Sánchez ignores Aragonès's urgency over negotiating table

ERC calls for a meeting "as soon as possible" but avoids controversy over the date

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Pedro Sánchez yesterday at the federal committee of the PSOE.

Madrid / BarcelonaThe negotiating table is not part of Pedro Sánchez's priorities and he does not hide it. In his 2021 balance speech he only referred to it when asked by journalists and he did it to downplay its urgency, and he did not mention it on Friday during the Socialist Party's federal committee. Using the management of the pandemic as a shield, the Spanish president has again refused on Monday to set a date for the new meeting between the Generalitat and the State so as not to "tie himself up", as he argued in an interview with Cadena SER. But he has assured, however, that the table will be convened at least twice this 2022. ERC, meanwhile, continues to press for the meeting to be "as soon as possible", despite the fact that it wants to avoid a new controversy over dates.

"It will be held, but I think that right the institutions are working on a much more urgent and important issue for citizens, which is the health emergency," said Sánchez, who hopes that his "tempo" are the same as the Catalan president Pere Aragonès's. Aragonès has been demanding for days that it should be at the beginning of the year and, in fact, Republican sources pointed to January. From the Moncloa, however, they insist that this date has not been agreed. Despite Sánchez's team claiming elections in Castilla y León have nothing to do with it, resuming the negotiation after the elections would avoid an uncomfortable issue for the PSOE during the campaign.

The two parties agreed at the last meeting, on September 15, to make meetings public when they can lead to advances. Sánchez noted this Monday that the pro-independence leaders maintain their "maximalist" approaches, and this could make it difficult for the meeting to reach agreements. However, he has shown himself hopeful that some could be reached. And in the line of the Catalan Socialist party, the socialist leader has also asked that, beyond the dialogue between governments, "the Catalans who do not agree" with the pro-independence theses must be heard, in reference to the table of Catalan parties that Aragonès refuses to convene.

ERC does not want controversies

The table between governments has not had an easy ride since it met for the first time in Madrid in February 2020. ERC, the ideologue and main supporter of the negotiating instrument, claims that the next meeting should be as soon as possible, but does not want to open a controversy about whether it has to be in January or later. "We will not contribute to the controversy over dates," said this Monday the deputy secretary general of the Republicans, Marta Vilalta. President Aragonès's party does not want to start a new conflict over the date, aware that this weakens the table, and prioritises that the next meeting, whenever it is, may offer the first "concretions".

This position does not avoid, however, the criticisms of JxCat, ERC's coalition partner. This Monday it has been the vice president himself, Jordi Puigneró, who has affirmed that "a negotiating table that does not meet is neither a table nor a negotiation". And the spokeswoman of the party, Elsa Artadi, has added that, although they are not against the negotiation, "the mechanism creaks". Right now there are no representatives of Puigdemont's party at the meetings, since ERC wants them to be part of government and Junts does not. And the struggle continues: Vilalta has called on JxCat to back the table "instead of making statements against it".

The deputy secretary general of ERC, Marta Vilalta, this Monday.

From the opposition side, the Catalan Socialist Party, which was the first to set the new date at the beginning of the year, has now aligned itself with the PSOE and refuses to suggest a specific date for the new meeting. The spokeswoman for the Catalan socialists, Elia Tortolero, has clung onto Sánchez's story to defend that "the priority now is to end the pandemic." And En Comú also choose not to fight over the issue: they consider it "important" that there is already a date but conclude that what is paramount is that "the dialogue continues to advance". For now there is neither one thing nor the other: neither a day to mark on the calendar, nor the confirmation that the instrument has made any progress.