by Staff Reporter
BALEARIC leader Jaume Matas is prepared to go to court if Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero fails to reply to demands for better funding for health and education.

Matas said that his government would approach negotiations “with a willingness to collaborate,” but warned “I said that better funding for health and education would be the great political battle of this legislature, and we are so convinced of the legitimacy of our demands that I hope it won't be necessary to go to court.” He added, “we will keep the negotiation political, but we will go as far as we have to.” His government is waiting to see how the central government will react to the demands for more money for health and education, but the first contacts have not been very promising from the Balearic point of view.

Deputy Prime Minister Pedro Solbes said recently that there were very few prospects of more money for the Balearics. However, Jordi Sevilla, the minister for public administrations promised Matas that the law on finance, which covers the possibility of revision of individual cases, would be adhered to.

As it happens, the increase in the school population in the Balearics is higher than the national average, and this in itself is reason enough for more funding.

The Balearics can also request more money to compensate for the increase in the population of non-residents, who have to be treated at the local hospitals.

Regions in this situation are entitled to more money under the finance law, and this is one of the arguments which Matas's government could use if it has to go to court.

Matas is now waiting to be called to a meeting with Zapatero in Madrid, when he will present his proposals for better funding for health and education.
The Balearic leader pointed out that he had first requested the extra funding eight months ago, before the general elections.
His finance ministry is now drawing up a report on the needs of the Balearics in the health and education fields. A preliminary report indicates that 1'400 million euros will be needed.

Parliament has set up a committee of experts to evaluate the needs. Finance minister Lluis Ramis d'Ayreflor has already appeared before the committee and told them that the region's financial needs were growing steadily.