A new opportunity for dialogue
BarcelonaCatalan President Pere Aragonès will visit the Spanish presidential palace next Friday to meet with Pedro Sánchez and try to redirect the relationship between the two governments (and their two main parties) after a course full of turbulence that almost derailed their bet made on negotiation and dialogue. In fact, the balance of the nine months that have passed since the first dialogue table headed by the two met has been frankly disappointing. There has not even been another meeting, due to the multiple excuses given by the Spanish government (now there is some elections, now some others) and the outbreak of the Catalangate scandal in April, which brought the relationship between the two governments to its lowest point.
Now it seems that the Spanish government is willing to return to the path of dialogue and to offer some concrete results, but it is not clear whether it is out of conviction or necessity. Sánchez is interested in improving relations with ERC in view of a possible negotiation of the budgets. It is in this context that both the Framework Agreement for Dialogue and Negotiation made public this Friday and the announcement by the Spanish government of a meeting between presidents must be interpreted. Regarding the text itself, it should be emphasised that it stresses terms already known, such as the recognition of the existence of a political conflict, the legitimacy of all political positions and the need to advance in the de-judicialisation, and introduces as new elements what the Catalan side interprets as a guarantee that spying on Catalan independence supporters will not be repeated. It is the point that states the following: "The actions of the institutions will guarantee at all times fundamental rights, privacy and political and ideological freedom of everyone who identifies with the current political and democratic positions in Catalonia, rejecting illegitimate acts, decisions or mechanisms that violate these rights."
As always in these cases, one must trust in the good faith of the other party, even though the precedents are not exactly encouraging. In any case, one of the lessons of the Independence bid is that one has to know how to take advantage of opportunities and play one's cards right, as happened with the pardons and the changes in the Court of Auditors that made it possible to alleviate the economic situation of the defendants in the so-called "Foreign Affairs" case. However, Sánchez has very little credit left in Catalan society and it is up to him to take more steps in the path of the anti-repressive agenda if he really wants to advance in what he calls "the agenda of reunion". In this sense, a reform of the crime of sedition that could facilitate the return of those exiles who wish to do so would be positive. Because a fruitless dialogue is just a slogan, an empty shell.
And one last thought. Since the beginning of the Independence bid, one of the challenges for Catalan rulers has been how to combine the day-to-day management with the tension with the Spanish government due to the political conflict. This has not always been achieved. Now, in a context of economic crisis, finding this difficult balance is more necessary than ever.