This article was translated by John R. Bopp
We had to read the article about the “unreachable desire” of having the Catalonians’ having an Economic Agreement by Agence France Presse several times.
“The frustrated dream of Catalonia: to collect taxes and manage them, like the Basques”
The article that this agency has distributed around the world has a title and content that we’d find a joke if it didn’t reflect the irresponsibility of that medium and its ability to “not tell the truth” of the unionist “experts” they consulted.
From the headline to the last line, the text is a piece of nonsense that reflects the extreme ignorance of the so-called journalist who wrote about this topic. It also contains inaccuracies and lies that make us think that the content is in the service of certain objectives that are not journalistic or informative.
It would be a good idea if a true AFP professional gathered the opinions of the political leaders of the foral territories or of experts who don’t stand out due to their hatred of the foral system.
They could also have interviewed Pedro Luis Uriarte. That way, they would have had an answer to the “innocent” question La Vanguardia asked which seems to be the inspiration for this article: “Why do the Basques get to have it and the Catalans don’t?”
Mr. Uriarte, as we said, could have replied. In summary, he would have explained that at the time, the Catalonian representatives refused to have their own version of the Economic Agreements because “this matter of collecting taxes isn’t popular”.
The Economic Agreements are two unique realities, and are not privileges or concessions, and they’ve existed for over a century. Their existence has nothing to do with the ETA or violence. To claim that is an insult that only a manipulative liar could defend. They are in fact the heritage from an earlier reality, which was eliminated at gunpoint, when the borders of Castile or Aragon did not include Basque territories. It’s a reality of different parliaments, laws, and fiscal systems that were removed by force.
To say that contributions made by the Foral Territories to the coffers of the Kingdom of Spain “are minimal” is a falsehood. So is insinuating that the existence of these foral fiscal regimes is one of the main causes of the Catalonian problem, or that the contribution made “is limited to the essentials like Defense or a solidarity fund between regions.”
One thing the professionals at the AFP need to do when discussing a matter as serious and complex as this is to choose good, professional experts, and not just centralist standard bearers. In the article, an “expert” takes a leading role, and centers all the financing problems of the regions with the Common Regime, not on the stinginess of a Central Government that underfunds the autonomous communities so as to have them under control, nor on the spending spree many autonomous communities went on in better economic times. Forgetting the real causes, he blames the existence of the communities with a Foral Regime, as if plus or minus a billion euros would solve all the financing problems of the autonomous communities under the Common Regime.
Surely the real problem is that the existence of these Agreements is clear proof that there is another way of doing things, a way that implies less control from the central government and, more importantly, responsibility for income and expenses. This is something that leaves the other autonomous communities looking bad, like they’re underage and need to get their allowance or pocket money from the daddy state.
To say that if the foral system is extended to all the autonomous communities, it would mean bankrupting the state is at minimum ridiculous, especially because not all of the autonomous communities want it. As we said, taxing and assuming risk is for adults, and not everyone wants to grow up.
The idea that “everybody’s equal” reflects the “unitarian” ideas that are behind this discourse, forgetting that the idea that “everybody’s equal” is contrary to the reality that is the Kingdom of Spain. In this state, there are several national identities, with different histories and different ways of self-government and self-organization. To the Spanish centralists, like those the AFP consulted, and who date back to the 19th century, they’d like to end this reality to make “all Spaniards equal”. That is, that everyone “thought, acted, and were like them.” All very democratic and progressive.
To defend their positions, they have no problem lying, as we can see in the claims in this article:
Furthermore, it quite often happens that the Basque Government refuses to pay what it owes the Central Government, without any consequences, notes Cuenca. “Military planes, for example, have to be paid for, but when they don’t agree [with the amount], they don’t pay.
Mr. Cuenca seems to be forgetting to say that the debt usually flows in the opposite direction; it is usually the State that seems reluctant to deposit the compensations it owes the Basque Autonomous Community and the Foral Community of Navarre. He also seems to forget, one wonders why, that the Basque Revenue agencies, the four of them, are integral, which means that in the Kingdom of Spain, there are five revenue services at the same level, with the same powers and abilities. He also seems to forget to speak about the principle of “unilateral responsibility” that directs the tributary and financial relationships between the foral territories and the State, and to explain that the contributions of these territories to the national coffers depends exclusively on the State budgets and not on how much tax was collected in the foral territories. And his amazingly selective memory also forgets to explain how the State sub-finances the autonomous communities in order to keep them under its control.
This is what it has been doing for years with Catalonia: cutbacks and delays in money transfers that have been suffocating the region. The negotiators of the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia forgot that by collecting your own taxes, you control your resources and how much you collect, meaning you don’t need anyone to transfer resources to you: you already have them.
The AFP has, as a communications medium with global reach and prestige, a many responsibilities when writing and distributing this article that it has not lived up to — neither the author nor the agency. Speaking with the representatives of the foral revenue services and contrasting information is one of them.
Today, around the world, thanks to this article, inaccuracies and falsehoods about who the Basques are and what they do are being reproduced around the world. This gravely affects our image. This is, and this is also true, a victory for the unionists and the enemies of Basque fiscal sovereignty. Lying usually pays off for them, because they know that they Basques’ ability to defend themselves is slight, since they have no ministries or embassies.
We, in addition to this AFP article, recommend you read some other things that might help compensate the misinformation found in the article.
Last but not least, we want to highlight that all the demands made by the Catalonian Government and the majority of that nation’s society are just. All of them. From the need for an improved financing system (including the creation of the agreed-upon Economic Concert) to their right as Catalonians to decide their future. These are demands that the Catalans will receive a lot of support for from a large majority of Basques who consider that Catalonia and the Basque Country are nations with the right to decide their own future in freedom without external influences.
Agencia France Press – 25/9/2017 – Francia
El sueño frustrado de Cataluña: recaudar impuestos y gestionarlos, como los vascos
Con su capacidad para recaudar impuestos y disponer de ellos libremente, el País Vasco es una referencia para Cataluña. Pero la negativa de Madrid de concederle este privilegio ha alimentado el secesionismo en la región en los últimos años. «¿Por qué los vascos sí y los catalanes no?», resumía recientemente el diario barcelonés La Vanguardia.
For those who’d like to know how the Economic Agreement works, we recommend this page from the Ad Concordian Association, which explains a complex subject at a basic level. We also recommend texts by Pedro Luis Uriarte, a knowledgeable expert and defender of the Economic Agreements, whose work can be downloaded for free here (in Spanish).
And for those who’d like to know more about our opinion about what is often said about the Economic Agreements can read our thoughts, which have become one of the most read, referenced, and criticized entries in our blog.
Political map of Spain in 1854, showing the territorial division with the political classification of all the provinces of the Monarchy according to their dominant special regime (National Library, Madrid)