Aragonès clashes with Junts for reaching out to En Comú in budget negotiation
Catalan president wants to sit down to negotiate with Jèssica Albiach to pass the budget
BarcelonaThe Catalan Government is pressed for time when it comes to reaching an agreement on budget with the CUP, which has already named its conditions. In the meantime, the possibility of an alternative partner generates misgivings within the ERC-JxCat coalition Government. This was on show this Wednesday in the Catalan Parliament, where president Pere Aragonès asked En Comú to the negotiating table, to JxCat's clear discomfort. JxCat's parliamentary leader Albert Batet hinted that this offer had not been agreed within the coalition. Batet asked the president to be "responsible" and respect the agreements he reached with the three pro-independence parties that voted Aragonès in. Batet also reproached him for opening the door to "non-agreed majorities", in allusion to En Comú, and called on pro-independence forces to find a "shared strategy".
Aragonès, however, believes that seeking En Comú Podem's support has its pros: the president has defended that it does not exclude a pro-independence majority, unlike other parties such as the Socialists, which have also shown themselves willing to process the budget. "We are a plural and diverse majority and this forces us to give in and face new challenges," said Aragonès defending his position, adding that opting for other partners such as the Socialists "would break" the pro-independence majority – the CUP and the PSC have already said that they are incompatible in the same deal.
During the session, En Comú leader Jèssica Albiach once again asked Aragonès to sit down and negotiate with them and has set conditions: public dentistry and psychology services, measures for the ecological transition, more investment in trains and less in roads. "I propose that we work on this budget proposal, that we sit down and talk," said Albiach, without mentioning ERC's amendment to the totality of Barcelona City Council's budget, led by En Comú's Ada Colau. "It is not a red line," En Comú sources say. but they are waiting to see how Aragonès's position affects negotiation in Barcelona City Council and in the Spanish parliament.
After the session, ERC and Junts leaders held a meeting to analyse proposals by CUP but also to address the disagreements that became evident during the plenary session. JxCat sources maintain that Aragonès's offer was not agreed and insist only on a pro-independence majority, although in private some wouldn't mind accepting the PSC's offer of a "free" abstention. Yesterday, there was already a meeting at the Palau de la Generalitat at the highest level between coalition partners to, in theory, agree on a negotiating strategy for the budget after the CUP's amendment. Only twenty-four hours later, however, it has once again become clear that their strategies differ.
The ideological differences between En Comú and Junts were already evident during the investiture debate, in which Albiach's party demanded that Aragonès exclude JxCat from the equation. Now, in the negotiation of the budgets, it is necessary to see how these two players combine: Junts has already said that it is not willing to increase taxes nor renounce to the candidacy of the Winter Olympics, as En Comú Podem defends. Or at least, party sources clarify, they are not willing to make ideological renunciations if there is no progress in the field of the Independence bid and the "confrontation" with the State.
Aragonès closes the door on Illa
And what is the role of the Catalan Socialists' Party (PSC) in this situation? After having offered his support to process the budgets, this Wednesday the head of the socialist ranks, Salvador Illa, has gone a step further and has asked for an "urgent" meeting with the president to get a budget "for the country" through parliament. "I would like this meeting to take place today," Illa said before Parliament convened, and made the request formal with a letter to the head of the Government. "I am writing to you [...] to unblock the negotiation of the budget for the Generalitat for 2022," the letter says.
Illa has considered that, after the CUP's announcement, the majority that voted Aragonès in has been "broken" or, at the very least, "does not have the necessary solidity" or a shared "project" to move forward.
Aragonès' response did not take long to arrive. In Parliament, he closed the door to agreeing the budget with the socialists, asserting that they are incompatible. "You want to see the pro-independence majority broken [...]. And I want the pro-independence majority to be the basis of the budget agreement," Aragonès said, distrusting that PSC's votes would be "free". "In politics nothing is free. What may seem so today may end up being a price of resignation", the president concluded.