Politics 30/09/2021

ERC and JxCat agree only agreed referendum can replace 2017 vote

Resolutions of the general policy debate threaten pro-independence unity

4 min
Puigneró and Aragonés this Wednesday in the Parliament.

BarcelonaThe general policy debate has evidenced, for now, two things: that relations between the Catalan Government and the CUP are not going through their best moment and that the executive does not have a partner lined up to approve the 2022 budgets. If this already shows the fragile balance of the legislature, the motions for resolutions that have been presented by parliamentary groups threaten to further strain pro-independence unity. On the one hand, because of the questions that have to do with sovereigntism's strategy in going forward (should it promote a new unilateral referendum?), and on the other hand, because of more sectorial questions that reveal ideological differences, such as El Prat airport extension.


ERC and JxCat decide to abstain in CUP's proposal

Anti-capitalist pro-independence CUP marked the beginning of the general policy debate with a proposal to for another unilateral referendum this legislature. "Set a date for the referendum", demanded CUP leader Carles Riera from president Pere Aragonès. Riera considers that Catalonia should take advantage of the possibility that Scotland may hold a new referendum in 2023. The CUP has expressed this approach in a motion for a resolution, but it is unlikely to go ahead: right now, if there are no last-minute pacts to modify the text, the two governing parties, Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) and Together for Catalonia (JxCat), will abstain. The two government partners have agreed on a joint position regarding the CUP's proposal: "only a referendum of self-determination with the Spanish state can replace the [result of the] 1st of October 2017", and so they have expressed it in a text that they have presented together. They thus close the door on any unilateral consultation during this mandate. This refusal complicates the CUP's support to the 2022 budgets.

Where three pro-independence parties are expected to meet is in support of former President Carles Puigdemont, arrested and released in Sardinia at the weekend. ERC and JxCat have presented a joint text that says he is the "president of the October 1 [Referendum] and of the declaration of independence" and denounce his "persecution" and the "violation of rights", as well as that of the rest of exiles. The CUP is expected to vote in favour.


ERC presents a solo proposal defending the negotiating table

The other reason for pro-independence division will be dialogue with the State. The CUP has already shown its opposition, while Junts has remained outside the negotiating table with the Moncloa. Esquerra, in any case, has submitted a motion for a resolution that argues that the solution to the political conflict goes through "boosting a negotiation process articulated through a the dialogue table and political negotiation between the [Catalan and Spanish] governments". JxCat is not expected to back this motion because it says that it has been "excluded" from the current table – they are considering abstention or voting against it – while CUP has already warned that, in their opinion, this instrument "deactivates" the political conflict. Given this, the Republicans, to get their proposal approved, could seek allies on the other side of the negotiating table in En Comú and the Socialists. In fact, En Comú also tabled its own resolution in favour of dialogue "without deadlines" and formed by members of both governments. The Socialists have not spoken on this issue.

Government partners will take stock on this issue in the joint resolutions they have presented: they speak of a commitment to dialogue and, at the same time, of confrontation with the State to resolve the conflict and create a monitoring committee in Parliament for the negotiation process with the Moncloa. They also agree in a joint text "to culminate the process of independence" without much more specifics and defend amnesty and self-determination as the only way to resolve the conflict.

In turn, Ciutadans will also seek to position parliament on the dialogue table: it wants Parliament to approve that the "national sovereignty" of the State will not be negotiated.

Carles Riera (CUP) during his intervention in the general policy debate in Parliament.


JxCat promotes a text in favour of the expansion alone

The first crisis of the Aragonès government was over the extension of El Prat airport. Everything points to this question becoming a motive of division between partners in the general policy debate. JxCat has presented a solo resolution in favour of obtaining the management of the airport –ERC supports this issue–, but also in favour of the €1.7bn investment to expand this infrastructure that the Spanish government has withdrawn and which would affect protected areas of the Natura 2000 Network. The red line that JxCat has established is not to affect the Ricarda lagoon and to "minimise" its environmental impact. ERC will have to decide how it positions itself on this point –members of their party went to the demonstration against the expansion– while the CUP will clearly vote against it. It remains to be seen what the Socialists will do, since they have shown themselves to be in favour of this infrastructure and are presenting their own resolution urging the Catalan government continue negotiating with the Spanish government to obtain the investment.

The airport, however, will not be the only sectoral issue that will generate division within the independence movement. The socialists will also promote a proposal in favour of holding the Olympic Winter Games that can generate doubts in ERC, JxCat and the CUP. JxCat is in favour of the candidacy, the CUP are against it –they demand it is halted in order to support the budget– while Esquerra has committed to a consultation for the affected municipalities to decide.

Organ renewal

Parties are committed to renewing expired bodies

One of the pending issues is the renewal of the statutory bodies, most of whose members' mandate has long expired. On this point, pro-independence groups are in favour of unblocking the situation. ERC, JxCat and the CUP have presented a joint text that calls on the rest of the political forces to "unblock" the appointments of the Ombudsman, the Auditor, the direction of the Catalan Corporation of Audiovisual Media, the Audiovisual Council and the Council of Statutory Guarantees. They also want to promote a reform of Parliament's procedure rules to shield the house from "external coercions" and "modernise" debate.

The unity of the independence movement and the Government will undergo another stress test.