by Staff Reporter
BALEARIC leader Jaume Matas yesterday defended reforms to the autonomy statutes within the limits of the Constitution, but he stressed that he would not allow the islands “to become a second class region.” This was one of the keynotes of his State of the Balearics speech in Parliament yesterday, which lasted for nearly two hours.
He stressed that reforms to the Statute must be done with the same rights as other regions, which implies that the text approved in Congress in Madrid must be the one which is approved by the Balearic parliament.

Matas, who belongs to the Partido Popular, commented on relations with the central socialist government led by José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. He said that “all the alarms had sounded” over the “forgetfulness” of the Madrid government on matters of importance for the Balearics, such as discounts on travel between the islands and the peninsula or financing the roads agreement. “The truth is, that in view of what is happening, we do not know if it is a government acting from a neutral position and respecting our autonomy, or if it is a sectarian government, which will use its power to reward friends and punish those who are not of the same political colour,” Matas said.

Another key point of Matas's speech was the announcement of a new draft bill for the Special Regime for the Balearics (REB), which would allow “a more balanced treatment of the problems of insularity within Spain and the European Union.” During his speech, Matas gave a run down of the political and economic situation of the Balearics, and listed some of the measures launched by his cabinet over the past year.

Road improvements were one of the key matters which his government has tackled, recovering through an agreement with the central government “41 million euros which the previous Coalition government had let slip.” As to energy, he said that the construction of the gas pipe and the cable links for electricity with the Peninsula will solve “the historical problem” in this matter.

In his analysis, the Balearic economy was in much better condition when the Partido Popular came to power in May 2003, when unemployment was growing.

Armengol, the spokeswoman for the Spanish Socialist Workers Party in Parliament, said that her party had “a lot of work to do to bring Jaume Matas down to earth,” alleging after his State of the Balearics speech that “he is the only person who perceives the Balearics as being better off than a year ago.” She said that the Balearics were worse off than last year, and criticised the government for not planning any initiatives for the future.
She said that Matas should get closer to the people, to find out first hand what the economical situation of the Balearics really is.
Speaking for the PSM (Majorcan Socialist Party), Pere Sampol said that Matas “had no credibility for drawing up a new Special Regime (REB), as he dynamited the one in force when he was a minister under José Maria Aznar.” Maria Antonia Munar, leader of the Majorcan Union party, said that the tone of the speech had been “moderate” but called on him to define his proposals on subjects such as education, language and transfer of responsibilities.

Miquel Rosselló, spokesman for the United Left-Greens, said that the speech had little political depth, and criticised the lack of mention of the major problems facing the Balearics. He said Matas should have paid more attention to the economic situation of the Islands and the reforms to the Statutes.

The debate on the State of the Balearics will continue today.


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