The negotiation on the political conflict in Catalonia and the one referring to sectoral issues are different highways. And they do not intersect. The president of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès (Pineda de Mar, Barcelona, 38 years old) strives to highlight it throughout his conversation with this newspaper, in which he admits that the two years of margin that have been given with the Government for the dialogue to bear fruit they could be prolonged if there is progress. So much so that, according to him, even if Esquerra Republicana does not support the General Budgets that the Government is preparing, the dialogue table – which will resume in September – should continue its work. The interview was conducted in Barcelona on Friday, one day before the changes in the Pedro Sánchez government, and updated this Sunday.
Question. What proposals do you have for the table, beyond the referendum And the amnesty that the Government has already rejected?
Answer. The positions are far apart but there is a will for dialogue. We have agreed to two forums. First, for the resolution of the political conflict, there is the dialogue table. And, in parallel, the Bilateral Commission will deal with issues such as infrastructures or constitutional conflict of laws such as the control of the price of rents.
P. Do you see room for more meetings if President Pedro Sánchez tells you, from the outset, no to the referendum?
R. There is a margin if there is political will. Our proposal is clear: to solve the conflict there must be a level playing field between the parties. Amnesty is necessary, because the other instruments are incomplete. And the relationship between Catalonia and Spain must be decided in a referendum.
P. If there is no margin, is the dialogue over?
R. We will never leave the table and we will work with any government to find solutions.
P. Is it not incongruous to say that it will be a complicated negotiation and self-imposed a maximum period of two years, as agreed with its partners?
R. The Court of Auditors has not waited two years to act. The agreement says that clearly in two years it will be evaluated and the evaluation does not necessarily have to lead to the completion of the negotiation. Nor does it mean that it lengthens sine die. The Spanish legislature also ends in 2023.
P. And what could be the indicators of this progress?
R. That the door is not closing to any proposal. We are not going to reject any entry proposal and we are going to defend that ours be discussed and evaluated. It is the one that generates the most consensus [en Cataluña] and the most inclusive. Both positions are on equal footing to win at the polls.
P. Therefore, it will also calmly debate the proposal made by the Government.
R. Yes, but a new Statute of autonomy is not the solution. It excludes a large part of the citizenry that is not satisfied with that and wants to go further. If we talk about the decision-making procedures, if we can include all the proposals and submit them to the public, we can move forward. That is why I am proposing a referendum and I am not directly asking for independence.
P. And can you guarantee that your Junts partners, more skeptical about the dialogue, will not leave the table?
R. As president, I am not going to leave the table, that implies the Government. If someone has alternative proposals to work and expose them.
P. Carme Forcadell has expressed that there was a lack of empathy with the non-independentistas in 2017 and Junqueras admits that many Catalans did not understand the unilateral commitment. Is insisting on the referendum yes or yes not going the same way?
R. I defend the right of those opposed to independence to decide it in a referendum and not to impose it on them. Mature, self-confident democracies have decided to hold referendums when part of their territory constantly speaks in favor of independence. Scotland, Quebec. Is there no security about the project in Spain?
P. The complaint is that the Government focuses only on the discussion of the territorial issue and more urgent issues or issues that generate more consensus are not addressed.
R. My first act of government was a visit to the children’s mental health service at the Parc Taulí Hospital. The fact of defending the independence of Catalonia does not exclude the commitment to economic and social and feminist transformation. Deep inequalities are not just a concern, without my greatest concern.
P. From the Government they ask him for a gesture of relaxation after the pardons. Reach?
R. It is not a matter of gestures, it is a matter of decisions. There will have to be a chain of decisions to build mutual trust. The two sides are moving. In the same way that I recognize that pardons can be the first step, if there are more steps, it must be recognized that the Catalan independence movement, specifically ERC, facilitated that there was no repetition in the elections three years ago.
P. A gesture from you is expected in the approval of the accounts.
R. I am convinced that Sánchez’s willingness to dialogue is not the result of a negotiation on the Budgets but is sincere. Accounts are one thing and negotiation is another. In other words, if we reject the Budgets, the commitment to negotiation must continue.
P. Will you approach your negotiation as a bloc of pro-independence parties or will ERC go it alone?
R. We have the obligation to build a very broad Catalan position, far beyond the parties of the Government. But if there is no joint position, that will not prevent a negotiation from moving forward with the highest ambition.
P. Do you think that the changes in the Government can facilitate the negotiation on Catalonia?
R. The important thing is not the who but the what. For our part, it is clear: the resolution must be based on a democratic solution, which is amnesty and a referendum on the independence of Catalonia and the important thing will be the proposal that the State brings to the negotiating table next September.
P. Has it surprised you that Miquel Iceta, until now in charge of relations with the autonomous communities, has changed portfolio? How do you interpret it?
R. I’m not going to speculate. The important thing is the facts, the concrete proposals and not the people.
P. Is there a climate of trust with Sánchez that allows us to move forward?
R. We have held a first meeting, I hope more will come and thus be able to advance on many issues. We came from a period where there was no dialogue and the first point to solve problems is to dialogue.
P. Since the independence movement, there are around 3,000 people in legal proceedings for the procés. Would all of them have to benefit from the amnesty that he proposes?
R. Everything related to the referendum of October 1, 2017 is pursued from many areas. We must focus on stopping these procedures, whether criminal, administrative or from the Court of Auditors.
P. Would your amnesty include, for example, someone who has thrown a stone at the police in a demonstration of the process?
R. We are willing to discuss the scope of the measure, but it is clear that there is political activity that is being pursued.
P. The president of the Parliament, Laura Borràs, also declares that she feels politically persecuted. The justice has imputed it for the supposed hacking of public contracts. Should there be amnesty for her?
R. I’m talking about amnesty for those related to political activity related to 1-O. The 1-O is what it is and other causes that may or may not be and, although we will always defend the presumption of innocence, they are different causes.
P. Another gesture towards non-independentistas would be to participate in bodies such as the Conference of Autonomous Presidents. Why not go?
R. My experience is that they are an act of political significance but without work content. To participate in what is only a symbolic act, with the situation we have in Catalonia, would be to normalize what is not normal. These forums are far from a federal conception.
P. Did you feel bad that you weren’t invited to the recent Mediterranean summit between Ximo Puig and Francina Armengol?
R. I understand that they have a long-term bilateral work and that does not exclude what we can do in the future with the Generalitat Valenciana and the Balearic Government.
P. But does not include them in acts like this certify the political isolation of Catalonia?
R. I have met with both leaders and they will be the first presidents of other territories of the state that I will meet.
P. Are you seeking to prevent the challenge of the Catalan decree that allows to endorse those investigated by the Court of Accounts?
R. If there is any nuance that needs to be modified, it can be validated and processed as a bill to make an adjustment. If any doubts arise in this regard, we can study them.
P. Can you assure that the Generalitat will not be economically harmed by the issue of guarantees?
R. The decree protects public servants, based on the presumption of innocence and that they comply with the law. And if in the end it is shown that there was an incorrect action, that person must respond financially to the Generalitat.
P. What if an eventual convicted person is declared insolvent?
R. The instruments of the Court of Auditors to proceed with the embargo are the same as ours. We are in a Kafkaesque discussion. The court is saying that there is accounting responsibility but not because a file has been processed well or badly or if the contracting rules have been followed, which is what it would have to do, if not about whether it is constitutional or not depending on the intention there behind. It is politically persecuting. A court that also ends up being a refuge for former PP ministers, 10% of the staff are family among them, a level of neportism that takes away legitimacy, which has not persecuted the ERE, the leaders of the PP party who were brothers-in-law of the magistrates of the court of accounts, clearly the problem is the Court of Accounts, not the generalitat of legal protection of their positions.
P. The first step, according to your plan to avoid attachment of the charges involved, is for a bank to guarantee the bonds. Have you found it?
R. This is being worked on in the Department of Economy and is being worked on by those affected as well
P. Do you aspire for the PSC to support your Budgets in Catalonia?
R. The investiture agreement has been with Junts and the CUP. But this does not imply that, if other parties want, we can reach agreements.
P. The Government has offered them support to organize the Winter Olympic Games in Catalonia, but their party and the Junts maintain differing positions in this regard. Do you support these games?
R. Pyrenees 2030 is an opportunity, within a project of social, economic and territorial development with environmental balance. And I think it is an opportunity but we have to accompany the project with a consensus in the administrations. I underline the need for games not to be a one-off activity but to be integrated into a development project in the Pyrenees.
P. Are you in favor of expanding the El Prat airport as proposed by AENA?
R. I am in favor of El Prat increasing its capacity for intercontinental flights. It is true that the easiest solution has an environmental impact and we have to study alternatives. The decision will not be the Government or the Generalitat, it will be the European Commission. But we must have a commitment that if it is not possible to expand it due to environmental issues, the intercontinental nature of the facility is also reinforced through a global solution that includes the airports of Reus, Girona and Lleida.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.