Financial “sabotage” claim leveled over Madrid’s health fee appeal

Catalan official fumes as government takes issue with one-euro charge

The Catalan government accused Madrid of “populism” for appealing the constitutionality of Catalonia’s decision to charge one euro for every prescription written out by the public health system in that region.

The real goal of the central government is to “torpedo” Catalonia’s finances by “sabotaging” measures aimed at increasing the revenues of the cash-strapped region and preventing it from meeting deficit targets, according to the Catalan finance commissioner, Andreu Mas-Colell.

The Popular Party central government wants the Constitutional Court to suspend the euro fee while justices decide whether the initiative is legal or not. This, said Mas-Colell, would have a negative impact of 140 million euros on Catalan coffers.

Mas-Colell dismissed government claims that it objects to the fee on the grounds of “fairness.” In his opinion, Madrid cannot talk about fairness when it recently “failed to increase pensions,” which will mean a loss of purchasing power of 217 euros for each Catalan pensioner. In contrast, the euro fee would only mean a maximum yearly outlay of 61 euros per person, he said.

This is the latest episode in an escalating confrontation between the conservative government in Madrid and nationalist leaders in the northeastern region, who have promised a referendum on self-rule in the near future.

But Catalonia is not the only region that the executive has to contend with over the euro fee. The regional government of Madrid wants to enact the exact same measure. Adding to the problems is the fact that this region is also ruled by the PP, but by a rival faction within the party. Madrid premier Ignacio González says he does not understand why Rajoy is getting so tough on the euro fee now, when he said nothing in March, when Catalonia first enacted it.

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