IÑAKI PARDO TORREGROSA, BARCELONA 04/07/2020
Astrid Barrio poses for La Vanguardia (Marc Arias/Archive)
Astrid Barrio has been leading the Lliga Democratica on an interim way for a year and insists on the need for all actors in the centre right of the political board, whether Catalanists or moderate sovereignists, to “put aside their vetoes” and red lines on a referendum to reach an agreement focused on “reconstruction, regeneration and reconciliation”. But she admits that it is “costing a great deal” and believes it is imperative that the pacts be closed in the next two weeks, before August, by the electoral calendar.
What does The Lliga propose for the next election?
We want to unlock the situation that Catalonia lives, that famous tie of impotences, as some say. We believe that a centrist, Catalan and moderate political offer, with different recipes, can contribute to altering majorities.
But the national axis is an important condition and whoever obvious it can go wrong.
We must flee from independence – not independence antagonism and ask how to make other kinds of governments. It takes unity in this space, which is very fragmented and atomized. There are many calls for unity, but so far there is very little will to carry out a multilateral negotiation because there are many crossed vetoes, of which we do not feel at all to participate.
“There are many calls for unity, but so far there is very little will to conduct a multilateral negotiation”
What kind of vetoes?
The difficulties of reunifying this space are due quite a bit to personal vetoes and we believe that it is essential for this to succeed the recognition of all the interlocutors and all sensitivities, but above all the recognition that there are many points in common. Deep down we know that for there to be a minimum expectation of success that unity has to materialize and it is better that it is inclusive and not exclusive.
But that’s not the only impediment.
There’s a barrier. If the agreement has to contemplate the exercise of self-determination it will be very difficult. On the other hand, if we look at regeneration, reconstruction and reconciliation, the space of coincidence is very broad and is what we all share regardless of the rhetoric being used.
“If we look at regeneration, reconstruction and reconciliation, the space of coincidence is very broad”
The talks started almost a year ago and we’re still in the starting box…
Unlocking the situation requires interlocution with everyone and assuming that there are differences; but also that there may be common ground. We’re going to exploit them. Under the current framework, the nexus can be a programme for economic reconstruction. This would serve to underscore what unites us and not what divides us and, by the way, to flee from personal vetoes.
Will there be margin for this before the next Parliament elections?
We need a multilateral negotiation that should take place before 15 days have passed. There have been many bilateral negotiations. I speak to the Nationalist Partit of Catalonia (PNC) and Units per Avançar speaks with the PNC. Why don’t all three of us talk? There is a tacticism to see who controls the dialogue and that makes it difficult for others to accept, without feeling excluded, that there are two that come to an agreement. That’s why it’s important that we all sit at the same table and recognize each other. And we are aware that there will be asymmetries on the lists. We must all be generous in negotiating multilaterally.
“We are aware that there will be asymmetries on the lists. We must all be generous in negotiating multilaterally”
What could your party do in that sense?
We claim the Lliga as a space of confluence in which everyone can participate from zero. We want the sterile calls to unity to be left and that we all get to it. Our party is made up of people who don’t come from politics and people who haven’t had public office looking to help create this space. Let’s all get together, and above all, let’s not exclude ourselves.
Does Sílvia Requena’s sovereign profile as secretary general help the agreement with the PNC?
She shares the idea of a space of integration that asks no one where it comes from, but where she wants to go. I do not reproach Marta Pascal for being with the independentism on 6 and 7 September. But I’m not going to blame Ramon Bosch for founding Societat Civil Catalana either. There has to be tolerance of what is acceptable to one and the other and it must be bidirectional. That’s our logic. Are we going to keep trenches or are we going to look beyond our inner jurisdiction to see what is necessary in this society? The division is making a dent and now nothing happens, but maybe in two generations, yes. That this germ exists suggests that we can be sowing, without realizing it and in a very frivolous way, the foundations for a social division that can do a lot of damage. That’s why it’s worth trying to turn the page and not keep digging in the division, even if the errors are asymmetrical.
“We have the aspiration that there is a very broad coalition of Catalanism that can range from the PNC to the Lliga and even to sectors that were attracted to Ciudadanos as a refuge space in 2017”
If all the actors are clear, why isn’t there only one party at this point?
Because there are different sensitivities. The fundamental thing is that the existence of these different sensitivities is recognized and that they all need to be brought together to have a minimum expectation. We will continue to work on this approach. We have the aspiration that there is a very broad coalition of Catalanism that can range from the PNC to the Lliga and even to sectors that were attracted to Ciudadanos as a refuge space in 2017 and that now consider that it is worth stopping digging trenches and starting to rebuild the bridges.
It seems impossible to conjugate Cs and PNC.
Organically and organizationally it is not feasible. But there is an electoral space that borders (there are almost 1 million votes) with common economic interests. To consider that is to overcome the logic of the process. If before Covid-19 it was already essential to do so, it is now more so with the economic desolation landscape with which we are going to encounter and the dominance of certain policies in tax matters, with tax increases, economic and educational increases in the Generalitat and in the Government. It turns out that schools that have concerts will not benefit from specific funds for the management and recovery of education from September. It is an exclusionary logic that does not satisfy an important part of the electorate. That is why we believe that there is a very important electoral space and area that is orphaned. It can range from former CDC speakers to former Cs speakers who are not happy with the performance of the main party of the Catalan opposition, whose maximum performance has been in the Parliament and, outside it, ripping off yellow ties. Voting in institutional policy should serve more than just activism, and that statement is worth both to one another.
“Voting in institutional policy should serve more than activism, and that statement is worth both”
But your bet is very complex and you talk about positions that seem irreconcilable.
We’re looking for a space for reconciliation. We want a cohesive Catalonia, which does not mean a unanimous Catalonia. We have to recognize plurality, that is one of the exercises that will cost us the most in the coming years. We have a very plural “sol poble” (a single people) and the fundamental thing is to assume that with those ingredients we have to be able to live together. Hence our idea of reconciliation, reconstruction and also regeneration, because we think that in recent years there has been a lot of damage to the institutions. We need a regeneration of the Generalitat and for the Estatut to be respected and shared by all.
Does that candidacy make sense if PDECat and Puigdemont break permanently, as it seems now?
We have points of agreement with the traditional PDECat and surely also with the PNC in the field of economic policy. Here can be a lot of coincidences here, and it’s worth exploring them. There are also those with Cs from an economic point of view. We have to be able to see that there are different fractures that are crossed and you can understand each other depending on the topic you activate. And the virtue and advantage of such political systems is that they allow many alliances if we overcome block policy. The possibility of pacts and broad consensus is very great. That’s why we have to overcome the policy of overlay, fractures and blocks. So we can agree on economic issues and we believe that these elections have to be based on that and reconstruction.
And what separates them?
La Lliga is not a sovereign party and we do not claim to hold a referendum. Nor do we believe in the right to decide because it does not exist, it is an invention of Catalan sovereignism not to use the right of self-determination, which is the term used in international law. But that is not the case because we fervently support Spain’s unity and it is not because of an identity issue. The referendum does not solve the problem we have. The problem is the sharing of political power in a world of shared sovereignty. We must negotiate as political power is divided.
A referendum makes it conditional on the outcome of the negotiation and a prior agreement is necessary to get to that point.
A new Estatut?
The conflict is not between Catalonia and Spain but fractures Catalonia and fractures Spain by the discussion about what relations should be like and, therefore, the sharing of political power. Some will say that the federal model should be applied; others, independence; others like Vox want to eliminate autonomous communities; and Cs will say that the state of autonomy needs to be rethought. There are different positions and the first step is to agree on a political agreement on the distribution in Catalonia, assuming that no one is going to win and that there are things that are not feasible depending on the conditions that exist. You cannot live isolated from the conditions, which can be changed, but you have to accept them. With those on the table now, the best way out is to renegotiate an internal pact. We have to give a second chance to a new Estatut made with realism and loyalty, escaping the constant competition between the parties to see who push higher. Sensibly and without exclusions, although some self-excluded in 2006.
“A new Estatut made with realism and loyalty must be given a second chance“