ERC and JxCat announce an agreement for a "strong" and "cohesive" government

Aragonès and Sànchez say "strategic" basis in "common ground" will allow "progress" towards independence

4 min
Pere Aragonès in a speech to the plenary session of Parliament

BarcelonaThree month after the elections on February 14, we will have a government. Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) and Together for Catalonia (JxCat) have reached an agreement for a "strong" and "cohesive" government –after intense negotiations over the weekend– to set in motion a government led by ERC's national coordinator Pere Aragonès. In a joint press conference at Palau Robert in Barcelona, Aragonès and JxCat secretary general Jordi Sànchez spoke about the common ground between the parties and the strategic consensus which, together with a shared government programme, will allow "progress towards independence. "We are starting a new phase with an agreement for a pro-independence government committed with progressive politics and which will answer to the over 50% of voters who voted for the independence of Catalonia", announced Aragonès, who said the economical recovery, the green agenda, feminism, self-determination and amnesty will be the pillars of the new executive.

On the other hand, Sànchez defended the agreement claiming it succeeds in defending both parties' "strategic outlooks": "we are convinced that this will allow to continue making solid progress towards independence [...]. The government will work for the whole country, but neither will we disappoint the over 50% of voters who were in favour of independence", Sànchez explained.

Regarding the details of the agreement, Aragonès's term will have two phases, as ERC already agreed with CUP. Aragonès confirmed that in two years' time he will submit to a confidence vote, which will be closely linked to what he might obtain as part of the negotiating table with the Spanish government. In this time, a national agreement for self-determination will be set up –as already announced by Aragonès in the investiture debates– and pressure will be put on the Spanish state to push forward an amnesty law for prisoners and exiles.

Jordi Sànchez said that JxCat accepts working in negotiations with the state with "loyalty" and that soon a series of indicators will be agreed on to assess progress. "From the first moment, after the February 14 elections, it was down to Pere Aragonès to lead the independence bid. That is why we accept his strategic vision in the same way that [ERC] has valued ours", Sànchez said.

The main obstacles in the negotiation were the role de Consell per la República would play and the degree to which the parties would present a united front in the Spanish parliament. The final formula consists in the creation of a space with five members: ERC, JxCat, CUP, ANC and Òmnium. This new entity for "coordination, consensus and strategic leadership" will debate the strategy for the independence bid and decide on the alternative to dialogue with the state, should the latter fail. JxCat and ERC also commit to seeking "unity" in all parliamentary chambers: they will try to finda common position on all topics and, should there not be a consensus, each will take the decisions it considers appropriate. This means that in the case of the state budget it will be this new body which will debate on what to do. If they reach an agreement they will act collectively; if not, each will decide individually on what is best.

In addition, the Consell per la República will modified so that ERC rejoins. Once this entity is reformed, if there is sufficient "consensus" the five-member leadership of the independence bid will also join it, as JxCat has always sought. In any case, Sànchez claimed that the Consell per la República has "never" wanted to "dictate" the strategy to achieve independence because at all time they were proposing a body that included all five main pro-independence players. He also denied that, despite ERC's accusations, JxCat wanted to "oversee" ERC's presidency from exile.

The agreement has reached this weekend after two days of negotiations between Sànchez and Aragonès. Throughout the morning, both parties' executives ratified the deal, which now only needs to be approved by JxCat's members. According to Sànchez, members will have to decide on whether or not they back the agreement. Should they reject it, JxCat would invest Aragonès regardless.

JxCat and ERC apologised for having "taken so long to reach an agreement". After weeks of tension and mutual criticism, the announcement also "commits" to forming a government that "seeks to rebuild trust with the citizens of Catalonia, the maximum confidence between coalition partners and [collaborate] with CUP". The objective of the new executive, they assure, is "to govern for everyone and at the same time to be able to advance" towards independence.

Key weekend

What has changed in these last two days for an agreement to finally be possible? "It has been an intense weekend of negotiations. We could not go to the polls again", sources close to the talks tell ARA. With this agreement, ERC gives up the solo minority government it claimed was the only option it was considering. "Responsibility has won, it is a good agreement for both sides" ERC sources explain. JxCat, in turn, has given in on the Consell per la República, which will, at least initially, not turn into the leading body behind the independence bid. The agreement was achieved thanks to Sànchez and Aragonès's personal involvement, who met for between 8 and 10 hours on Saturday and Sunday to close the agreement.

CUP demands its agreement with ERC is respected

CUP MP Carles Riera has demanded Oriol Junqueras's party respects its agreement with CUP. In an interview with Ràdio 4 and La 2, he admitted that he would be surprised if the new government didn't a lot of things CUP didn't agree with or considered "insufficient". This is because the CUP's agreement with ERC is the "bare minimum".

When asked about this, Jordi Sànchez has said there will no problem in combining both agreements. He added that in the last few weeks they had been working with CUP on projects such as universal basic income, although there are problems on public-private partnerships. "We will work on it", he claimed, and said that making the public sector stronger does not necessarily mean it has to be publicly owned.

According to ARA, CUP called assemblies to decide on the course of action should Aragonès fail to be invested. They may still hold these assemblies if they suspect ERC might not respect the agreement it has with CUP. Regarding the new government, Riera was clear that they against Ministers such as Ramon Tremosa or Damià Calvet keeping their posts.

Riera also said that the conditions were no longer favourable for CUP to join the executive. This is because the government agreement is very far from the CUP's manifesto. He added, however, that should conditions change, they would reconsider.