The divisions between Spain's autonomous communities and central government in Madrid appear to be widening and yesterday the Balearic and Catalan autonomous governments strengthened their working relationship during talks between Balearic Chief Minister Francesc Antich and his Catalan counterpart Jordi Pujol in Palma. The two regions have agreed to work together to help promote agriculture, farming, innovation, exports of local products and the promotion of regional businesses overseas. But the Balearics and Calatuña both feel financially hard done by with regards to central government. Antich and Pujol yesterday agreed to create a united front, with the additional support of the Valencian autonomous government, to fight for better funding. Pujol echoed the sentiments aired by a number of Balearic Ministers over the past few weeks, that while central government in Madrid receives ample European Union funding, Madrid is loath to adequately share that money with autonomous regions and their governments - in particular the Balearics, Cataluña and Valencia the so-called “Catalan countries” according to Pujol. But Pujol, leader of the Catalan nationalist party, warned that the three “Catalan countries” do not only share a common language and despite political differences “there is plenty in common between the regions.” Antich criticised the right wing Partido Popular government in Madrid for ignoring the needs of the non-PP controlled autonomous regions. As far as Pujol is concerned, all of Spain's autonomous regions have been and are badly financed under this current Aznar government. Pujol also said during the “Balearic-Cataluña summit” which is becoming a regular event of the regional political calendars, that Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar's autonomous region policies “do not favour growth and expansion and without the necessary funding, it becomes increasingly harder to meet the needs of the people.” However, as has been the growing trend of late, both Pujol and Antich said that, if needs be, as autonomous regions are gathering more and more significance and rights in Brussels, Madrid will be bypassed in the hunt for funding and the regional government will present their cases directly to the European Union. The two autonomous leaders emerged from the summit “satisfied” with yesterday's developments and the willingness in both camps to co-operate. Pujol said that the summit, which was attended by Ministers from both governments, was “rich and very productive” and that a number of accords had been signed which will “benefit the people.” Antich and Pujol also indicated that other autonomous regions such as the “brother” communities of Valencia and Aragon, are to be invited to participate in a number of the projects and schemes approved yesterday. “We're also hoping that central government will take part as well,” Pujol added. The summit was not all about politics and funding. In April last year the Balearics and Cataluña agreed to co-operate in a project to promote the Catalan language and culture, both at home and overseas and yesterday the final touches were put to a Catalan Cultural Week which is to be held later this year in New York.

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