Sánchez and Aragonès disagree on the limits of dialogue four days before their meeting

Catalan president will demand amnesty and self-determination and Spanish president demands respect for the "constitutional pact"

3 min
The president of the Spanish government, Pedro Sánchez, this Friday in Brussels.

BarcelonaWith just four days to go before the meeting in Madrid between Pedro Sanchez and Pere Aragonès, this Friday the two presidents have disagreed on the limits the dialogue they are about to embark on must have. The Spanish president has shown himself to be in favour of dialogue between the two governments, but has set clear limits: respect for the "constitutional pact" and "democratic legality". Hours later, the Catalan president has replied that he will not renounce to putting forward two of his main demands: amnesty and self-determination. "Our only limit is the will of the citizens of Catalonia," he argued.

Despite the granting of pardons this week, the two governments are aware that from now on it will be equally difficult to find a middle ground between the national demands made by the Generalitat and what Madrid is willing to give. This Friday was a case in point. Sánchez, after the meeting of the European Council held in Brussels, has assured that with Aragonès he has "many things to talk about" to try to resolve "the many differences" that the two governments have maintained historically, but he has made it clear that he will not negotiate that which has no place within the Constitution -amnesty and self-determination, according to him-. Thus, he has already advanced that he will go to the meeting with his "agenda for reunion" under his arm: about fifty proposals that the Spanish president has already delivered to Torra and that speak mainly of improvements in devolved powers. This agenda for reunion includes many of the measures that in the past have been raised by former presidents like Artur Mas, Carles Puigdemont and Quim Torra. "We want to work on them together with the Generalitat," he concluded. He has also set other issues that will be on the agenda: the aftemath of the pandemic, vaccination and the management of European funds.

The president of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, with the third-year nursing student that vaccinated him.

Aragonès, however, has stated that he will not give up because the amnesty and the self-determination are two demands that not only does his Government defend, but which have the support of 52% of Catalans. He refers to the votes obtained in the February elections by ERC, JxCat and CUP, the parties that also voted him in as president. Aragonès, after getting vaccinated at Fira de Barcelona, has admitted that the negotiation with the Spanish government "will not be easy nor fast", but is convinced that he will be able to make Sánchez understand that, to resolve the conflict, it will be necessary to put an end "to all the State's repression" against the independence movement, which is not solved with the pardons that he has granted. In addition, he believes that his position has also been backed by the report of the Council of Europe - not to be confused with the European Council, where Sánchez has gone today -, which last Monday called for the release of prisoners and the withdrawal of Euro-orders

The pardons according to Sánchez

Despite the fact that the pardons are already a reality, they continue to have an impact on the agenda. The Spanish president has avoided the controversy over the statements in favour of independence made by released prisoners when they left prison. The Spanish president has again defended the measure of grace: "We heard the things we heard, but Spanish democracy is so big and so strong that it respects all opinions". Sánchez will apply to Aragonès the same formula as with prisoners: all opinions are respectable, but those that exceed the "constitutional pact" have no future. He has also once again defended the pardons, especially in face of those Spaniards who are not convinced. "Calm, serenity and confidence", he prescribed. According to him, they have been granted because it is time for forgiveness: "In order to build confidence, what was useful in the past was punishment and what is useful now is forgiveness".

Regardless of how the issue is being received in Spain, Sánchez has considered that the pardons do have European backing. His argument is that this Friday, at the meeting of the European Council, no other country has mentioned the issue and this is a symptom of the "deep respect of European colleagues for Spanish democracy". "We are capable of solving our problems," he said.

Aragonès and the Court of Auditors

Aragonès will meet with Sánchez on June 29, which is both presidents' name day, but also the day on which the new bail for 41 officials of the Generalitat will be announced by the Court of Auditors in the framework of an investigation on the Catalan Government's foreign action between 2011 and 2017. The Catalan president has hinted that this issue will also come up in the meeting with Sánchez: "It is a politicised court and the procedure is full of irregularities." Will the Catalan president ask for a reform of this organism? He has not clarified it, but has considered that the Spanish government would have to do "its part to reverse an unfair situation". "They have clear mechanisms to do so in accordance with the law," he concluded