The Government will have to approve by the end of 2023 fifty norms with the force of law in order to obtain the disbursements of European funds, according to the count that EL PAÍS has made of the list of milestones committed to Brussels. The 70,000 million in non-reimbursable aid is conditional on actually being spent and, therefore, achieving certain objectives. But they will also be granted in exchange for the achievement of legislative reforms. The account goes out to almost one every 15 days, be it laws or decree laws. And the problems that the Executive had last week to approve the legislation on the interim have made clear its parliamentary weakness, especially when the measures are controversial.
The decree to regularize the situation of temporary public employees was part of the milestones committed to obtain the first disbursement to be made at the end of the year, worth 11,400 million, after the advance of 9,000 million that will be made in the next few days or weeks. The Government had already said that it had enough milestones and objectives met to obtain that first payment conditional on measures. But there was that reform of the interim, whose entry into force was agreed with Brussels for the second quarter of 2021, as contained in the documentation approved by the European Council of Heads of State and Government. In fact, the Executive had to process it as a royal decree law because otherwise it would not have been able to have it on time. Now he has had to agree with the parliamentary groups on its processing as a bill. But meanwhile the royal decree law is validated and, therefore, it will finally be fulfilled with Brussels. This situation underlines the parliamentary juggling that the Government will have to do to legislate within the deadlines agreed with Brussels.
There are also delays with the platform that has to serve to record all payments and allow Brussels to control them, a necessary milestone for the first disbursement. Nor has the permanent unit of the Fiscal Authority (Airef) that has to prepare the spending reviews or spending reviews To gain efficiency, another commitment stipulated for the first disbursement. Nor has the permanent team of the Ministry of Finance been formed that must ensure that the recommendations of the Tax Authority are implemented in this regard, also another commitment acquired for the first payment.
But these are situations that depend directly on the management of the Executive and that can always be approved from one day to the next. What costs and takes longer is to pave the way for their approval in Congress when it comes to rules with the force of law, since it is Parliament that legislates.
The latest difficulties have highlighted the parliamentary precariousness of the Executive. And the complicated relations with its partners: the PNV has shown its dissatisfaction with the management of the pandemic, is upset with some government initiatives and has deep disagreements with many positions expressed by Podemos. ERC wanted to teach with the interns their ability to condition the management of the Executive. Even Podemos was unmarked and made opposition despite the fact that his party had approved it before in the Council of Ministers.
And the main opposition party, the PP, will not agree simply so that European funds can be obtained. Even if there is a risk of losing resources, you will demand that your criteria be reflected in what you endorse. In fact, it has already happened with the decree law to organize the management of the funds, when the Government needed in extremis Vox’s abstention to move it forward.
Labor, pensions and housing
The housing law is already causing numerous headaches. And the labor reform probably, too. In pensions, the Minister of Social Security, José Luis Escrivá, was criticized by all parties except the PSOE in the Toledo Pact Commission in Congress. And he highlighted the obstacles that he may face to approve a mechanism for the correction of the pension system after having sold all the political groups, also when he was president of the Fiscal Authority, that no adjustment measures were necessary.
With 50 regulations to be approved, the demanding schedule will put the government’s negotiating skills to the test and will tighten the seams of the fragmented political majority that backs it. Unlike Italy, where the Government has agreed with the cameras on the recovery plan, the Spanish Executive will have to go one by one. The promotion of the new Minister of the Presidency, Félix Bolaños, and the first vice president, Nadia Calviño, can be interpreted in this sense: their profiles with a more negotiating disposition should facilitate this work. The government will have to reach Parliament with the decrees negotiated earlier if it does not want to risk losing an important vote.
One more proof of the parliamentary situation is how the Executive is proposing to save again the vote on the path of deficit targets. The Treasury argues that it is not necessary to submit it to the Cortes because Brussels has lifted the fiscal rules. But the law is unequivocal: Congress and the Senate will pronounce themselves approving or rejecting the objectives of budget stability proposed by the Government. And the Budgets will have to adhere to these public deficit targets, regardless of whether the EU has temporarily exempted member countries from fiscal discipline.
The price of the reforms
Brussels sources explain that if a reform is not complied with, there will always be a second chance to do so. And they point out that it has been left to the discretion of the Commission what will happen when there is a breach, especially with the initiatives that are more controversial. It has not been wanted to set in advance how much would be lost if a reform was not carried out because then the cost of each measure would be signaled, and a government could be tempted to strategically renounce a certain amount of funds in exchange for not having to approve a specific reform.
The Executive faces a complex task putting forward fifty regulations by the end of 2023, but it will always be able to avoid part of the parliamentary marketing by packaging various measures in an omnibus law. And the Citizens MEP Luis Garicano criticizes that when only the approval of the laws is collected as milestones, the exact content that these laws should have is not being set in writing.
Among the main regulations to be implemented, by the end of 2021 the labor reform with the new structural ERTE and changes in collective bargaining and subcontracting will have to be ready. By mid-2022, the contribution for real income of the self-employed and the review of the supplementary pension systems should be approved. By the end of 2022, the housing law, the civil service law and the pension reform would have to be completed, including the increases in maximum contributions, the modification of the period to calculate the pension and the substitution of the sustainability factor for an intergenerational equity mechanism that addresses the retirement of the baby boom. And at the beginning of 2023, the tax reform that is designed based on the recommendations of the expert commission and the review of tax benefits would have to come into force.
Of the eight conditional disbursements that exist, the last two, the seventh and the eighth, no longer include reforms but exclusively expenditure targets. For example: the number of homes to be rehabilitated, the number of SMEs helped in their digitization or the number of stabilized jobs in the public sector.