22/05/2021

Catalonia once again has an ERC president

2 min
The hemicycle applauding Pere Aragonés

This Friday's investiture debate in the Parliament had a certain historical flavour: Catalonia once again has an ERC president. The party was hegemonic during the Republic with Macià and Companys, kept alive the flame of the Generalitat in exile with Irla and Tarradellas, barely survived the Transition and, starting from a minority position in relation to CiU and PSC, now returns to hold the leadership of the main institution of the country. The embrace between the president of the party, Oriol Junqueras, and the now president of the country, Pere Aragonès, summed up the complexity of the moment, with the former in prison as a result of the events around the 2017 referendum and the latter becoming the first president born after the death of Franco.

Aragonès has the confidence of the 74 pro-independence MPs who voted in favour of his investiture (from ERC, Junts and the CUP), but he pledged to govern "with an outstretched hand", looking above all to the En Comú benches and without ruling out the PSC for the great national agreements. And on the Independence bid, he warned the CUP that it is necessary to "keep our feet on the ground" and take advantage of the "lessons learned" in recent times. With these two messages, Aragonès drew a very clear dividing line with his predecessor, Quim Torra.

Aragonès, however, will not have it easy. His coalition government with Junts has been formed after a (too) long period of negotiations that has left wounds, as evidenced by the letter that Carles Puigdemont made public from his exile in Belgium. Even so, now is the time to start from scratch and to restart governmental activity with renewed energy. The Catalan government has to combine political leadership, necessary to lead the negotiation with the State over the political conflict, with the technical training to achieve excellence in management. These ought to go hand in hand, since if one fails, it will be the whole Government that fails.

In this sense, this Friday it has been known that an independent, the former general director of the La Caixa Foundation, Jaume Giró, will occupy the Ministry of Economy at the proposal of Junts. From the outset it is good news that talent is sought outside the parties and that someone with his experience accepts a public position of such responsibility at a time like the present, when we are just leaving the worst phase of the pandemic. Giró will have two immediate challenges. The first is to fight to attract the maximum amount of European funds for Catalonia. And the second, to reach a budget agreement with the CUP.

In the coming days the rest of the names of the executive will become known, with the main unknown being who will occupy the vice-presidency and the leadership of Junts in Government. Hopefully ministers' CVs will send a clear message to society: it is time to roll up our sleeves and start working for the whole country, with a long view and without sectarianism. With "republican values", as president Aragonés defends.

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