Politics 19/04/2021

This is the document that Esquerra and Junts are negotiating

Negotiators aspire to reach agreement no government programme this week and later distribute cabinet posts

5 min
Negotiators Sergi Sabrià (ERC) and Elsa Artadi (JxCat) with Dolors Sabater (CUP).

BarcelonaThe negotiation between Esquerra and Junts advances at a slow pace, despite not having ye touched on future government posts. At the moment, the basis of the eventual agreement is a document that includes a strategy for the Independence bid, a pro-independence agreement in Parliament, a government plan and its foundations and the mechanisms to ensure the coalition agreement is kept. This is the architecture, according to several knowing sources consulted by ARA, on which the negotiation between the parties pivot. On Friday, Junts only gave an answer to the Republicans - who have developed this "global" proposal according to documents and previous conversations with Puigdemont's party - on the part that has to do with the government programme. The other areas still have to be dealt with, and negotiators hope to be able to advance this week to enter the next phase of negotiation: the distribution of power.

Strategy for the independence bid

It includes dialogue and an unspecified "democratic attack"

The first part of the document that Esquerra sent Junts last weekend deals with the pro-independence strategy, starting from highlighting that for the first time the parties in favour of the Catalan republic have surpassed 50% of the votes in an election. The strategic core goes through the negotiating table with the State, but incorporates the request of Junts to draw a general staff of the Independence bid within the framework of the Consell per la República to design an alternative if the negotiation with the State fails.

The document outlines a staging of the negotiation process that involves making a declaration in Parliament -whose content is yet to be negotiated taking into account that Junts' manifesto, despite accepting dialogue, included the ratification of declarations of sovereignty made so far and the Unilateral Declaration of Independence-; a statement of the willingness to dialogue by the new executive; a national agreement in favour of self-determination, as announced by the aspiring president Pere Aragonès, in his investiture speech; and a study commission in Parliament to monitor the results of the negotiation with appearances by experts in conflicts. At the same time, and following a request by Junts, a margin would be given to the negotiating table until the middle of the legislature -which also includes the agreement between ERC and CUP- and a new general staff of the independence bid would be created.

This new pro-independence coordinating body would be inserted into a reformed Consell per la República (CxR), the fit of which is being negotiated bilaterally by ex minister Toni Comín with pro-independence entities and parties. ERC is committed to take part in the CxR, but the powers of the new general staff are yet to be agreed on: a first proposal is to determine a strategy in all parliamentary chambers regarding "national issues", while day to day and sector issues would remain outside its scope. The question is to clarify what each issue is: would it decide on the budgets or the state of alarm? Junts has insisted on asking for unity of action in Madrid, but the head of the Republican ranks, Gabriel Rufian, has already rejected it.

The new general staff is also the one that would prepare what they call "new democratic onslaught", which, without giving more details, is said to be "preferably" a new referendum - something that fits with the agreement reached between Esquerra and the CUP. So far, however, Junts has said that the validity of 1-O is maintained and that it would only be open to replace it with an agreed consultation.

Pere Aragonès and Laura Borràs last Tuesday at JxCat General Secretary Jordi Sànchez's conference

Agreement in Parliament

Renewing the members of the Bureau while maintaining the pro-sovereignty majority

This part states the will to maintain the pro-independence majority at the Parliamentary bureau and support the replacements that each political party has to make, in addition to shielding the sovereignty of the chamber. It is in this framework that the support of the Republicans to Aurora Madaula, who is taking Jaume Alonso-Cuevillas's place, is based, although at first they pressured Junts insinuating that they could withdraw their votes if they did not invest Aragonès.

In this area there is a commitment to bring forward an electoral commission of their own -as part of a Catalan electoral law- and also the reform of the Parliament's regulations to defend the "rights" of the deputies and combat the discourse of the far right in the chamber. However, it is not specified how. There is no mention of article 25.4 of the regulation, which may affect the Speaker, Laura Borràs, which states that parliamentarians will be suspended if they are tried for crimes related to corruption. The CUP has already warned that they will not change this point.

JxCat MP Aurora Madaula speaking in parliament

Government programme

A host of measures in the areas of health, economy and social rights

This is the area for which Junts has answered Esquerra. It is a host of measures that mix proposals of the electoral program of ERC and also of JxCat. Some of the were included by both parties in their manifestos. These are mainly related to public health and the pandemic, such as increasing the resources allocated to the health service by €5bn or strengthening primary health care, as well as increasing mass testing for the pandemic. One of Junts' proposals, for example, is to unify social benefits as part of 'citizen basic income'. It also incorporates the plan Aragonès announced during the investiture debate to allot €700m to a commission of economic recovery formed by all Ministers and senior officials, in addition to the person responsible for managing European funds, to design the "reconstruction" after the coronavirus crisis.

In the document, according to several sources consulted, the policies agreed between ERC and the CUP are not foreseen in a specific way - for example, there is talk of citizen basic income and not universal basic income - nor is the confidence vote halfway through the term incorporated, although it does mention they will seek to respect the agreement.

So far none of the parties has quantified the cost of the measures or where the funding would come from.

Riera and Reguant (CUP) speak to ERC's presidential candidate Aragonès after a conference last Wednesday

Composition of the executive

A 50-50 government is assumed without going into more specifics

There is a part of the document, according to various sources familiar with the negotiation, which refers to some areas of government that the vice president, Pere Aragonès, already said he wanted to promote in the investiture speech. This is the case of the ministry of Climate Action, the Ministry of Universities and Research, linked to digitalisation, and the Ministry of Feminisms, although Junts has not yet determined whether it accepts this structure of the executive - right now sustainability and digital policies are part of its areas.

ERC Adjunct Secretary General Marta Vilalta speaks to JxCat spokesperson Elsa Artadi.

Follow-up mechanisms

The document foresees commissions to verify the fulfilment of the agreements and a red button to avoid crises

One of the issues that ERC and Junts want to avoid, despite the latent misgivings between them, are the crises of the past legislature. That is why the document that Esquerra sent to Carles Puigdemont's party includes a series of commissions to monitor the coalition agreement to ensure compliance and resolve moments of tension. There would be a parliamentary commission -with presidents and spokespersons- that would meet every week; another one to monitor the agreement with members of the parties, Government and Parliament, which would also meet frequently, and a seminar of the whole Government every six months to assess the functioning of the pact. For exceptional situations, another committee is envisaged at the highest level: a kind of red button to resolve crises that, paradoxically, would already be necessary now to unblock negotiations to form the government