The celebration, this Monday in Madrid, of the State Generalitat bilateral commission formalizes the beginning of the dialogue route agreed between the presidents of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, and the Catalan Executive, Pere Aragonès, in June. At the meeting, the transfer of scholarships will be agreed and railway investments long claimed by the Government, among others, will be tied up. In a different setting, Barcelona, and with the summer break in between, the table will be held that will address the territorial lace of Catalonia. The political turmoil of the week shows that there are detractors willing to blow everything up. But, despite even internal contradictions, both sides work quietly to shield it.
The word “trust” appears more frequently in ERC’s speeches when referring to Sánchez’s Executive. Each of the two teams has been working for months to build a security framework between the two leaders, which allows safeguarding the dialogue path from declarative outbursts or political brawl. Thanks to this minimal common thread, it has been possible to keep the relationship in Congress and the management of pardons to the leaders of the you process. But that it is not an easy task was demonstrated on Friday, at the Conference of Presidents, where the only one absent was precisely the Catalan leader. And it is demonstrated every time Junts turns up the volume in his attacks on dialogue.
Voices of the PSC and the commons were all week reminding the Republican of the incoherence of making the flag of dialogue and not attending the meeting in Salamanca. The Government chose to take away the iron and put the accent on the councilor Jaume Giró breaking with five years of empty chair of the head of the Economy portfolio in the Council of Fiscal and Financial Policy. “It’s a shame,” Sánchez responded on Thursday, when asked about the Aragonès sit-in. Of course, La Moncloa closed dry any possibility that the management of European funds, one of the star issues in Salamanca, is addressed bilaterally this Monday.
This is the third attempt at rapprochement between the two executives since Sánchez came to power, after the motion of censure to the PP in 2018. But it is the first in which ERC captains the Generalitat and can impose its voice before that of its partners in Junts, critical of what they consider a cheating negotiation. Not only because they do not see a possible counterproposal from the Government, but because of its international consequences. For the president of the Parliament, Laura Borràs, conveys the erroneous idea that the political conflict is “on track”, as she said in Catalunya Ràdio.
Other eyes see in the progress of the thawing of relations a clear way to give privileges to Catalonia. Hence, both Sánchez and Aragonès opted in June for a design with two different routes and different speeds. On the one hand, the bilateral commission, which the other communities also have and which is legally recognized. On the other, the negotiating table, without legal protection, but in which the Executive defends that whatever is decided is covered by the Constitution. The Generalitat will propose there the holding of an independence referendum and an amnesty law, something that Sánchez himself has already ruled out on other occasions.
But even the shock of entry into those positions does not deactivate the negotiation. “We are not asking for the referendum tomorrow”, responds the delegate of the Government in Madrid, Ester Capella, to the question of whether insisting on the referendum was not an intransigent position. The Moncloa believes that its formula will also take time, but it will end up disarming the independence movement: catching up with the historical defaults in investments and ensuring that the Catalans also see the central government as part of the solution of daily problems, such as delays in the Cercanías system.
Manage in the meantime
The speed of the two forums thus allows each of the parties to counter certain criticisms. The Government promotes improvements from the bilateral commission, with light and stenographers, while the Republicans benefit from the dialogue table as a space reserved for political conflict, while also benefiting from improvements in self-government. The Minister of the Presidency of the Generalitat, Laura Vilagrà, recalled last Friday that there are still 56 pending transfers, including the Statute and ownership of properties of interest. “We want it all and we want it now,” said the counselor.
Junts has practically not put any problem in the negotiations to draw up the committee’s agenda, although it focused its criticism on the refusal to deal with the issue of the management of European funds there. “This Government has a mandate of 52%, but we have to manage in the meantime and that is why we have to be demanding with the Government”, defended on Friday the vice president and leader of Junts in the Executive, Jordi Puigneró.
A few statements from the vice president that, together with Giró’s attendance at the Fiscal and Financial Policy Council, on Wednesday, clashed with some significant voices from the Junts that charged against the negotiation. Starting with your own expresident Carles Puigdemont: “The political processes to build a country cannot be decided in an office or at a dialogue table,” said the MEP who fled justice at a ceremony in France. And for the first time since the inauguration of Aragonès, the pact between independentists to give the dialogue table a two-year margin is questioned.
The Republicans’ response came from the party’s general secretary, Marta Rovira. From Geneva, where he also avoids Spanish justice, he assured that breaking the agreed calendar weakens the negotiating position of the independence movement before the State. Noise does not benefit, but both parties know that the decibels will go up. First, in the negotiation of Budgets on both sides of the Ebro. In Congress, Junts ugly to ERC that it does not agree to fix a position en bloc. In the Parliament, the preferred partner is the CUP, which has already raised the alarm on “autonomist tics”. Then, the electoral contests: the municipal, where Junts and ERC fight in their duel for local hegemony, and the general ones in which the formations of Sánchez and Aragonès will compete in Catalonia for being the most voted force.