Maria Eugènia Gay to be new Spanish government delegate in Catalonia

Cunillera stands down arguing the situation in Catalonia "has improved considerably" since she took office

2 min
Maria Eugenia Gay

BarcelonaThe delegate of the Spanish government in Catalonia, Teresa Cunillera, is leaving after three and a half years in office. She informed President Pedro Sánchez in a letter in which she argued that the situation in Catalonia has "improved considerably" since she took office in June 2018. Despite the fact that she had long sought to end her time in the Delegation, the historic socialist leader has not given any more details about the reasons for her step to the side and has limited herself to claiming she has tried to "fulfil the assignment received". "The time has come to leave my place," she concludes in the letter. According to La Vanguardia –and confirmed by ARA– lawyer Maria Eugènia Gay will replace her at the head of the delegation. Gay does not belong to any party and was agreed on as replacement by Sánchez and the leader of the Catalan Socialists' Party, Salvador Illa.

Cunillera, born in Bell-lloc d'Urgell almost 71 years ago and very close to Miquel Iceta, was Sánchez's bet to relieve the PP's Enric Millo. Half a year after the 2017 referendum and a few weeks after Quim Torra was invested president of the Generalitat, when the 155 was finally lifted, the Spanish government chose her as a representative to channel dialogue between the Catalan government and the State. "I want to give continuity to the new stage of political relations with Catalonia", she said in her inauguration, setting the Constitution as the limit of her actions. Now she affirms that she has tried to "live up to the task" with all her "efforts and dedication". "I hope not to have disappointed this confidence", she adds in the letter. Cunillera was also one of the first socialist voices in defending pardons for political prisoners.

As explained by those closed to her, she leaves convinced that she has contributed to the normalisation of relations with the Catalan executive, to project a proactive and conciliatory image of the Delegation – a symbol of the repression of 2017 for the independence movement – and to promote understanding between the different police forces. This Wednesday, in fact, she asked the Catalan government to "not play into the hands" of ex-commissioner José Manuel Villarejo after his statements about the Spanish intelligence services' links to the 2017 terror attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils. "He has no credibility whatsoever," she said as part of her last press conference in office. The appearance was to explain the degree of compliance with the commitments of the Spanish government in Catalonia, which she also defends in the letter sent to Sanchez. "Wherever I am, I will always be at your side, trying to help and accompany as far as I can," she ends by telling the Spanish president.

Cunillera has had a political career spanning over four decades, closely linked to the PSOE and almost always centered in Madrid. In 1982 she was elected as a member of the Spanish parliament for Lleida for the first time and held the seat almost uninterruptedly until January 2016. That year she defended, like the PSC and Sánchez, to vote against Mariano Rajoy's investiture, and, even so, she was part of the interim board the PSOE created to steer the party after the resignation of the socialist leader. Between 2008 and 2011, she was also first vice-president of the Spanish lower house. Her CV also includes her period as a member of the cabinet of the Presidency during the last period of Felipe González (1993-1996) and director of the cabinet of the Minister of Relations with the Courts Virgilio Zapatero (1986-1989).