On October 1, the Basque Country staged the reception of the transfer of prisons, foreseen in the Gernika Statute of 1979 and not consummated until 2021. While the PNV and the Lehendakari, Iñigo Urkullu, advance with the handbrake applied in the process of reform of the framework of self-government, although they do not formally renounce it, their great objective is to complete in the short term what they have come to call “recognized self-government”. Although there are more topics in the portfolio, before the end of the year there are two defined and clear priorities. On the one hand, it is intended to transfer the complete management of the new Minimum Living Income (IMV). And, on the other hand, a proposal is being worked on for the transfer of the Cercanías railway lines, according to official spokesmen for the Basque Government. The circumstances arise that both matters would be managed by socialist councilors of the Urkullu Government.
The high-speed train travels slowly in the Basque Country: a 34-year journey without seeing the final station
Urkullu and the leader of the PNV, Andoni Ortuzar, often repeat that they have started from the current Government of Spain something that they have never achieved with the previous ones, a calendar to complete the pending matters of the Statute that this month will be 42 years old. This schedule is in force and, in addition to Prisons, it has allowed other agreements of less political significance such as some sections of motorways – no road that crosses the Basque Country is already owned by the state – or the assignment of the ISBN code of the books. But it has suffered all kinds of delays and vicissitudes. In 2019 it was conditioned by the two general elections. The pandemic also modified other deadlines in 2020. In addition, Pedro Sánchez has modified the Ministry of Territorial Policy on several occasions in these three years. The first interlocutor of the Basque Government was Meritxell Batet, then Luis Planas assumed his functions temporarily, then Carolina Darias arrived, Miquel Iceta had a brief stay in the position and now the minister is Isabel Rodríguez.
In the pending list, in addition to the IMV and Cercanías, there are more topics that will be subject to negotiation. It is Immigration or a symbolic matter, the national paradores. The transfer of the economic regime of Social Security also remains for the end, although here Sánchez’s commitment is limited to making a study of its implications, which is always controversial because it involves a unitary system. In terms of transport, the PNV also demands a complete transfer of ports and airports, although until now the State has reserved those infrastructures that it considers to be of “general interest”. In this way, the autonomous community manages all the ports except those of Santurtzi and Pasaia and there have been no transfers at the airports (but in Catalonia the Generalitat does have small terminals while the central government runs El Prat and others).
The case of the IMV is unique. When Sánchez arrived at La Moncloa and the first calendar was made, this service did not even exist. His transfer -also to Navarra- was agreed by the PNV in exchange for support for one of the extensions of the first state of alarm. It was proposed with the double objective of integrating this system as the regional social income (RGI) and with that of exploring a first attempt to set a criterion to pave the way for Basque Social Security, as explicitly stated in the spring of 2020 by the PNV. There was talk of autumn 2020 as the moment for the signing of the transfer, but only then a management commission was accessed. Implying? That the Basque Employment Service (Lanbide) effectively collects the IMV applications as well as those of the RGI, but the one that processes, authorizes and pays them is the State through Social Security.
The PNV has not hesitated to point out the minister of the branch, José Luis Escrivá, of the socialist area, as directly responsible for this delay. He even predicted “darts from all corners” before the summer, but was soon ratified by the president despite the profound remodeling of his cabinet. In Euskadi, it is the PSE-EE that manages the Department of Labor and Employment and Lanbide in the coalition Executive and has also raised its voice against Escrivá. Idoia Mendia herself, with the rank of vice-lehendakari, has denounced that they want to turn Lanbide into a “branch” in this matter.
Both nationalist and socialist sources trust that a proposal will arrive this October to complete the transfer. “We are concerned about this issue. The transfer has to be complete. In this we share a strategy with the PNV,” they explain from the PSE-EE. The delay – these sources add – “directly affects Lanbide” and they explain that the controversy must be resolved “before the reform of the RGI is processed in the Basque Parliament.” According to data from Lanbide, up to August 15,935 RGI recipients saw their payments “regularized” because the duplication of systems had not been resolved and, in reality, they had to collect a part of IMV. There are only 678 IMV recipients for not meeting the RGI requirements.
As for Cercanías, Renfe operates three lines in the metropolitan area of Bilbao, one of which reaches the north of Álava, and another in Gipuzkoa, from Brinkola to the French border via Donostia. In addition, there is the Bilbao C4 line, formerly operated by FEVE on a narrow track and which goes as far as Encartaciones. It is the only one of this width not transferred. “The community has been managing 184 kilometers of meter gauge lines. The General State Administration, for its part, manages 82 kilometers of meter gauge lines and 308 kilometers of broad gauge lines,” indicated a report from the Basque Government on the detail of Adif’s infrastructures and its regional equivalent, ETS. The precedent in this matter must be sought in Catalonia, but the Rodalies of Barcelona have the peculiarity that they are an autonomous service but provided by Renfe. However, since 1979 this matter has been significantly modified since for now the management of the infrastructure (roads and stations) and the service (trains) has been differentiated and, recently, the state monopoly has been eliminated and private operators are allowed competing with Renfe. As in the case of the IMV, a Cercanías transfer would affect a Department run by the Socialists in Euskadi, in this case by the counselor Iñaki Arriola.
In the railways chapter, in any case, another debate creeps in that is not a transfer itself but that involves commitments from the State. The Basque high-speed corridor, known as ‘Y’ because of its way to link the three capitals, remains to be completed and now the AVE train access to Vitoria and Bilbao is in the air, for which provisional solutions and not the promised burials. This week, in front of the head of state and the minister of the branch, Raquel Sánchez, the lehendakari called on the central government to commit to “completing” this infrastructure, the first sketches of which date back to 1987. The last term given, 2026, seems already again a chimera even if it is the umpteenth calendar established.
The Basque Minister for Public Governance and Self-Government, Olatz Garamendi, met in September with the new Minister for Territorial Policy, who also phoned Urkullu to introduce herself. In any case, although consulted by this newspaper he prefers to remain silent out of discretion, everything indicates that the IMV and at least the completion of the works of the ‘Basque Y’ will be two key elements that the PNV will put on the table in the imminent negotiation of the general budgets of the State in the Cortes Generales. “It is very important to strengthen trust and to generate more in the future to check that some things that were pending execution, not strictly budgetary, are already on track for good. It is not blackmail. If commitments that you have assumed are not fulfilled, how about How safe are we going to negotiate things for the future? “he said last week on Cadena Ser Ortuzar.