surinenglish

PM gives Junta president promise to unblock regional finance reform

Susana Díaz and Mariano Rajoy both said that this week's meeting in Madrid had been satisfactory.
Susana Díaz and Mariano Rajoy both said that this week's meeting in Madrid had been satisfactory. / EFE
  • Rajoy also said he was ready to negotiate an increase in state infrastructure investment in Andalucía, including on an improved rail line from Bobadilla to Algeciras

The national government has agreed to convene a meeting of the body tasked with negotiating the financing of the Spanish regions and will discuss with the Junta de Andalucía an improved budget for local rail projects.

These were the two main commitments that the socialist regional president of Andalucía, Susana Díaz, secured from conservative PM Mariano Rajoy in Madrid on Wednesday.

The two politicians were meeting to discuss the state budget for 2018, which is still to be approved by Madrid's Congreso. Rajoy is looking to win support from the different regions for his spending plans ahead of a difficult vote by MPs in the coming days.

The Junta president said that Andalucía was ready to attend the meeting to discuss regional finance reform “with the will to reach agreement and understanding” and to support a formula that “guarantees equal treatment [for all regions]”.

Some Spanish regions are fearful that demands from Catalonia for more spending by Madrid could be agreed to at some point to soften the independence movement, and see other regions get a worse deal as a result. Andalusian politicians across all parties have signed a document claiming that the region is already missing out on four billion euros annually that it should receive.

Díaz also pressed Rajoy to increase the budget for new railway infrastructure in Andalucía. She said that the 32 million euros that Madrid has put aside to improve the rail access to Algeciras port via Bobadilla, in Malaga province, was “insufficient” when it needs an estimated 300 million spending. The line is due to be integrated into a Mediterranean freight corridor.

Díaz was also looking for a commitment to finish the high-speed AVE to Granada, asking for the 140 million euros put aside for all rail projects in the region to be increased to nearer the two billion estimated to be needed to complete them all.

The Junta leader asked the national government to increase regional infrastructure spending to at least the Spanish per capita average. Madrid has said that Andalucía already receives slightly more money than its percentage share of total Spanish economic output.