Puigdemont and Aragonès stage rapprochement between ERC and Junts

The president of the Generalitat and the former president warn that the pardons "are not the political solution" to the underlying problem

3 min
President Pere Aragonès, with former president Carles Puigdemont.

WaterlooAn institutional meeting, of gestures and symbols, has served to stage a rapprochement between ERC and Junts after the negotiations to form a government almost failed. The president of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, has travelled this Friday to Waterloo (Belgium) to meet former president Carles Puigdemont for the first time since he took office. After an hour and a half of meeting at the headquarters of the Consell per la República, the two have endeavoured to avoid highlighting the discrepancies between the two formations and have focused on the meeting points. They warned that pardons "are not the political solution" to the basic conflict and insisted on moving towards the referendum on self-determination.

Ex-President Carles Puigdemont and the president, Pere Aragonès, at the Consell per la República

"This is a meeting between two presidents that should take place in a situation without repression, in Barcelona, in the Palau de la Generalitat. The fact that we have to meet here is a sign that we are in a context of repression", has started the president Aragonès after a meeting he has described as a "gesture" of "institutional recognition", in which the two have wanted to stage the rapprochement between Junts and ERC, despite the fact that in the difficult negotiations to form a government the role of the Consell per la República was one of the main stumbling blocks. After criticising Puigdemont's will to "oversee" the government from Waterloo, Aragonès has assured that this Friday will be the first of many meetings and that the goal is to ensure that they can occur in a context of "normality", a normality towards which he has pledged to work so that exiles can return to Catalonia.

The pardons "are not the political solution".

It is this intention to show harmony and détente that explains that during the appearance the two pro-independence leaders have wanted to focus on the points of agreement and abandon the discrepancies. The meeting in Waterloo has been the same day that the president of the Spanish government, Pedro Sánchez, is in Barcelona to close a conference of the Cercle d'Economia in which the support of businessmen for pardons has marked the agenda. The leader of ERC, Oriol Junqueras, paved the way for the pardons when he said he was in favour in a letter he published in ARA. A few weeks ago, former President Carles Puigdemont was sceptical, repeating that they are not the solution to the conflict nor to end the repression and distrusted the "pretty words" of Pedro Sánchez's government.

Instead, this Friday they wanted to show more unity around a measure that seems imminent. "Pardons are not the fundamental political solution. All steps that can bring relief will be welcome, but we will continue to demand an amnesty that gives coverage to all repression" , Aragonès has stressed. Puigdemont, for his part, has also slightly lowered the tone: "We have agreed on this analysis; few people will happier than me - except the prisoners themselves - when they leave prison". However, while Aragonès has made gestures of rapprochement with the State, both with the Spanish president and with the greeting to the king Felipe VI, Puigdemont remains distrustful. "It is clear that the Spanish state is fixed on pardons, because if it does not take the initiative others will take it for it," he said, before remembering that whether there are pardons or not, "none of the historical demands of Catalonia will have been satisfied".

Negotiation and not dialogue

There are also more and more gestures of rapprochement between the Spanish government and the Generalitat. Pedro Sánchez has once again raised the flag of concord this Friday before businessmen, and on Monday he will again come to Barcelona in for an event at the Liceu to defend pardons. For now Aragonès has not received any formal invitation, but has stressed that to move forward in resolving the conflict requires dialogue between the two institutions, the Spanish government and the Generalitat. On the other hand, Puigdemont has taken advantage of this to criticize the concept of the dialogue table. "What is needed is the concept of a negotiating table," he said. The exiled ex president believes that dialogue is simple, but that politically the one that requires commitment is "negotiation", because it is politically charged: "The question is whether the Spanish state intends to negotiate on equal terms with Catalonia as a nation".

However, despite the staging of détente between ERC and Junts, Puigdemont does not intend to wait before meeting the seven Junts ministers in Waterloo to coordinate policies and decide on Junts' strategy. According to ACN, the leader of Junts will meet them this Sunday in Belgium.