September 14, 2017 / 4:36 PM / 2 years ago

Catalonia refuses to send weekly accounts to Madrid before referendum

MADRID (Reuters) - Catalonia will stop sending weekly financial accounts to Madrid, defying a demand by Spain’s central government that the region prove it is not using public money to promote an independence drive.

The decision follows a series of moves to block a Catalan referendum on self-rule, planned for Oct. 1, which Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government has declared illegal.

In a letter dated Sept. 13, Catalan Deputy Governor Oriol Junqueras told Spanish Budget Minister Cristobal Montoro the region would no longer comply with the obligation to submit its accounts every week.

He said the arrangement implied “political control that is not related to the objectives of budget stability or to the purposes of state legislation in this matter”.

Madrid ordered Catalonia to start providing the weekly data in July. The government warned the region would lose access to some public funds if it was found to be using state money to organise the vote.

All of Spain’s regions pay taxes to the central government, and are then given a quota to spend on health, education and infrastructure. Catalonia, which has one of the strongest regional economies, says the system is unfair.

After the referendum was announced, Madrid warned Catalonia it risked losing access to a separate funding programme, set up in 2012 when economic crisis hammered regional budgets, if it failed to provide weekly accounts.

Junqueras said in his letter that his administration was committed to financial stability and would still collaborate with Montoro’s ministry, and continue to account for their spending every month.

“The will of the (Catalan) government is to continue to focus on dialogue and the exercise of democracy as a way to resolve the debate on political relations between Catalonia and Spain,” the letter said.

Catalonia accounts for around 20 percent of Spain’s gross domestic product and has received some 70 billion euros ($83 billion) in funding from Madrid since 2012.

Reporting by Blanca Rodriguez; Writing by Isla Binnie; editing by Jesus Aguado, Larry King

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