Politics 15/04/2021

Two months of blockade since 14-F

On Saturday, ERC sent a proposal for a pact to Junts, which has to respond this week

5 min
Pere Aragonès at Wednesday's event to pay tribute to the anniversary of the Second Republic

It has been seven days since the delegations of Esquerra and Junts have formally sat at a table -presential or telematic- to negotiate. And it has been two months since the February 14 elections, which resulted in a pro-independence majority of more than 50%, with ERC as the leading force. The negotiation between the two Governmental partners is advancing slowly and the complete agreement is still far away: the negotiators now speak of a deadline at the end of April or the beginning of May, but the truth is that the portfolios of the eventual executive have not yet been distributed beyond assuming a 50-50 coalition distribution. As ARA reported on Tuesday, what is on the table is a global proposal from Esquerra -the result of previous talks with Carles Puigdemont's party- which sets out the strategy to be followed in the area of the Catalan independence bid- centred on the dialogue table, at least until the first half of the legislature-; the principles to be followed in the Parliament (with a reform of the regulations yet to be specified); the government programme, and mechanisms for coordinating the coalition and monitoring the agreement to avoid the crises of this legislature. The document is being studied by Junts' negotiating team, which is expected to return it this week.

In any case, once this global agreement is closed, there will still be a pending issue: to deal with the distribution of the ministries and which areas and competences each party will keep. A new phase in which it is already clear that power over the field of social policies and the management of European funds will be at the centre of controversy.

This Wednesday both the Republicans and those of Carles Puigdemont have held internal meetings, but have not met to work together on the document, which Esquerra negotiators sent on Saturday to their counterparts of Junts. "They have to give us an answer", say Republican sources, while from JxCat they assure that they are studying it. In this context, the vice president and aspiring president, Pere Aragonès, has reaffirmed in an interview with Catalunya Ràdio that the Republicans have made a "complete" proposal and confirmed that he had been involved in the negotiations through conversations with the secretary general of Junts, Jordi Sànchez, who is in Lledoners prison; the former president Carles Puigdemont, with whom he had a "cordial" and "clarifying" conversation - he has assured - and the president of the Parliament, Laura Borràs.

For Aragonès it would be an "irresponsibility" to exhaust the deadline of May 26 - when the elections would be called automatically - and believes that the agreement can come "soon". In any case, he has also warned that he is willing to govern alone if there is finally no coalition agreement with Junts per Catalunya: "We are prepared to take responsibility in any scenario, but it's another thing what you want".

Aragonès and Sànchez, in an archive image

At what point is the negotiation now? Nothing is set, and the talks between the negotiators exude misgivings that are still dragging from the legislature of the 2017 referendum. Even so, in the different folders there are some bases drawn after weeks of talks. In the field of the Catalan independence bid, the strategy that is being outlined involves staging the beginning of a negotiation process with the State - with a declaration in the Parliament and in the government - and an evaluation of the talks in the Catalan chamber through a study commission with different appearances by experts in the field. The dialogue table, which Esquerra supports, would have a central role at least until the middle of the legislature. At the same time, as Junts has demanded, the creation of a general staff of the independence bid is being negotiated within the framework of the Consell per la República -its formation is not yet closed- to build an alternative if the dialogue fails. A "democratic attack", according to the ERC and CUP agreement, which must "preferably" involve a new referendum.

In the area of public policy, the Esquerra proposal submitted to Junts includes measures already verbalised by Pere Aragonès and others, also included by Puigdemont's party in their electoral programme. They have to do with the reinforcement of the health system -both in funding and in strengthening primary care-, economic reconstruction or the health crisis, as well as defining the thematic areas of the Government. To avoid the crises of the coalition government of the previous legislature, Esquerra and Junts are also negotiating mechanisms for monitoring the pact and resolving crises: a parliamentary commission that meets every week; another in which there are representatives of the parties, groups and the government that meets every fortnight, and a commission at the highest level that only meets on an exceptional basis: the so-called red button. At the same time, copying the Valencian Acord del Botànic (Botanic Agreement), the proposal of the Republicans includes meetings every six months of the entire Government to assess the degree of compliance with the coalition agreement.

The secretary general of ERC, Marta Vilalta, with the JxCat spokesperson, Elsa Artadi.

Document exchange without meetings

The course of this negotiation is particular. Since the second failed debate of investiture they have only met twice: one just before Easter to call for a pause and another last Wednesday in Parliament. In the meantime, according to the two parties, documents have been exchanged and contacts are "permanent" between the different participants in the negotiations to try to untangle issues. They agree, however, that they do not want to meet unless it means moving forward.

However, there is no single answer to the question of why the post-election talks of 14 February have developed in this way. The government partners, in fact, accuse each other of leading the negotiations to this situation.

The Republicans have assured from day one that they want a "quick" agreement and consider that Puigdemont's people are dragging their feet when it comes to negotiating because they want to gain time. They claim that they are "divided" internally when it comes to facing the talks and that is why negotiations are dragging on. The version of Junts, however, is the opposite: they claim that if Aragonès has not yet been invested is because ERC decided to reach a pact with the CUP before and "wasted time" at the beginning trying to incorporate the comuns in the executive. They also claim that there are internal voices within the Republican party that question the negotiating strategy that the formation has followed so far, prioritizing the partner of the executive.

This is not the only thing that does not add up: when asked why the teams of the two parties have not met in the last week, ERC says that Junts does not want to meet, while Puigdemont's party claims that it is the Republicans who do not want to convene them. A constant tug-of-war that the two partners in the government hope to resolve before the next term begins so as not to abuse the red button.