TC agrees with the Government. Increases in support for independents is unconstitutional


Mario Cruz / Lusa

The Prime Minister, António Costa

The Constitutional Court (TC) today considered unconstitutional several norms amended by the parliament regarding support in the state of emergency and in the context of the suspension of academic and non-teaching activities, which had been promulgated by the President of the Republic.

O inspection request The next step of constitutionality was announced by the Prime Minister, António Costa, on March 31, following the promulgation by the President of the Republic of laws approved by the Assembly of the Republic and which expanded the support decided by the Government.

Costa’s “victory” was not, however, in all the request he made: the Constitutional Government decided to accept the support given to parents, which was given during the closing of the schools, writes the Expresso.

The TC decided today to declare unconstitutional a rule relating to the diploma that established support mechanisms under the state of emergency due to the reduction of economic activity, namely in the expansion of support for self-employed workers, and two rules of the law on support for teaching and non-teaching, considering that the three implied “in part, an increase in expenses in the current financial year.

“The Court further decided to reserve (…) for reasons of legal certainty and equity, the effects produced until the publication of this judgment in the Diário da República by the rules it declared unconstitutional”, they add, clarifying that the unconstitutionality will not have retroactive effects.

The TC also informs that “the remaining request of the Prime Minister was not granted by the Court” and that the decision “was unanimously approved” of acting judges.

Under analysis by the TC, norms were included in three types of measures: support in the context of suspension of classroom and non-classroom activities; exceptional family support; and exceptional measures for forced reduction of economic activity and encouragement to professional activity.

In the three rules considered unconstitutional, the TC judges considered that they violated the article of the Constitution known as “brake norm”.

“Deputies, parliamentary groups, Legislative Assemblies of the autonomous regions and groups of voters may not present bills, bills or proposals for amendments that involve, in the current economic year, an increase in expenses or a decrease in revenue provided for in the Budget”, refers to number 2 of article 167 of the Constitution.

No case two social support for reduced economic activity, the norm considered unconstitutional expanded its scope, which is now given to “independent workers, individual entrepreneurs (ENI), with and without organized accounting and regardless of having workers in charge, managers, and members of bodies statutory with management functions, whose activities have been suspended or terminated, the right to resort to extraordinary support for the reduction of economic activity for the period of suspension of activities or closure of facilities and establishments by legislative or administrative determination of a governmental source, in the state of emergency”.

Already in the rules relating to exceptional support due to the suspension of teaching activities considered unconstitutional, the parliament extended this regime to a greater number of families.

On March 31, the prime minister justified the request for successive inspection of three diplomas approved by the parliament and which broadened the scope of support decided by the Government with the understanding that violated the “supreme law” of the Constitution by increasing the expenditure foreseen in the Budget.

“Our Constitution is very clear in the distribution of powers. Parliament is sovereign in approving the Budget and the Government is fully responsible for its execution. Therefore, once the Budget is approved, the Assembly [da República] it can neither increase expenditure nor decrease the revenue provided for in that Budget”, claimed António Costa, who denied the existence of any institutional conflict with the President of the Republic.

too Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa he tried to de-dramatize the Government’s decision and, in mid-May, in an interview with RTP, he defended that he would never be defeated by any TC decision.

“We can come to an end with this situation: a part of the diplomas had lost its usefulness whatever the decision on the matter, because there was no longer distance learning, another part the Government recovered and rightly in the decree-law, a third part the court it can still recover, saying: effects produced are produced”, he then stated.

“It is the Government that governs”

At a press conference, Tiago Antunes, assistant secretary of state to the prime minister, mentioned, quoted by Público, that “social support [declarados inconstitucionais] they had already been enshrined by the Government itself in a decree-law, which are and will continue to be in force”.

The government official wanted to make it clear that what was at stake in António Costa’s appeal to the TC “was not a financial issue, but the governance model provided for in the Constitution”, the “separation of powers” ​​and the risk of opening a “ serious precedent of unpredictability and security risk for the State Budget”.

The Government’s right-hand man also stressed that “it is the Government that governs, the Assembly of the Republic is not a substitute for the Government, the Constitution does not allow for the Assembly’s government”, said Tiago Antunes.

In this context, he underlined: “The brake norm is a key element of the political system”, even “to enable minority governments”, and “is an effective brake on the disruption of government action”.

Tiago Antunes also wanted to ensure the continuity of negotiations for the next Budget, adding that “the Government is strongly committed to parliamentary dialogue”, in particular with “the parties that have made the previous budgets viable”.

Appeal to the TC “harmed Portuguese”

The leader of the PSD considered that the appeal to the Constitutional Court (TC), which declared unconstitutional several rules changed by the parliament for aid in the state of emergency, harmed “the Portuguese who no longer have such support”.

“The ones who are harmed are the Portuguese who no longer have such support”, said the social-democratic president, Rui Rio, at the end of the presentation of party candidates to the Beja district chambers in the next municipal councils, held in the city.

In statements to journalists, the PSD leader admitted that “everyone was aware” that there were “doubts regarding the constitutionality” of the rules, but he stressed that the parliament understood that one “should make an effort” to “give greater social support”, in the face of the covid-19 pandemic.

“It’s not something that is very surprising. What was the intention of the Assembly of the Republic and, particularly, of the PSD was to see if we could get more social support for people and for the Government to agree to this support”, he stressed.

Stressing that he respects “the court’s decision”, Rui Rio said that the Government “if it wanted to, it would assume these supports and support people”, but, “as it did not want to, it appealed to the TC, knowing that the probability of being unconstitutional was reasonable”.

“We all realized that the Government does not want to provide these social support, it legitimately appealed to the TC, which also legitimately decided, according to legal criteria and not political or social”, he pointed out.