Politics 19/04/2021

ERC presses Junts to reach an agreement before May 1: "The excuses have to end".

Puigdemont's party avoids setting deadlines and asks its partners for "more meetings" and fewer statements

4 min
The ERC negotiating team (Marta Vilalta, Sergi Sabrià, Laura Vilagrà and Josep Maria Jové), at Monday's press conference

BarcelonaERC has given Junts an ultimatum to reach an agreement "between April 23 and May 1". The Republican negotiating team has appeared for the first time jointly at a press conference to redouble the pressure on Carles Puigdemont's party after talks to reach an understanding continue to make slow progress. Thus, the Republican deputy Sergi Sabrià has said that "we must set a date for the investiture debate" and has established the last week of April as the deadline to close the government agreement. "The excuses have to end," said Sabrià, who asked Junts for an exercise in "responsibility" after recalling that the Republicans have always validated the candidates that have been presented to them.

However, Junts spokeswoman Elsa Artadi has avoided setting deadlines and has asked them for "more meetings" to finish closing the "details" of the programmatic agreement and fewer "unhelpful statements". According to Artadi, there is a lack of "concreteness" in the document that they are negotiating - advanced by the ARA - and has come to say that the problem is ERC's "generalist approach" when facing the negotiation. She wanted to give an explicit example of an exchange of documents that they had days ago: at first, Artadi said, ERC sent nin-page document with a set of measures, while Junts sent a 57-page document containing "300" public policies.

According to Sergi Sabrià, on the other hand, the culprit that there is no government two months after the elections is Junts. "We have not stopped making proposals", he said, before warning that "if someone wants elections, they will have to explain it very clearly". This is the same line as other ERC leaders have taken. "There are no obstacles to reach an agreement," said ERC spokeswoman and secretary general Marta Vilalta. Vilalta has stated that Junts puts the party before the country and has attributed the blockade to internal disagreement within Junts. "It cannot be that the problems within Junts become the problems of the country," Vilalta said. In this sense, she has accused Junts of having the country "mortgaged and in standby" to solve own their internal disagreements.

These statements have unnerved Junts and Artadi has remarked that the inner workings of the party are known only to its leaders. She has reproached Esquerra for publicly pressuring them and suggesting that the problem is their internal division. "We ask for respect [...], the decisions of the executive so far have been taken unanimously," exclaimed Artadi.

JxCat's Elsa Artadi in a rally in Sabadell

In any case, despite establishing deadlines for the negotiation, Esquerra has not specified what they will do or what scenario they foresee in case there is no agreement before May 1, but they have criticised that Junts postponed its extraordinary Congress scheduled for this weekend until May 7 and 8: "They will have to explain it," Vilalta has stressed. In turn, Artadi has denied any link between the JxCat congress and the negotiation process: she has remarked that the conclave will only choose the presidency of the national council of the party, which has not yet been created, and the defender of the militant, and that it was necessary to adjust deadlines so that candidates could come forward. She explained that one of the candidates to chair the national council is the mayor of Vic, Anna Erra. The official candidates -who have to gather three hundred endorsements from five different areas- will be proclaimed next week.

The negotiation's content

Previously, Vilalta had specified what areas the document Esquerra and Junts are negotiating on touches on: it is centres around the pro-independence strategy; the approach of the legislature in the Parliament; the government programme and the foundations of the "new republican Generalitat", and coordination to guarantee the "loyalty" and the "respect" inside the new executive. For ERC this proposal is "ready" to be deployed, waiting for Junts to position itself: "It is JxCat that has to say whether it is ready to take steps forward," reiterated Vilalta, who pointed out that the response has only been "partial" and only on government action.

On Friday, in the last meeting between the negotiators, Junts gave an answer to part ofERC's government programme. "Let's hope they respond to us today," said Artadi, who added that Carles Puigdemont's party will respond this afternoon on the other issues. Artadi has not wanted to detail the specific points they want ERC to amend, but has pointed to the pro-independence coordination in Congress. As ARA advanced on Tuesday, the proposal on the table is that the body that coordinates the Independence bid should decide on all issues related to the national issue, but Junts wants a better definition of what this means. In their opinion, there should not only be joint action in the Spanish Parliament and in Europe on independence, but also on the Catalan administration's competences and self-government. She explicitly referred, for example, to the European funds that ERC agreed that the Generalitat would manage in one of the extensions of the state of alarm and which have not come to term. "There has been lack of coordination and this has ended with centralisation by Pedro Sánchez," she said.

For its part, the PSC has put the finger on the sore spot. The deputy first secretary of the PSC, Eva Granados, called it a "mistake" to be talking about giving "an expiration date to dialogue with the government of Spain", criticised the "privatisation" of the Government under "the tutelage of the Consell per la República" and denounced a political action based on "confrontation", reports Anna Mascaró. "The pro-independence world is navel-gazing and does not care about Catalans," she said.

En Comú, on the other hand, have insisted in asking ERC to explore a left-wing pact to avoid that Junts returns to the Generalitat. The spokesman for Catalunya en Comú, Joan Mena, has again urged ERC to renounce the formula of government with JxCat because he considers it a "failed" alliance and that would mean that the executive would be chaired by the party of Carles Puigdemont "through the back door".