Politics 02/06/2021

Aragonès will consult opposition parties before negotiating table

CUP and PSC unsuccessfully press new president to clarify whether he is in favour of airport expansion

4 min

BarcelonaPere Aragonès's government has faced its first parliamentary questions. Ministers have taken their new places in the chamber and have received the first questions from the opposition: more than three months after the 14 February elections, everything is finally up and running. In his first intervention as president, Aragonès has reaffirmed his commitment to dialogue with the State. "In the path of dialogue they will find us", he proclaimed, and announced he would consult opposition parties before the negotiating table with the Spanish State meets again. This will mean that, as well as pro-independence parties and entities, which will sign up to the National Agreement for Amnesty and Self-Determination, he will surely meet the PSC and En Comú, since the PP, Vox and Cs will hardly want to address the issue.

The president's words, in any case, show that the new government's term in office starts with close attention being paid to a prospective deescalation between the Spanish and Catalan government. Aragonès explained this Tuesday that he will call Spanish president Pedro Sánchez this week, in order to fix a face-to-face meeting "the sooner the better" and that these contacts may derive in the negotiating table meeting again. "Our will is to find political solutions to political problems," he declared.

This commitment to dialogue will have the sceptical backing of JxCat and the CUP, who have given it two years to come up with results, but also the more enthusiastic support of En Comú. Their parliamentary leader, Jéssica Albiach, was enthusiastic in her endorsement: "We are the ones for dialogue yesterday, today and tomorrow". Even so, she demanded that, in return, pro-independence parties support the Spanish government's reform of sedition and also that, before launching the dialogue table, Aragonès also launches a meeting of Catalan parties so that there is a consensus on what the Generalitat's position should be in its negotiation with the State. Aragonès did not accede, but did commit to meet the parties individually.

In the first place, however, Aragonès has explained that "in the next few days" he will meet representatives of pro-independence parties and organisations to set in motion the National Agreement for Amnesty and Self-Determination, a space that the president promised to articulate before resuming negotiations with the Spanish government. Aragonès said he wants to "open" the consensus against repression and in favour of a referendum to anyone who defends a "democratic solution" to the conflict and the end of the "general case against independence", indirectly appealing to En Comú. "I am convinced that we will add a lot of people," he said.

Controversy over the extension of El Prat airport

Beyond the national question, El Prat's expansion could become one of the first key issues facing the government. The three pro-independence parties have already hinted at disagreements on the project. CUP deputy Daniel Cornellà has taken advantage of his intervention to demand "an immediate stop" to the extension project. The anti-capitalists believe it would put the environment of the area at risk, and they believe that there is no need to do so. On the other hand, a few minutes before, Government vice president Jordi Puigneró (JxCat) had offered signs of being supportive: "Catalonia cannot afford not to have an airport prepared for the economy of the 21st century," he said.

The plenary of the Parliament this Wednesday.

And what does ERC think? Aragonès has insisted that he still cannot offer an answer and that first wants to meet the institutional taskforce he announced this Wednesday to find a consensus among all the players involved, including the State, and a balance between "competitiveness" and respect for biodiversity. In short, he wants to gain time. But it will not be easy to remain undefined. If the CUP is pressuring him to say no to enlargement, the PSC is pressuring him in the opposite direction. The parliamentary leader of the socialists, Salvador Illa, has demanded clarity: "Are you in favour, yes or no?" He regretted that the independence movement always claims the Spanish government does not give Catalonia a good treatment and yet, now the president of the Generalitat does not embrace "a concrete proposal to expand the main economic infrastructure of Catalonia" without fissures.

The prejudices in Economy and the Mossos

There have been diverse the Ministers who have spoken for the first time before the chamber. For example, Economy minister Jaume Giró, who received his first criticism from En Comú for his "proximity with the Íbex-35". Giró replied by promising "social sensitivity" in policies and quoting Albert Einstein: "It is easier to disintegrate an atom than a prejudice". "But I trust that some prejudices can also be disintegrated," he added.

Ministers Joan Ignasi Elena and Teresa Jordà this Wednesday in the plenary session.

The new Minister of Home Affairs, Joan Ignasi Elena, has also been able to verify that his area will be one of the favourites for the opposition when it comes to wearing down the Government. At the moment, he has tried to start his mandate with a conciliatory message both with the Mossos d'Esquadra, which he directs, and with those who want to change some of the Catalan police's methods, such as CUP. "We have to take security out of the partisan debate and move it to a political debate," he has claimed.