June 17, 2024

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Home » Content » Salvador Illa: ‘Catalonia has voted no to leave and yes to consolidate a plural and diverse Spain’
What would be your summary of these years of the procés? I think the most objective summary is that Catalonia has fallen far short of its potential. We could have driven the car at 120 km/h and we have been driving at 40 or 50 km/h. This can be seen if we analyse the various different situations in Catalonia. This can be seen if we analyse the different public policies. There is a drought, and we are not sufficiently prepared. In education we have fallen back many positions in Spain and Europe as a whole. In renewable energy we have not made the progress we should have made. In infrastructures we have not taken the decisions that needed to be taken. In health we have not faced up to the necessary reforms. Nor have we made the necessary reforms in mobility or housing. And this can be summed up in one fact. Catalonia has always led Spain in economic terms, and in 2017 we ceased to lead the Spanish economy in terms of GDP. In this new stage we must make up for lost time and do so in an inclusive way, with an appeal to all Catalans. Whatever language they speak, wherever they come from, whatever they think. Everyone must feel involved in this collective effort we must make to make up for lost time.

Jordi Juan, 19 May 2024

Director – La Vanguardia

Salvador Illa last Friday in ‘La Vanguardia’ // Xavier Cervera

The director of ‘La Vanguardia’ talks to the leader of the PSC, winner of last Sunday’s elections and candidate for president of the Generalitat de Catalunya

Salvador Illa is convinced that he will be the next president of the Generalitat, but he remains faithful to the prudence and caution that characterise him. He does not want to start building the house from the roof up, but he gives hints as to what his government will be like: open to prestigious independents. He avoids, however, saying that it will be a ‘government of the best’. He knows that negotiations will be long and complex and, possibly, he is beginning to get used to the idea of governing in a minority.

The ‘procés

The balance is that Catalonia has fallen far short of its possibilities’.

How do you interpret the results of 12 March?

That the Catalans have decided to open a new era in Catalonia. There were two options: more of the same, with a balance of the last few years far below what Catalonia can and should aspire to, or to open a new era that I define with two verbs, to unite and to serve, highlighting what unites us Catalans and placing public services as the first objective. And the Catalans have clearly opted for this.

A few days ago, in the elections in the Basque Country, the nationalists obtained the best result in history, and now in Catalonia they have obtained the worst. How do you assess it?

I am somewhat reluctant to make comparisons between the political reality of the Basque Country and Catalonia. It seems to me that we are living in a context of very profound changes, systemic, geopolitical, economic, technological, and environmental changes. And the public has realised that now is not the time for divisive approaches, but rather to emphasise the common bonds between Catalans, between Catalans and the rest of Spain and Europe as a whole.

What would be your summary of these years of the procés?

I think the most objective summary is that Catalonia has fallen far short of its potential. We could have driven the car at 120 km/h and we have been driving at 40 or 50 km/h. This can be seen if we analyse the various different situations in Catalonia. This can be seen if we analyse the different public policies. There is a drought, and we are not sufficiently prepared. In education we have fallen back many positions in Spain and Europe as a whole. In renewable energy we have not made the progress we should have made. In infrastructures we have not taken the decisions that needed to be taken. In health we have not faced up to the necessary reforms. Nor have we made the necessary reforms in mobility or housing. And this can be summed up in one fact. Catalonia has always led Spain in economic terms, and in 2017 we ceased to lead the Spanish economy in terms of GDP. In this new stage we must make up for lost time and do so in an inclusive way, with an appeal to all Catalans. Whatever language they speak, wherever they come from, whatever they think. Everyone must feel involved in this collective effort we must make to make up for lost time.

Esquerra Republicana

‘I greatly value the role of ERC and it has a record of service in favour of Catalonia’.

ERC has obtained a bad electoral result, and they consider that they have made a pragmatic effort unlike Junts, but in the negotiation of the amnesty, they believe that the PSOE has rewarded Junts more.

First of all, I would like to express my respect for the processes of reflection that all political formations go through. Esquerra has a long history, with a record of service that may be more or less appreciated, but it is in favour of Catalonia. In this last legislature I myself have always had my hand outstretched to try to put the interests of Catalonia above the interests of our political grouping.

You have not answered me…

No, no. I would not agree with this. The elections held on 23 July presented Spain with two options. One option to which the whole of Spain and Catalonia clearly and emphatically said no, which was the right-wing and far-right option of PP and Vox. And another that responds to a plural and diverse model of Spain, headed by Pedro Sánchez, which required the support of many political organisations, in particular ERC and Junts, but also PNV, Bildu and BNG. Negotiations were complex, but there was no idea of prioritising anyone.

Going into the investiture process, do you see any possibility that Carles Puigdemont could become president of the Generalitat?

Frankly, no. In the last ten years there have been four presidents and five legislatures lasting an average of two and a half years. I believe that this is a path that the citizens have said no to. It is up to the PSC to lead this new stage. I said during the campaign that I was going to assume my responsibility and that is what I am going to do. I am going to present my candidacy for president. And I cannot conceive of any political party blocking the will of the Catalan people.

You now have three options: a coalition government, a tripartite or bipartite government, or a solitary government. Which formula appeals to you most?

Let’s let things take their course. First the Parliament has to be constituted on 10 June. Then there are negotiations for the investiture, which has to take place on 25 June. Next week the European election campaign begins, and this must also be taken into account in the dialogue process. We are going to analyse the different options, and the important thing is to open this new stage, to do so with the formula that can provide the most stability. From my progressive convictions, also the most progressive formula possible, one that puts public services as a priority.

Are you willing to cede the presidency of the Parliament in exchange for this support for governability?

The Bureau of the Parliament, which is made up of seven members, a president, two vice-presidents and four secretaries, has to respond to the plurality of the Parliament and the political weight of each party. We shall see.

And could it be the case that the PSC cedes the presidency of the Parliament?

The citizens have voted for what they voted for. I want to respect the processes of dialogue that there will be with the rest of the political formations, but I think it is also very important to respect the will expressed by the citizens at the ballot box.

Do you think the PP should be in the Bureau of the Parliament?

It is the fourth largest group in the Parliament, and we will see what the outcome of these conversations with the different groups will be, but I have no desire to exclude any political group, except those that profess hate speech.

You have 42 MPs, which is not the same as the 33 that ERC had, but governing in a minority will not be easy…

My aim is to aspire to lead this new stage in Catalonia in a stable way. In recent days we have received a rating from Moody’s, a rating agency, which assesses the results of the Catalan elections in terms of generating stability both in Catalonia and in Spain. And I propose a government that is as cross-cutting as possible, made up of highly competent people, naturally based on the political groupings that support it and that, from there, knows how to attract talent.

Govern

‘We have to make up for lost time and do it in an inclusive way with everyone’.

During the election campaign, you mentioned the name of Núria Parlon as a possible Minister of the Interior. I don’t know whether you have more or less closed the government and whether it will be occupied only by PSC militants or whether there may be independents in it.

I have begun to reflect on the outline of a future government, but I want to be very prudent, because things have to happen in their own time. The commitment I made I naturally maintain with regard to the Interior. I would like to see a government not only of people who are members of political parties, but one that is open to independents who have stood out for their professional excellence or their skills in a particular area of responsibility. I believe that this is the best way to open this new stage in Catalonia.

Any names?

No. It is still premature.

Do you think the number of ministries is right or will you have fewer?

I haven’t started, but I don’t think it’s relevant whether there are 14, 15, 16 or 13.

Parity?

Yes, that is a commitment we have made.

And what about the controversy over whether the Department of Climate Action should take back the name of Agriculture?

It seems to me that the scheme itself has to respond to the government’s programme and to certain demands that have arisen. I am going to be sensitive to this, but I am not in a position to say more about the structure of the government, because I insist, I have not yet thought it through.

If Puigdemont ends up adopting the decision he announced on RAC1, that he would leave Parliament if he is not invested president, do you think it would be easier to get along with Junts without him?

I want to be respectful with Puigdemont and with all political formations, but especially with Junts. They have to make their own decisions, and Puigdemont must evaluate how things have gone. Some political formations find it more difficult to admit the reality, but I do not want to interfere in any way in the process that each political space has.

Do you fear a repeat election?

I think that would be a mistake. I’m not in this, I can’t conceive of it. It seems to me that it is not what Catalonia needs and it would be counterproductive. We are going to do everything we can to avoid a repeat election, which is not advisable.

Have you had the chance to contact other political forces with a view to negotiating?

No. Beyond the usual courtesy calls. I have not yet had any in-depth reflection, and the start of the European election campaign will mean that if any kind of contact is made, it will be done with due discretion.

During these years, you have had practically no contact with Carles Puigdemont. Do you regret not having gone to Brussels as Santos Cerdán did?

No, I have had no contact, it’s true. I am a person who believes in collective projects and that politics is made by collective organisations with their decision-making bodies and their leaders. My party and I have maintained a relationship, which I believe is fluid, with the relevant political formations. In the case of Junts I have, but not with Puigdemont. I do not regret it, nor do I cease to regret it.

Puigdemont

‘He has no options to be president and must evaluate how things have gone’.

What will be the first decision you will make if you are president of the Generalitat?

I have committed myself to two things. One is an emergency decree in relation to infrastructures and the measures that need to be taken to deal with the drought. And the second is to appoint a commissioner for self-government whose first task would be to carry out a diagnosis, an audit of public services in Catalonia, not to look into what may have gone wrong, but to find out why we have reached the point we have reached, and, above all, what needs to be done to reverse the situation.

You have advocated the existence of a round table of parties to discuss self-government. Now that you could be president, would you set it in motion?

Dialogue between the Catalan political parties is essential. I am not going to relegate it simply to the parliamentary sphere.

Open to all, including Vox and Aliança Catalana?

Hate speech is a red line. The Catalans are to be congratulated because this has been a campaign, I won’t say exemplary, but it has been sobering in relation to the political climate we see in other territories. There has been respect, always in a tone of politeness that I would like to see extended to the rest of Spain.

But isolating them does not make them lose votes, on the contrary.

Yes, but I also believe that those who have been tolerant of these discourses, I am referring to the Popular Party, which even governs with them in several autonomous communities, have not had a good result, because Vox is still there, and they have allowed their discourse to penetrate.

If Esquerra and Junts remain outside the government, it is logical that their position in Congress will be different. Do you fear it will affect the legislature?

I don’t think so. They are different institutional levels. I believe that whoever plays games or jeopardises this will not have the support of the Catalans who voted for Pedro Sánchez on 23 July. It also seems to me that a lesson can be drawn from 12 May, which is that Catalonia wants to return to being a major player in Spain, not a secondary actor. Catalonia’s recent history has been one of involvement in the construction of this diverse Spain. Two of the seven fathers of the Constitution are Catalan. The Catalans have not only voted not to leave this Spain, but they have said yes to improving, strengthening and consolidating this plural and diverse Spain.

Puigdemont has threatened more than once with a motion of censure against Sánchez. Do you think he is capable of doing so?

I think it would be a mistake. But everyone is free to make their own decisions. I don’t know if a motion of censure by PP, Vox and Junts would be the smartest thing to do. I leave the question here for the readers of your newspaper to answer.

How do you see the European elections?

Very relevant. They are perhaps the most important elections since the constitution of the European Union, in the sense that for the first time there may be a temptation on the part of the conservative European People’s Party to reach agreements with extreme right-wing parties. Be careful with this because it could jeopardise the founding values of the EU and, therefore, it is very important that Catalonia and Spain send a message of forcefulness and clarity.

https://www.lavanguardia.com/politica/20240519/9655616/catalunya-votado-irse-afianzar-espana-plural-diversa.html#:~:text=La%20historia%20de%20Catalunya%2C%20reciente,esta%20Espa%C3%B1a%20plural%20y%20diversa

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