Politics 16/06/2021

Aragonès reaffirms his bet on dialogue before the business world but warns it will not include renunciations

He demands the State transfer to the Generalitat the management of the port of Barcelona, the airport and the consortium of the Free Zone

3 min
The president of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, this Wednesday at the conference of the Circle.

BarcelonaAll the will for dialogue and negotiation that is necessary with the State, but also all the firmness defending the best way out of the Catalan political conflict is a referendum on independence. This has been the calling card that the President of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, has given to the Catalan business community in his first speech in a relevant economic forum since he took office. The president spoke in the inaugural session of the economy conferences organized annually by the Cercle d'Economia, one of the key events of the year in Catalonia where businessmen and politicians debate the needs and opportunities of the current situation. Thus, Aragonès has guaranteed businessmen his firm "commitment with a stage of dialogue and negotiation" between his Government and the State, but he has also warned them that this will not mean that he renounces his convictions. He believes the solution is an amnesty for the victims of reprisals and a "democratic solution", that is to say, a referendum. The businessmen also had a message for Aragonès through the Cercle's president, Javier Faus. They applaud dialogue and endorse pardons, but show no sign of support for a referendum.

One of the main open fronts that the new president has in the new legislature is precisely to face the relationship with businessmen, always tense since the Independence bid got underway and especially complicated during the last two Catalan presidencies, Carles Puigdemont's and Quim Torra's. Aragonès arrives in a period of less intense political conflict than his predecessors, but also with the aim of trying to find tangible solutions. This Wednesday the new president has offered businessmen a 'music' that they have been waiting for a long time, a commitment to a "new stage" of dialogue and negotiation, but also a 'letter' that may be less to their liking: "My commitment is pro-independence, republican and progressive".

Be that as it may, the Catalan president wanted to hear all parties and challenged the State to make an proposal official proposal for Catalonia. "And from there, we can debate and contrast models", he resolved. In fact, he took the opportunity to demand that no one should be afraid of the referendum, not even economic powers. He has put two arguments on the table: the first one that "mature societies do not have to be afraid of tackling all debates". The second, more economic and appealing to the theses of economist Mariana Mazzucato, is that when institutions are able "to accompany democratic processes", "economic growth" benefits. In other words, the president has claimed that betting on the referendum route should not alter economic stability, as long as all parties act responsibly.

Infrastructures and taxation

But Aragonès has wanted to touch on other topics as well as the Independence bid, in spite of the fact that the State continued very present in his other demands. For example, the president accepts the businessmen's take on the importance of key infrastructures such as the airport for the future of Catalonia. He has even given some sign that he does not believe the project to extend El Prat is negative if it is done through "consensus" from all parties, but he has warned that it will be necessary to review the question from the environmental point of view. Even so, Aragonès has asked them to once again exert pressure so that these infrastructures are managed from Catalonia and from Madrid. Therefore, he has already advanced that in the bilateral relationship that he wants to undertake with the Spanish government he will demand the transfer of the port of Barcelona, the airport of El Prat and the Consortium of the Zona Franca. "We need a new metropolitan governance," he argued.

He has also embarked on other delicate issues, warning businessmen that he does not plan to reduce taxes, although he has not clarified whether he will raise them. "We do not need a reduction in taxation but better taxation," he diagnosed, enigmatic. In the field of promises, he has guaranteed an ambitious and responsible management of European funds that lead to "structural transformations" and public budgets, already facing next year, with measures of "first impact".

Aragonès and the president of the Cercle, Javier Faus.

Endorsement of pardons

It was not only Aragonès speaking this Wednesday, however. Businessmen, through the president of the Cercle, Javier Faus, expressed their demands to the president. The main novelty has been his explicit support for the pardon of political prisoners because it is a legal solution that "our legal system" contemplates. This is not an inconsiderable endorsement, taking into account the rejection generated throughout the right and far right parties at state level. The businessmen also celebrate opening a "historic opportunity for harmony" between Catalonia and Spain due to the willingness of the two governments to dialogue, but they continue to show no sign of accepting a referendum as a consensual solution. They believe in a third way: neither centralism nor independence, but an improvement of Catalonia's place within Spain.