing the process of updating the two systems.

The Minister for Education, Culture and Sport and the Government Spokesperson, Íñigo Méndez de Vigo, recalled that the creation of these committees was agreed at the Conference of Regional Presidents held on 17 January. He announced that work will begin immediately with the aim of “re-thinking a new model based on principles of solidarity, sufficiency, fairness, transparency and fiscal co-responsibility, as well as guaranteeing citizen access to public services”.

Íñigo Méndez de Vigo specified that the committee of experts on regional financing, chaired by Professor Manuel González Sánchez, will approve a report within the next six months and submit it to the Standing Technical Evaluation Committee and to the Fiscal and Financial Policy Council. The local authority financing committee, chaired by Professor Ana Muñoz Merino, will submit the corresponding local report within the same period to the National Local Administration Committee.

In response to questions from journalists, the Government Spokesperson clarified that these committees will undertake their technical work within the deadline set regardless of whether the Budget is approved or not. “It is clear that if Parliament approves the Budget, this would be a positive signal for this new model of financing to be approved”.

Furthermore, Íñigo Méndez de Vigo regretted that the Regional Government of Catalonia has not sent any experts to these committees and asked “with an outstretched hand” for them to attend. “It is not easy to explain why they complain about financing and yet fail to attend the forum where this is going to be analysed, studied and solutions sought”. Nevertheless, the minister stressed that, despite not attending, “the government will oversee the welfare of the people of Catalonia”.

Analysis of care system

Íñigo Méndez de VigoPool Moncloa/JM CuadradoThe government approved the creation of a committee to analyse the situation of the System for Personal Autonomy and Care for Dependent Adults, its sustainability and mechanisms for financing, as agreed at the Conference of Regional Presidents.

The Government Spokesperson specified that the State Secretary for Social Services and Equality, Mario Garcés, will chair the committee, which will be made up of seven members of Central Government and by “the councillors attributed with powers for social services in certain autonomous regions whose authorities have expressed their interest in participating”, which includes Catalonia.

Within a period of three months, the members will draw up a report that will be submitted to the Regional Council of the System for Personal Autonomy and Care for Dependent Adults.

Other agreements

The Council of Ministers granted an exceptional adaptation subsidy, aimed at offsetting the economic difficulties facing dairy farmers as a result of the imbalances in the global milk and dairy product market.

Íñigo Méndez de Vigo specified that this will particularly be allocated to “those farmers who have contributed to providing balance in the sector, to improving its organisation and to strengthening the position of producers vis-à-vis the following link in the food chain”.

Íñigo Méndez de VigoPool Moncloa/JM CuadradoThe government also authorised aid to be granted, within the framework of the National Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, to foster the integration of agri-food associations that operate in more than one autonomous region.

The Government Spokesperson specified that this item has an allocation of 34.9 million euros, to be distributed over two financial years “to investment projects to improve the added value of their products and market positioning”.

The Council of Ministers also approved the contracting of six water-bombing helicopters to be used in putting out wildfires during the years 2017, 2018 and 2019.

On another note, the government also appointed María José Ordóñez Carbajal as the new Government Representative for Gender-Based Violence.

Balance of first 100 days of government

During the press briefing following the Council of Ministers, Íñigo Méndez de Vigo took stock of the first 100 days of government of the 12th Legislature, which, in his opinion, has meant a return “to confidence, certainty and political stability”, and requires “further progress to be made without sectarianism or stagnation”.

The Government Spokesperson asserted that the dialogue that must preside over this legislature has been focused on boosting the reformist agenda in these first few weeks. The new climate, he argued, is changing the political culture in Spain, since the agreements reached have not been confined to international policy or counter-terrorism, as in previous legislatures, but rather have ranged from the budget stability targets and the ceiling on spending for 2017 to the electricity discount tariff and mortgage floor clauses.

Íñigo Méndez de VigoPool Moncloa/JM CuadradoÍñigo Méndez de Vigo claimed that this consensus extends to the General State Budget to guarantee the general interest and international standing of Spain. He also underlined that 70% of the public accounts are earmarked for social spending.

At a social level, the Government Spokesperson referred, when taking stock, to the boost to the National Youth Guarantee System and the establishment of a new minimum wage. He also reported that the Minister for Employment received the study on compensation for temporary workers on Friday, 10 February, commissioned as a result of the ruling handed down by the Court of Justice of the European Union on this issue.

Results of regional dialogue

As regards regional dialogue, Íñigo Méndez de Vigo announced that several agreements reached at the Conference of Regional Presidents will be developed in the near future: on 14 February, the Lower House of Parliament Sub-committee for a Social and Political State Pact on Education will be formally set up; on 15 February, the Conference on EU-Related Affairs will be called to address the participation of regional governments in European decision-making; on 9 March, the Upper House of Parliament will hold an exclusive debate on gender-based violence, and prior to 31 March, the National Civil Protection Council will be set up. The working groups on the ‘social card’ will also begin operating.

At an economic level, the minister highlighted that Spain will recover the level of wealth it enjoyed prior to the crisis by the second quarter of this year, and that more than 1.5 million jobs have been created in the last three years. “The crisis put the State and political system to the test, but our exit from the crisis showed that we have a strong State and that our institutions are the appropriate channel for resolving our problems”, said Íñigo Méndez de Vigo, who also praised “the desire of Spanish society to overcome adversity”.

Current affairs

Íñigo Méndez de VigoPool Moncloa/JM CuadradoWhen asked about the hearing held during the week on the non-binding citizen vote on the independence of Catalonia on 9 November 2014, Íñigo Méndez de Vigo underlined that “we are all subject to the law” in Spain, and that the justice system is independent. He also rejected the counter-position proposed by some between law and democracy, “since the law is precisely the expression of a democratic intent”.

The Government Spokesperson added that the new President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, was “very clear” on Thursday in pointing out that the future of Catalonia is an internal question that must be resolved pursuant to national legislation and that the constitutions of Member States form part of the European system. “It is good for the truth to be told to the people of Catalonia and for them to take this in and, instead of going to Brussels to talk privately to a few friends in a room, to talk with the European authorities”, stated Íñigo Méndez de Vigo.

As regards the offer made by the President of the Government, Mariano Rajoy, to the President of the United States, Donald Trump, to act as an intermediary between the EU and Ibero-America, the Government Spokesperson asserted that Spain already plays an important role in both these areas and wishes to play an even more important role. “At this time”, he argued, “we are capable, following the experience acquired in our country at an economic level, in relation to immigration and in the fight against terrorism, of contributing through our solutions”.

In relation to whether Donald Trump expressly asked Mariano Rajoy for an increase in funds for defence issues, the minister recalled that the government already took on a commitment, at the Cardiff Summit (United Kingdom) in 2014, together with the rest of the NATO partners, to make a gradual increase until this item amounts to 2% of GDP by the year 2025. “We are a serious and reliable government and we will meet this commitment”, he stressed.