Pere Aragonès: "If there is no agreement on 1 May, we will have to explore alternative ways with Junts"

7 min

BarcelonaPere Aragonès (Pineda de Mar, 1982) aspires to become the 132nd president of the Generalitat, but 70 days after 14-F, ERC and Junts have still not reached a government agreement.

How do you explain this?

— The results of 14 February are clear: there is a large pro-independence majority and a large progressive majority. We have a solid agreement with the CUP and now it is time to form a government and we do not believe that there are insurmountable obstacles to be able to do so in the coming days.

What is the problem?

— We have not identified any that are so important that the investiture has not already taken place.

Is the problem that ERC's victory is not recognised?

— If there were a tie, we would have a two-headed presidency of the Parliament, wouldn't we? ERC got 30,000 more votes than Junts, but the most important thing is that there is a clear bias towards the left and a change of leadership. We are 74 MPs and it would be a mistake to waste the 52% votes in favour of independence.

Junts wants the Consell per la República to direct the strategy of the Catalan independence bid. Do you agree with this?

— No, I believe that it is the Government that must also assume this responsibility, and it must do so with a strategy agreed with the pro-independence movement as a whole. I said it in the investiture debate: no substitutions, no tutelage. 

Does Carles Puigdemont want to tutor you?

— No, no, I have an excellent relationship with president Puigdemont. But the legitimacy comes from Parliament, which is the vote of the citizens and, therefore, the strategy has to be set by the pro-independence majority of Parliament, obviously with the Government leading this whole task.

Therefore, would the role of the Consell be symbolic or consultative?

— The Consell per la República is an entity that I respect, that has 90,000 members, that has its own dynamics and its own strategy. What we need to work on is to ensure that it can collaborate with the strategy set by the pro-independence majority in the Catalan Parliament.

Its members say that it is better to have a solid agreement than a quick one.

— It is a question of will. If there is will, we could have a government next week.

Are Junts trying to run out of time to raise the price?

— This is for them to answer. It would be a mistake for anyone to put party interests before the interests of the country at a time when people are suffering a lot. We need a Government with all the functions, to draw up a budget and to have all the legitimacy of an investiture and a new government to go and defend the projects of the Next Generation funds.

Was it a mistake to close an agreement earlier with the CUP than with your natural partners in the legislature?

— No, because we started talking to both of them at the same time. With the CUP we set up sectoral working groups and they got involved from the very first moment, while with Junts it took longer.

Jordi Sànchez and Elsa Artadi do not rule out staying in the opposition. Do you think this is a real possibility?

— When people make public statements they say things because they believe they have to. In any case, it is their proposal, we want an agreement and a government with Junts and we want this to happen as soon as possible, during this month of April.

ERC has set an ultimatum of 1 May. If there is no agreement after this date, what will you do?

— If there is no agreement on 1 May, we will have to explore other alternative ways with Junts so that there can be a pro-independence government and we are not forced into a repeat election that we would have to avoid.

A minority government with support from outside?

— Other avenues are the other avenues there may be. We have to work together. We are not the ones who have placed the possibility of an ERC government in a minority.

There is a part of JxCat that considers that the management of public services, as it is autonomist, always falls short.

— Precisely if we want to have all the responsibilities, we have to exercise the ones we already have. The State has a very clear idea of how to put an end to the process of national construction: to annorce our institutions. Therefore, we have to defend them and have institutions that address the country as a whole.

What difference would there be between this government with Junts and the one you have had until now?

— I think there has been a learning process about the things we have to do differently. We have to break with watertight compartments. This means that in some departments there may be a crossover of responsibility, of people proposed by both parties. We have to bring forward new departments that put on the political agenda the challenges that citizens point out to us, such as feminism, climate action, and research and universities.

Could Climate Action go hand in hand with Territory, for example?

— Well, now it's already a bit like that with Territory and Sustainability. In any case, we will have to work together with JxCat on the final proposal. The total number of departments that we must have must be the same as now, and then the coordination mechanisms must be improved.

Thanks to having Health and Education, ERC manages almost 80% of the budget. Will this now pass into Junts' hands? 

— I wouldn't talk so much about what colour a department can be because we have to incorporate talent that is outside of the parties. And in the end we work together. For a year now, we in the ERC have taken on the most sensitive areas to tackle the pandemic, and we have no problem in continuing to take them on, but in a coalition government, the parliamentary weight of each party has to be reflected.

Will the Next Generation Funds depend on Economy, probably in the hands of Junts, or on a commissioner?

— I have defended, regardless of who is responsible for the Department of Economy, the figure of a Next Generation commissioner, and I proposed the person of Miquel Puig because he has a cross-cutting vision. In any case, I am convinced that we will reach an agreement.

What do you say to the businessmen, to the entrepreneurs who are worried about these funds, when they see that at this point there is no government?

— That we continue to work, that this government has done its job. We have identified 27 major projects, but there are many more that should be eligible. There is a lot of confusion on the part of the Spanish government. Co-governance has to be real, that is to say, the Generalitat does not have to be a mere executor of a call for aid defined down to the last detail by the Spanish government. And in order to mobilise such a large amount of resources, specialised personnel will have to be brought in because the implementation will have to be very fast.

And how would you do it?

— Modifying the replacement rates that limit us in the administration to allow the extraordinary incorporation of talent that we have in society. We passed a decree law that Minister Iceta now wants to take to the TC (Constitutitonal Court).

Is one of the levers to achieve this is that the sovereignty groups work together in Madrid?

— We have already said that no to everything is not our option, because at a time when there are so many needs, we must seize the opportunity to influence decisions that benefit Catalonia. Others have preferred to focus only on the ideological aspect and do not want to enter into these negotiations. If they want to join us, perfect, because we will have much more strength.

The fact that they want to accompany you does not mean they want to go together.

— It has been demonstrated that in many aspects in the social and economic sphere there are different positions, which is why we are different political forces. But there are many aspects on which we can work together: for example, to defend the fact that the battery plant is in Catalonia or projects that we promote from the Government.

Does the country need to recover institutionally?

— We need to make an effort to reduce the distance that part of the country has felt with respect to the Catalan institutions. A distance that has been largely promoted by the discourse of those opposed to independence. We have to explain that the project for a country that we want to build is a country for everyone.

Have you spoken to Pedro Sánchez after the elections?

— We have had the opportunity to exchange some messages, basically on issues related to European funds.

Are you still waiting for the pardons?

— What I expect is amnesty, and that is what we will defend and we have also said that we will not oppose any measure that serves to facilitate the release from prison of people who are unjustly imprisoned.

Does the atmosphere in Madrid complicate the capacity for dialogue with Catalonia?

— In any progress that may be made with Catalonia there will be pressure from the most reactionary sectors of the State.

Is reactivating the dialogue table a priority?

— We must not abandon this opportunity to put the right to self-determination and amnesty on the agenda. It would be a historic mistake. In any case, it should be the state that abandons it. From an international point of view, when the government of a state admits that there is a political conflict with a territory and that it wants to resolve it politically, it is a conflict of sovereignty.

In the agreement with the CUP, this dialogue table is given two years. 

— What we say is that within two years the results will be evaluated and, from here, we will see what needs to be done.

And at that point, furthermore, you could be subject to a motion of confidence.

— Evidently the fact of assessing after two years how the stability of the government has worked is conditional on stability having been guaranteed during these two years.

Is it useful to set a new deadline?

— The negotiating table should not be an excuse for time to pass; therefore, pressure must be exerted in order to move forward.

And if the dialogue fails?

— This will end with a negotiation, a process of independence, the formation of a new state for Catalonia. We don't know whether it will be this negotiating table or another space that may come later. In any case, we will move closer as we become stronger. For the first time we have surpassed 50% of the vote in these elections, but independence still has a very low representation compared to what we want to have in the metropolitan area of Barcelona and in other metropolitan realities.

Former president Torra did not occupy the Generalitat's presidential office. Will you occupy it?

— Yes.