Politics 31/05/2021

Sánchez downgrades the urgency of the dialogue table

ERC demands to see "the fine print" of the reform of sedition before taking sides

4 min
The President of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sánchez, and the Prime Minister of Poland, Mateus Morawiecki, in Alcalá de Henares, Madrid

Barcelona / MadridThe negotiating table between the Spanish Government and the Catalan government will return this year once the latter has been sworn in, but Spanish president Pedro Sánchez is in no hurry for it to meet again. While president of the Generalitat Pere Aragonès demanded in an interview with the ARA this Sunday to get to work soon, the head of the Spanish executive has downgraded its urgency and affirmed that "there will be time to meet". He will receive Aragonès in Madrid before the summer, but the dialogue table could take longer, he said at a press conference from Alcalá de Henares after a summit with the Polish government.

The temporary discrepancy between ERC and Sánchez is anecdotal when compared to that of the possible solutions to the Catalan conflict. ERC want the negotiation to lead to self-determination and amnesty, while the Spanish government does not want to go beyond pardons for political prisoners and a reform of the crime of sedition. "We will make the decision in conscience and not thinking about the sentenced, but about the millions of Catalans who want to live in peace and overcome the fracture of 2017," Sánchez has stressed on the measure of grace, for which he did not want to set a calendar. "Let's let the Ministry of Justice do its work," he asked.

If pardons are the prerogative of the Spanish government, the reform of sedition needs the approval of parliamentary groups in the Spanish parliament. Therefore, ERC has a big say, since their votes can be key for this reform to prosper. For the moment, however, ERC has not given clues on which way it might vote. "First we want to see the fine print," said deputy secretary general Marta Vilalta on Monday at a press conference.

As usual in any negotiation, ERC start off from an ambitious position. They state they are only willing to vote in favour of repealing the crime. ERC argue that they cannot support a reform that proposes to keep the crime as it is and only reduce the penalties. They believe this would be as much as accepting that the 2017 referendum constituted sedition. "What would have to be done with this crime would be to repeal it, in no case say that instead of ten years you get five," Aragonès said in the interview with ARA this Sunday. Vilalta spoke along the same lines; she wants it to be made clear in the referendum four years ago there were no "crimes on the table". On this issue there should be no discrepancies with Junts, since its vice president, Elsa Artadi, has also called for its repeal.

Thus, ERC does not say clearly what it will do, among other reasons, because it wants the debate on the political conflict to go down different paths. The first, that the dialogue table meets "as soon as possible," Vilalta has insisted. This instrument of negotiation is an idea of the Republicans that has only met once -more than a year ago- and that with the presidency of Aragonès they want to reactivate. Vilalta has asked not to wait any longer, nor for the Spanish government to grant possible pardons. "We don't want one thing to be conditional on the other," she said. She has even suggested that the party's president, Oriol Junqueras, be part of the Catalan delegation that participates in the new meeting of the table. "We would like it very much," he said. It will not be an issue free of controversy. The PSC, for example, has already said it would oppose it. "We would like there to be consellers" Alícia Romero, a member of the PSC, has said, although she has admitted that it would be difficult to "avoid" him being present

The reform "very soon".

According to El País, Sánchez would be considering already promoting the reform of the crime of sedition to strengthen the operation of pardoning prisoners. Asked about this question at the press conference, he has not confirmed it and has limited himself to defending the "updating" of this crime in accordance with other European criminal codes. This reform was originally conceived by En Comú , since they considered it to be a more realistic legal option than the amnesty that the pro-independence supporters are proposing.

This Monday the spokesman for En comú Podem, Joan Mena, expressed his hope that "very soon" they will be able to present a proposal for reform agreed with the PSOE. A reform that, as he has advanced, should "shield" the right to demonstrate and also benefit the exiles. How? Well, it is still an unknown. The PSC has also defended this next move of Sánchez: "It is a proposal for a modification to reflect in the European legislations, which do not foresee the crime of sedition", argued Romero.

Objective: to wear down Sánchez

Meanwhile, the right continues with its campaign to take advantage of everyone of Sánchez's movements in relation to Catalonia to try to wear him down. The PP has also echoed the possibility that the Spanish government accelerate the reform of sedition and, along with the hypothetical granting of pardons, has considered that "never has a president done so much harm to democracy and the legal system". The PP's secretary general, Teodoro García Egea, is convinced that if Pedro Sánchez had an absolute majority "there would be no pardon", and has regretted that he is "rewriting the sentence to get two more years in office". "It is a political payment," he denounced.