On 20 January, 2021, part of Law 18/2020 of 28 December to facilitate economic activity, enters into force, following publication in the Official Gazette of the Government of Catalonia on 31 December. The main aim of this law is to facilitate economic activity in an all-digital environment, allowing for a more agile, efficient relationship between the administration and companies, supposedly with fewer administrative burdens for companies, and a more simplified administrative intervention framework.
Most of the provisions that entered into force are the ones on administrative simplification. The main new feature is the suppression of the statement of compliance regime. “Notification” is established as the applicable regime to commencing, in an establishment, any of the activities listed in the annex to the law. It refers essentially to the municipal procedure generally known as the “activity or start-up licence”, i.e. it has no effect on other requirements or licences as required by sectoral regulations.
The notification must be submitted before the activity commences and following completion of any additional formalities as required by sectoral regulations. It must, in all cases, be submitted with a technical certificate, as well as a technical project, if the scale or capacity of the activity requires it according to the annex to the law. Submitting the notification together with the documentation required allows the activity to commence immediately.
The law also foresees measures to foster economic activity, including establishing the concept of “strategic business projects”, the processing of which will be urgent and will involve a statement of public utility (article 24 governs the requirements to be considered a strategic business project). A procedure is also created to enable relevant interested parties to report on any provision, act, action, inactivity or de facto channel of public administration that, in their view, constitutes a hindrance to applying this law.
Nevertheless, the most significant changes to this law, concerning digitalisation of administrative procedures, will not enter into force until January 2023. This law considers that earlier regulations, which sought to make relationships between the public and the administration digital, were restricted to transposing traditionally in-person and paper-based procedures into digital formats. However, by retaining an analogical view of administrative procedures, this prevented the full benefits that digital means could offer from being exploited. This law seeks to overcome the traditional approach and aims to regulate the essentially digital relationship between businesses and the administration. The new digital regulation is directed mainly at companies, freelancers and professionals.
The main new features of this new digital model are as follows:
- The Single Window for Businesses will be organised using one single portal made up of the following: (i) a guided search tool that, in a manner that is binding for all administrations, will allow economic activity owners to access, in a centralised manner, all the information on procedures to legalise an economic activity; and (ii) a private area in which each economic activity owner can open and manage any procedure related to their activity, and even pay the relevant fees online.
- A one-time provision of data principle, whereby data subjects will only provide data on their activity one time. For this purpose, it is foreseen that the data gathered by the administration in each of the different procedures will be standardised and a unique identifier will be used for the establishment, which will allow it to be clearly identified over time. This unique identifier will be retained even if the activity is transferred or if the activity is replaced by another.
As is expected, these new features have a direct impact on other regulations currently in force, such as Law 3/2010 of 18 February, on fire prevention and safety, or Legislative Decree 1/2010 of 3 August, approving the revised urban planning law text. This is why Law 18/2020 amends these laws and repeals a substantial part of Law 16/2015, of 21 July, to simplify administrative activity.
As we mentioned, the most significant changes will come into force in two years, so we must wait until then to see the new model in full operation and check whether the Catalan Administration has been sufficiently digitalised. For the time being, the change of the intervention regime established by this law obliges the local councils to have their ordinances and forms updated with the notification regime as of today.