Politics 27/01/2021

Iceta already appointed minister: "I want a Spain that is strong in its unity and proud in its diversity".

He shows commitment to the Constitution and praises Illa

4 min

BarcelonaThe first secretary of the PSC, Miquel Iceta, is now a minister. The last formality has been made effective this Wednesday morning, as Iceta was sworn at the Zarzuela Palace before the king and the president of the Spanish government, Pedro Sánchez. Shortly afterwards, Iceta received the ministerial portfolio of Territorial Policy from his predecessor, Carolina Darias, accompanied by both the former Minister of Health, Salvador Illa, and the Ministers of Transport and Interior, as well as the President of Congress, Meritxell Batet, who was the first Minister of Territorial Policy with Sánchez in the Moncloa.

Iceta has pledged to continue Darias's work in the ministry and wanted to hack away at criticism from sectors of the Spanish right that accuse him of defending pro-independence stances. "There will be curiosity to know how the new minister wants and loves Spain and I will say it clearly: I want a Spain strong in its unity and proud in its diversity. It is the one I want and love. And remember that there is no more solid strength than that which arises from agreement and pact," he said.

Iceta and Darias

Afterwards, the PSC First Secretary also showed his commitment to the Constitution and stressed that it can only be "improved with solid agreements". Showing his experience in politics -he is 60 years old and has been in the PSC for 33 years-, he recalled that his first act was in a public high school in Barcelona asking for a yes vote to the Constitution referendum in 1978. However, he pointed out that, although the Magna Carta "enshrines unity and diversity and also local autonomy", this "must be strengthened".

This is the commitment with which he starts his task at the head of Territorial Policy 30 years after his first jump to Madrid, when he made his debut as a member of Felipe González's team. "I do not come here with my own programme, but faithful and committed to a progressive government programme that must be fulfilled and is being fulfilled," he emphasised on the coalition government. On the legacy of Darias, he said he will follow "the path already traced", without "inventions or improvisations or surprises".

Illa's vocation of "public service"

The new Minister of Territorial Policy has begun by thanking the words of Sanchez on Tuesday, when he announced that he would enter the Spanish government. But who he has praised most vehemently has been the outgoing Minister of Health. Despite admitting that some will accuse him of campaigning, he pointed out that beyond this we must take into account Illa's "vocation for public service" because "he has shown how to exercise a public function with dignity and efficiency at an extraordinarily complex time". "I want to highlight his commitment to cooperation and harmony," he concluded. These are precisely the words that the Spanish president used yesterday to refer to Iceta.

Finally, Iceta has made a special mention to the former socialist leaders Joaquín Almunia and Jordi Sevilla for being an "inspiration" in the position he assumes as minister, and especially to Batet for having set the course of the ministry. In fact, curiously, Iceta has not gone into the detail of the relationship with Catalonia, although it is his team that has to manage a possible reissue of the negotiating table.

As an anecdote, in addition to his sister, his aunt Mari, the only one of the eight siblings of his father's family who is alive and lives in Madrid, attended the event. "I told her she couldn't miss it," he said. True to his particular style, the new Minister of Territorial Policy claimed that Icetas had already given Spain a national football coach and now offer a minister.

Sanchez's chessboard

A little more than 24 hours before the start the election campaign for the Catalan elections, Pedro Sánchez already has all the pieces set up as he wanted: the council of ministers remodeled and Illa heading to Catalonia to be the candidate of the PSC on 14-F. Thus culminates the political operation that began to take shape on December 30, when, by surprise, it was announced that it would be Illa and not Iceta who would lead the Catalan socialists in the elections.

The event at the Zarzuela Palace was brief and unsurprising. Iceta, with one hand on the Constitution as is customary in these cases, has followed the usual formula. The new ministers can choose whether to promise or swear the oath of office, and Iceta has chosen to promise. "I promise on my conscience and honour to faithfully fulfil the duties of the office of minister with loyalty to the king and to keep and uphold the Constitution as the fundamental rule of the State, as well as to maintain the secrecy of the deliberations of the council of ministers", was his phrase. The only remarkable detail is that, at the moment in which she alluded to loyalty to the king, he glanced at the monarch, located just a few metres away. Carolina Darias has also promised her post as the new Minister of Health, who did the same. Promise and look at the king.

Iceta can now begin to exercise a position that will not keep him away from the Catalan political conflict, since precisely one of the folders that will be open on his new table of the ministry will be how to try to make effective a dialogue between the Spanish government and the Generalitat. In fact, as Minister of Territorial Policy should be one of those responsible for reactivating the negotiating table that the PSOE and ERC agreed in January 2020 and that, for now, has not quite worked. It was designed to find a solution to the conflict but, until now, has met only once. However, no one considers it buried and the Spanish government and ERC have pledged to give it a chance after the elections to the Catalan Parliament. Iceta, who has been the ideologist of some of the great positions of the PSC in recent decades - such as constitutional reform or the third way - is already the minister of the federal cause.