Catalonia bangs drum for fiscal pact along Basque Country lines

Nationalist premier Artur Mas lays blame for spending cuts at foot of current financing system

The economic crisis is becoming the perfect ally for the Catalan regional government's most nationalist project.

Regional premier Artur Mas is using every podium at his disposal to tell Catalans that most of the cuts in social spending being imposed would not be necessary if the region enjoyed a similar financial arrangement to that of the Basque Country, which retains all taxes paid in the region.

On Wednesday, Mas said that if Catalonia could achieve what his CiU center-right Catalan nationalists call the "fiscal pact," the region would have more weapons to refuse central government interference in local financing. Mas called on the Socialists to back the fiscal pact, in the same way Basque Socialists and conservatives had come together.

Public opinion in Catalonia over government cuts is at a low ebb. The one-euro surcharge for prescriptions is a prime example. The Socialists called on Mas to withdraw the one-euro payment or follow the example of the Basque Country in refusing to apply the national copayment system dictated by the Popular Party government.

"Vote, as the Basque Socialists did, in favor of economic agreement and we won't have to apply any of these cuts," Mas said in the regional assembly. "When you speak of not applying copayment, you speak from a Basque perspective and what they have is what we do not have: a fiscal pact. They keep all their money, which is not the case in Catalonia."

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