Interview with the Catalan vicepresident and minister of Digital Policies and Territory
Politics 04/07/2021

Jordi Puigneró: "To entrust everything to the dialogue table would be suicide, you have to have a Plan B"

6 min
Jordi Puigneró

BarcelonaJordi Puigneró (Sant Cugat del Vallès, 1974) has assumed the vice-presidency of the Government in an unexpected way. He heads the sensitivity of JxCat in the executive.

What is the goal of this legislature?

— The economic reactivation and the resolution of the political conflict.

What is your relationship with Aragonès?

— It is very good, we understand each other. We are clear about what the agreement of the legislature is and we will try to ensure that it is fulfilled.

In terms of self-determination, do you have the same goals?

— Esquerra wants independence like Junts and perhaps the difference at the moment is the way to achieve it.

For some, the negotiating table is tactical and for the others it is strategic?

— The negotiating table is part of the agreement, but we know how little interest the State normally has in negotiating with Catalonia, they are more interested in imposing. We have given a vote of confidence to a proposal made by ERC, but we need to start thinking about how we will articulate the actions that will follow post-table.

What would these actions be?

— We have to reach a consensus on how to carry out this democratic and peaceful attack.

Is this vote of confidence at the table sincere?

— What we would most like is to be able to reach an agreement with the State, but we must always have a plan B because to entrust everything to plan A alone would be suicide. And seeing from the outset how Pedro Sánchez told us that the referendum would never be done... Perhaps they want to dynamite the table...

Do you consider this statement to be dynamiting the table?

— The vice-president of the Spanish government had said that we could go and talk about everything and we want to bring our proposals, and one of them is self-determination. We hope that the Spanish government will put its proposals on the table and, therefore, that we can enter into a phase not only of dialogue, but also of negotiation.

If the Spanish government makes a proposal that is a consultation but not about independence, what should the Generalitat's position be?

— Our position is that they can make whatever proposals they want, but that they should not be proposals about the Cercanías trains or the Olympic Games.

What do you think this democratic attack should be? A unilateral declaration of independence? A new referendum?

— We will determine this when we sit down. We have already made attacks: 1 October [the day of the Catalan independence referendum] was a democratic attack. We have already explored this path, we know what the consequences are. They too, because of the discredit that the Spanish government is suffering internationally with the judgments and reports of the Council of Europe.

What is the mandate of 1 October for you?

— It was a mandate in which the people of Catalonia decided that they wanted to be independent and, therefore, that day we self-determined. But we weren't able to achieve independence. It is a mandate that is there, and as long as it is not annulled by an agreed referendum or by any other measure, it is a mandate that the subsequent governments of Catalonia have.

For you, wouldn't it be an act designed to force the State to negotiate?

— 1 October was a great victory for independence. And it is clear that one can make whatever interpretations one wishes from the perspective that an agreement was always sought, right up to the last moment. And now we have to carry it out, and some of us would like it to happen tomorrow but we are very aware that in politics sometimes one thing is the wish and the other is what might happen and, therefore, we are aware that it won't happen tomorrow, but we want it to happen as soon as possible and we are working on it so that it is so.

You do not agree with the perspective that, for instance, Jordi Sànchez has.

— Jordi Sànchez has already explained himself. The process leading up to 1-O was a process of negotiation with different phases that ended with a referendum, which is ultimately the goal pursued by the pro-independence movement.

Did you expect to be vice-president?

— Well, the truth is that I didn't. I did have hopes of being able to repeat as minister. What I did not expect was that Elsa Artadi would resign as vice-president. Nobody expected it.

Do you think her refusal was surprising?

— Sometimes there are personal elements. She has also made a commitment to Barcelona and, therefore, this was incompatible with assuming the vice-presidency of the Government. Elsa Artadi is one of the values and assets that Junts has and I think that Barcelona is a very important place that we would like to be able to recover.

What do you think about the pardons? Are you satisfied?

— I can't feel bad that people who were in prison can get out. The pressure exerted by exile is what has finally led to Spain to have no choice but to release them. I don't want to think what would have happened if everyone had stayed here and there had been no fight from exile.

What kind of a way out do you expect for president Puigdemont in exile?

— He is in top form as an MEP and denouncing everywhere he can the repression in the state and working for the right to self-determination. One of the issues that I will personally put on the dialogue table is that Spain fully complies with the opinion of the Council of Europe.

And what are the levers to be able to enforce it?

— Well, they are obviously recommendations, but the Council of Europe is the Court of Human Rights and they will take good note. And if Spain does not take measures here, a whole series of resolutions will cascade down which will only place Spain more and more in the same picture as Turkey.

But Mr Rubalcaba has already said that they are prepared to pay whatever price it takes.

— They will know what they are doing and I hope they never have to find themselves in the dichotomy of deciding whether to respect human rights or leave the EU.

If the EU did not put pressure on the Spanish government in 2017, do you think it could condition it now?

— The European Union is a club of states and they protect each other. But it is also a space for the recognition of rights. Therefore, if the Union wants to continue to be this space of democracy the response that the Spanish state has given to the political conflict is not the right one and it has to go through models such as those of the United Kingdom or Canada. And this is what we are working on.

You are the Digital Policies and Territory minister. Tell us about it

— At the moment I am leading a Ministry which, on the one hand, merges 20th century infrastructures with 21st century ones. Someone said to me the other day: "Hey, you're the minister of everything that moves, which are trains, roads, ports, airports and bits through the networks that allow connectivity to be an instrument of knowledge and socialisation".

Can Catalan companies be reassured by the co-management of European funds?

— They should be more relaxed if we do it. We are working to ensure that the State understands that we are the best people to manage them, because we know what the economic fabric of Catalonia is like.

And have you spoken to your interlocutors in the ministries about the issue?

— Some initial multilateral meetings have been held, but we still don't know the specifics of the projects. Catalonia has presented 27 projects that are clearly focused on the country's new economy and we would like this Catalan portfolio to be respected in the distribution of funds.

With whom do you think the 2022 budgets will be approved?

— The first partner we have to look at is the CUP. If this agreement is not possible, it is clear that we will have to open ourselves to other possibilities.

Do you foresee a two-year or four-year legislature?

— I would like it to be four years. We are not in favour of this agreement that has been reached between ERC and CUP, by which the president Aragonès will be subject to a confidence motion in two years' time. The legislature could come to an end. And there is also another element, which is the dialogue table, which is valid for two years.

Do taxes have to be raised?

— Taxation must always be in the right measure, because it has often been shown that raising taxes does not mean more revenue, but sometimes lowering them does increase revenue. The aim is that we have services that can be financed well and that are efficient.

Will the Generalitat help those repressed by the Court of Auditors?

— We are studying the possibilities with the legal services. It is a court formed by relatives and friends of the PP, with what we could call Francoist inheritances.

Does El Prat airport need to be expanded?

— It has to be an intercontinental airport and it is essential that investments are made, which would also have to provide a solution for the Reus and Girona airports. We need it for the economy and it has to be a solution that respects the fight against climate change.