Generalitat resumes formal relations with Spanish government
Catalan minister Vilagrà and Spanish minister Bolaños will meet this Wednesday in Madrid
BarcelonaWith the outbreak of Catalangate, the indignation of the Generalitat led it to announce relations with the Spanish government would remain frozen until it had given explanations and held those responsible to account over mass surveillance of the independence movement. In spite of the fact that relations were never fully interrupted, relations will resume this Wednesday in Madrid with a meeting between the Catalan Presidency minister, Laura Vilagrà, and Spanish Presidency minister, Félix Bolaños. The Generalitat will attend the meeting with a single point on the agenda: "to address the deadlock" in relations between the two governments following Catalangate. This deadlock jeopardises the great strategy of Catalan president Pere Aragonès this term, which is to seek dialogue with the State to try to resolve the political conflict.
The meeting will be at 4 p.m. and, to show that the distance between the governments is still important, Bolaños will appear from the headquarters of the Spanish government, while Vilagrà will do it from Blanquerna, the headquarters of the Generalitat's delegation in Madrid. The first effort made this Tuesday by the Catalan Government in communicating the meeting was to emphasise that in no case does this mean that relations have been normalised –the Spanish government offers the opposite version–. "Relations are very damaged", said Catalan government spokesperson Patrícia Plaja. The problem is that the Govern considers all the measures taken so far by Pedro Sánchez to clarify the case of espionage (the dismissal of intelligence services director Paz Esteban and a promise of a reform of the law on official secrets) to be totally insufficient
The Generalitat does not want to set too many goals on what ought to come out of the meeting, since so far it sees Sánchez's attitude towards Catalonia as disappointing and, moreover, it has been able to exhibit few fruits of the strategy of dialogue. The disappointment is caused by the unresolved episode of the Pegasus case, but not only. There is also the paralysis of the dialogue table or the State's investment deficit in Catalonia. Be that as it may, the Generalitat does hope that tomorrow's meeting will help lay the foundations for another future meeting: one at the highest level between Spanish president Sánchez and Catalan president Aragonès. The former promised a meeting during his last visit to Catalonia during the Cercle d'Economia conference, but never followed it up. "It is difficult to think of future scenarios, but a meeting between presidents would be a good sign," said Plaja
One of the big secrets of the meeting is who has taken the first step. Catalan government sources tell ARA that they are going to Madrid to seek assurances "that another case like Pegasus will not take place", without forgetting that repression continues beyond the espionage case.
Relations not so frozen
This Wednesday, government-to-government relations will formally resume, but it is true that it has not been such a clean break. There have been impromptu meetings such as those held by Aragonès himself, Catalan Vice President Puigneró and Spanish Transport Minister Raquel Sánchez over the investment deficit, or the one held by Catalan Finance Minister Jaume Giró and Spanish Minister of Economy Nadia Calviño to discuss Celsa. The last example was last Friday, when the bilateral subcommittee on infrastructures, despite the fact that there were neither Catalan nor Spanish ministers present, an unmistakable sign of the difficult relationship between administrations.
The last precedent of an official meeting between Catalan and Spanish ministers with a certain amount of advance notice was on April 24 last year, and it was precisely between Vilagrà and Bolaños. They already spoke then about Catalangate, the topic that will be the protagonist of tomorrow's meeting. An unmistakable sign that, two months in, few things have changed.
The hangover from the failure of the joint bid for the Winter Olympics will be long. This Tuesday the Catalan government has again regretted the decision by the Spanish Olympic Committee (COE) to discard the project and criticised the Spanish and Aragonese governments: "Anti-Catalanism has won," said Plaja. She reproached Pedro Sánchez's government for having "allowed [Aragonese president] Lambán to be out of order", and said he was "the real stumbling block" for there to be an agreement. "The project was a winning one but Lambán did not want to team up with Catalonia", she concluded. The Generalitat maintains that it will try to convince the COE to present a solo candidacy. The consultation on the Olympics that was to be held in the Catalan Pyrenees, however, is postponed until it becomes known whether the solo project is possible.