Interview with Miquel Iceta, Minister of Territorial Policy and Public Administration
Alberto D. Prieto, June 20 2021
The Minister of Territorial Policy, Miquel Iceta, before his interview with EL ESPAÑOL. Carlos Marquez
A few days before the pardons are granted, and after five weeks in which the political debate has only revolved around the “political conflict” in (or with) Catalonia, a Catalan leader of the PSC, and precisely Minister of Territorial Policy, receives EL ESPAÑOL to offer his vision of the Spain of yesterday, today, and the future.
Miquel Iceta (Barcelona, 1960) was the father of pardons, even before Oriol Junqueras had been detained for a month. And this Tuesday he will sit in the Council of Ministers that decrees them. For him it is so evident that the next thing to do is the reform of the Constitution so that Leonor de Borbón “could be queen”. And it is so “magnificent” that the Princess speaks “perfect Catalan” as it is “logical” to think that “today, in Catalan schools, maybe there are places where more Spanish is needed”.
With Iceta you can agree more or less. Or nothing. But he has the merit of being consistent, and if he changes his mind, he admits his mistake openly: he has been arguing for years that he wants “a federal Spain”, and in this interview, he finally explains what that means with concrete proposals. And he acknowledges that his PSC was wrong supporting the “right to decide”
… it will be that the date is approaching when the table meets, the one that its president, Pedro Sánchez, calls “the re-union”.
— Hey, what is a Catalan doing, carrying out the Territorial Policy of the Kingdom of Spain? What is that about?
— Basically, in the Ministry we handle two types of questions. Those that have to do with the public function and others that have to do with relations with other institutions, both the regional and local. Then there are other elements of Transparency, Participation, and Governance. But, boy, the name of the Ministry explains it all.
— The politicians in charge have always said that we are at a crucial moment for Spain. Either you all have a historical complex or it is that Spain is never finished. Not even territorially.
— Well, I think that no country ever ends. Not any society, fortunately. It is being built. There are times when, due to economic, social or territorial crises, they seem more important. But go, a country like Spain, with so many centuries of history … in Catalonia the term “historical day” is often abused, and sometimes we had one per week.
— Do you feel that you are at a crucial moment?
— Well, this is a turning point, yes. Because we have gone through, and we are still in it, through a very strong pandemic. It is a crucial moment because Europe seems to pick up the political pulse of it. It is a crucial moment because we have a territorial crisis, in this case very focused on Catalonia. But finally, I always say that others will come after us who will learn from our experience and, therefore, surely, from our mistakes.
— And the Government of Pedro Sánchez?
— Well yes, and I would almost dare to say that it is a moment of change of level. Because with a 2020 marked absolutely by the pandemic, precisely yesterday [the interview is held on Thursday] the Commission approved the Recovery Plan, so we are entering a new phase of the legislature. But I believe that the Government has managed to focus the priorities very well: the pandemic and vaccination; now, the economic recovery; and in any case, the social shield, so that we do not leave anyone behind. When you have your priorities well focused, the management can then be more or less successful, but you are on the right track on the underlying issues. And I believe that the Government of Pedro Sánchez is on the right track.
— Let’s agree that a pandemic is not what one has contemplated in the Budgets, but the Catalan mess, since when did you have it foreseen?
— Foreseen! [laughs … while he is interrupted by a call from Salvador Illa]. Let’s see, when does the Catalan mess start? I don’t know … but I saw that things started to go wrong in 2012, when Artur Mas went to see Mariano Rajoy to propose the tax pact. There were other moments, such as the ruling [on the Statute by the Constitutional Court] in 2010. But the mess, well, [he emphasizes] I began to see it coming in 2012.
— Would it have been better to have accepted that fiscal pact?
— Let’s see … accept! I don’t know if it was possible to accept that at that time. President Rajoy maintains that he told Mas that there was no money, but what President Mas answered is that he only asked to negotiate the model, and that they could have talks about the money later. It would have been better to find dialogue. Because then we already jump to the illegal consultation of 2014, and then we go to the ravine of 2017, where everything was broken. I do not know the specific formula, but it would have been good to establish a very clear commitment that the solution was a dialogue and not unilateral, in any case. And there, the independence movement, driven by haste and by a miscalculation, felt very strong and thought that the other party is perhaps less so…
— And is the independence movement right in thinking that the State is not strong?
— I do not think so. Let’s see … a State, its first function is to remain as such. Ultimately, a state is the ability to enforce the law in a territory. And I believe that the independence movement launched a challenge: “In Catalonia we are not going to comply with the law, and basically with the law of laws that is the Constitution”. And the state won. I believe that the independence movement was wrong in many ways. The future is not independence, but cooperation. In fact, I believe that the future is federalism, but anyway, there are as many opinions as there are people … And the independence movement was also wrong in the way to achieve it. Because outside the law, there is no way for almost anything in this life.
— And now that no one is listening to us …
— … that, because the interview is in off [laughs]
–… these from Esquerra, who you say have changed their attitude, do they not recognize it in private, in off, that they got on a tiger and do not know how to stop it? Do they ask for your help?
— Let’s see … Everyone is a prisoner of what he has said and the expectations he has generated. It was sold as possible, simple and without cost, a process that has nowhere been simple and without cost, right? There was, first, an objective that is not shared by the majority of Catalans and divides Catalan society in halves. One half cannot impose a solution on the other, we must look for one in which, perhaps with less enthusiasm, but more people agree. And that is what we have to do. The sooner we start, the better. And second, the independence movement makes another mistake, placing the conflict between Catalonia and the rest of Spain. They tend to forget that the problem begins in Catalonia itself: there is no shared goal that brings together a vast majority. So there must not only be a negotiation between Catalan and Spanish institutions, but also a pact between the Catalans themselves.
— They cling to the fact that there is a supposed 80% of Catalans who want to vote for the future of Catalonia.
— Let’s see, if that is a solution that is voted on, I want it too! But they don’t want to vote on a solution. So far, what they want is to vote for a break. I have always said that once we reach an agreement, we can submit it to Catalan society to see what degree of support it arouses … but an agreement! Instead, they want a binary referendum, independence yes or no. We cannot share it. I am no nationalist, I am very Catalan, and the best for Catalonia is in Spain and in Europe
— What is the truth in what was said about you, that you are the most nationalist of the PSC? Even to that was attributed your change for Illa for 14-F …
— Well, I don’t know whether to take it for good or bad [laughs]. I am the first secretary of the PSC, but my political career has always been linked to parties at the state level. I am not saying that it is neither good, nor bad nor fair. But the first party in which I was active was the Popular Socialist Party (PSP), and then the Socialist Youth of the Catalan Federation of the PSOE. Anyway… Sometimes, I jokingly say that I, as I am the son of a Basque and a Catalan, could not be a nationalist because, from which one? And that is why I am looking for an integrating, or overcoming solution, which from my point of view, is the federal one. But Iceta nationalist? I don’t feel like a nationalist. Very Catalan, yes. I want the best for Catalonia, but I cannot imagine a Catalonia outside of Spain and Europe.
— You have told me before that you see the mess beginning in 2012, or maybe in 2010, with the ruling of the Constitutional Court… … well, there are those who say that the truth of the truth is the economic crisis of 2008. That’s my opinion, but mine doesn’t count.
— What do you mean? Why?
— Because I am the journalist, I am here to ask yours.
— No, but in this case, I can agree with the journalist. The 2008 crisis dislocated societies. Some found a response of a conservative populist type, and others found in independence a kind of magic remedy, the ointment that cures everything. This crisis, unlike others, affected the middle class much more directly, to which they said: if we are independent, if we keep all the money, we will be better off. And that took on a strength that it had never had before. In Catalonia there were always pro-independence sectors, but reaching 40% is a product of the economic crisis. That was a failure of politics. And now I think we have an opportunity to return to that path of dialogue. You have to catch it on the fly.
— Was it a mistake that President Montilla, of the PSC, led the demonstration against the Constitutional Court?
— Look, I say it with great respect, the ruling of the TC on the Statute was a bit reckless. I was more in favor of the Constitutional Court having decided to monitor the application of that Statute and, in case of appreciating any element of unconstitutionality, act then. Because it reviewed an agreement that had cost a lot to achieve, and that also had passed a referendum. The proof is that we then changed the law so that this can never happen again. It was an anomaly. Before making such a drastic decision, a more cautious approach would have been worthwhile. And that was fully possible.
— The PSC was wrong …
— In any case, that happened. And the Socialists, we immediately lost the Government of Catalonia, so we did not have to manage that crisis, at least from the Government. And then there was also the political change in Spain, with the accession of the conservative right that, curiously, was at first in good understanding with the nationalists! Now, everyone tries to erase it, but History is what it is. The first Budget of Artur Mas was agreed with the PP, and that was after the sentence! When the pro-independence guys say that that broke everything…
— Perhaps the Constitutional Court was fed up with the fact that its sentences were not being carried out. Like the freedom of choice of language in school.
— Let’s see … the TC has said on several occasions that it considers Catalan to be the “center of gravity” of education in Catalonia. In other words, in general, the sentences are carried out. And in this case, History is erased again. The pattern of the dip is more to the left than to the right. Pujol wanted a double school network, one in Catalan and the other in Spanish. It was the left that said “no, no, no. Let’s not separate the children. And that the school is geared towards Catalan, which does not have promotion instruments as powerful as Spanish”. We would have aggravated the social inequalities between the Spanish-speaking sectors if they did not have access to the command of Catalan. Look, I had my schooling all in Spanish, and the Catalan that I know, I learned at home. I believe that this no longer happens and that in Catalonia we must make an effort to comply with the meaning of the laws. The “why was this done”. This was done with a basic objective: that by the end of compulsory schooling, all children would master both languages. And that objectively indicates that perhaps in some places more Catalan is needed and in others more Spanish is needed. So even though I don’t like the expression at all, teachers must be empowered more to decide what children need at any given time and place.
— Since the issue of language has come up, do you think that it would build a country if the whole of Spain had to study one of the co-official languages, like English or French?
— It surprises me that there are more Catalan departments in foreign universities than in Spanish ones. I put a lot of effort into wearing the coat of arms of Spain [it’s a pin on his lapel], because there is no History lesson more graphically condensed than in our coat of arms. We should get up every morning saying “I am lucky to live in a country with several languages”. And we are also lucky to have a common one … it is wonderful! The ruling of the Statute was reckless, an anomaly, a more prudent decision could have been taken
— Look, speaking of the coat of arms of Spain … why hardly anyone knows that Spain was the first federal country, even before the word was invented?
— With Felipe V … … knowing History is always very important. More than anything because it explains how we are and shows us what has worked and what has not. And perhaps our knowledge of the History of Spain is deficient, because for a long time the King of Spain was called the King of Spains, in plural. It is true that Spain included Cuba, the Philippines … … and even the Sahara … … indeed, very different realities from the mainland. But what happens is that the world is going in a direction of constituting more and more extensive areas. I am very Europeanist because Europe is the only space in the world that has made freedom, the competitive economy and the welfare state compatible. So the defense of that social model requires a great political power.
— When they ask you “what would you like?”
— To me, the United States of Europe. More united, more diverse and more common. I told you that the first Bourbon devised a bad solution: to end the laws of each kingdom. But because it was the Castilians who felt offended! Catalonia has been very lucky that Spain is below the Pyrenees. Because above them, Catalonia does not exist, and that Spain that they present as so centralist, well it has not been so central, has it? At least, compared to France, whose unification was ended with a single law, a single language, a single school and a single Republic. In Spain this is not the case: the different Spanish languages have been maintained, even against dictatorships and prohibitions. A very Spanish sport, and therefore Catalan, is to detract from ourselves. And I always say that we are still shorter than others – I look at it, 1.63 – but we have done very important things, especially when we have been closer together, when we shared common goals. That is why I am not renouncing to return to that path, and that is why I say let’s try to deepen the recognition of diversity, yes, but also in the establishment of common projects.
— Promise me one thing: that you will not fight me in the answer … When you sit down with the pro-independence guys at the table, surely you will have a position, even from the beginning. Can you tell me?
— I think it’s easy to tell you … There are two extremes here: the one that says you don’t have to touch anything, and those that say you have to break. Between these two extremes, will be the Government of Spain. Let’s talk within the law and identify the problems to find practical solutions. I am always a little afraid to be very precise when they ask me a question like yours…
— … well, that’s what I asked you to do!
— But I’ll be precise, I’m not going to fight you. This is not a turnkey apartment, you have to build it together. And if I tell my solution, the obligation of the other party is to say “this is not good for me”. But from my point of view, it is easy [and claps, figuratively showing a paper]: Declaration of Granada, 2013, that is, reform of the Constitution for a federal Spain.
— What would go well in Spain?
— A federal state for all intents and purposes. And I say “for all intents and purposes” because we are missing two things that are central to me: federal institutions and, above all, federal culture. In the first, we have the Senate, which would be key. In the second, federalism is to defend self-government but also to defend shared government. And that is true that it does not exist in Spain, by anyone. The State has viewed decentralization with great suspicion and many times there is the temptation to impose that “if I decide, everything goes better”.
— And that is the position of Iceta, that of the Government?
— The way, from my point of view, is that. In fact, I have a book written on this. It’s very clear to me. But if only I am clear about it, this is useless. Because there is one thing that is sometimes forgotten. Then there is the PP …
— Explain to me, then, why a constitutionalist like Pedro Sánchez shows more understanding with those who want to break the Constitution than with the other on his side.
— Let’s see, let’s see. Let me break a spear at someone’s head. When there was a very acute crisis in 2017 and the PSOE was in opposition, it did not hesitate for a second to side with the Government of Spain. I try not to offend, but it can be said with enough respect that the PSOE, in opposition, is more inclined to find agreements with the ruling PP than the other way around.
— One who does move is Felipe González. He doesn’t talk about pardons, but he does admit now that he would want to see them out of jail. Have they asked for your help?
— No … I’m very pro-Felipe. I worked for a long time in his government, alongside Narcís Serra. He was a great president and he knows the world, conflict situations. He knows that there is a political problem that can only be solved by negotiation. And that having the main representatives of one of the parties in jail does not help.
— Can you say this without dropping the octopus? And why are you only careful with the opinion of the pro-independence side? There are also half or more Spaniards against all this and…
— The pro-independence side is also annoyed when I say that the Government will pardon because another power of the State sentenced them, condemned them and sent them to jail. That pardons are not a sign of weakness. In any case, they are magnanimous, sensitive … they are a sign of strength! Because pardon is made by the one who can, and will pardon those who have been condemned. Why do we always look at things with that short complex? Hey, they gave us a pulse and lost. But life goes on and you have to find a way to avoid further conflict. Why not? The coat of arms of Spain is the best graphic summary in history, that’s why I like to wear it.
— Well, the argument is simple: because if it comes out cheap, they are encouraged to repeat it, right?
— No. First, not cheap at all. They have been in jail for more than three and a half years … and deprivation of liberty is the worst punishment for a person. That is why there is such a punishment and that is why it is adjustable over time. They have not gone away with it! Second, you have to look at the public utility, which is one of the reasons pardons can be granted. Is it useful to me that they are in jail or can it be more useful if they are not? The argument is free, but in any case it must be discussed.
— You were the first to say it, and Sánchez was still talking about compliance…
— It is true that I spoke ahead of time. But let’s remember that pardons have a provision that if there is a repeat offense, they are annulled and you go back to prison to serve your first sentence and the one that comes to you with the new trial. Therefore, why this insecurity and fear, if the State has already shown that it can take whatever is thrown at it? What scares me is doing nothing…
–... come on, you are going to get away with the fact that everything was the fault of the PP’s indolence.
— Guilt no, but doing nothing we have already seen where it leads, to a much bigger problem. Some ask if we have guarantees. But what guarantees are we going to have? Nobody has that in a dialogue process. The Government has an instrument in hand that it can use, it is legitimate for it to do so and, the truth, I dare to ask the PP to accompany the Government.
— Man, asking the PP to support the Sánchez of ‘no es no’ in this …
— Pedro resigned in order not to abstain, and the PSC MPs voted against Rajoy, skipping the agreement of the federal committee. So from the legitimacy of those of us who were most against it but knew how to side with the Government when the crisis demanded it, I ask the PP.
— Okay, then you will agree with me that it is ugly to put the PP, whose help you ask for, as the culprit of what happened in October 17.
— I do not like to blame. In politics, when there is a problem, there are usually at least two parties. But with all due respect, the PP had to face an illegal consultation in 2014, an illegal referendum in 2017, a declaration of independence … that happened while they ruled.
— Does that make them guilty?
— No, but it happened to them. And I say it trying not to offend. But fuck it! Let’s all be a little more humble. Because to say that this problem overflowed the PP, this can be said … It overflowed all of us! The PP has the right to establish its political position. But in their same position, I would be careful. Because if with the pandemic it always said ‘no’; if with European funds, it torpedoed them; and now it refuses to dialogue … Man, a little bit of a ‘please’! Let them say that they do not see it, that they would not do it, that having seen what they have seen they do not believe in it and that they will demand responsibilities if it goes wrong. Because now the PSOE governs, which offers a possibility, in the face of a problem that they did not solve, to resume a dialogue within the law.
— Does the PP have the right to try to block it by land, sea and air?
— I do not think so.
— And how does the PP defend its position then?
— I do not know, but collect signatures, as against the Statute. Going the three right parties together to Colón, again … a politician cannot say “I will not be wrong”. But he should be able to say “I will not repeat the same mistakes”.
— And when the PSC bought that of the right to decide?
— It was wrong. And I take the lead. I was not yet the first secretary of the PSC, but I was there. We thought that this could be a solution, and it was not. We fell into a trap, because we said no to the right to self-determination but we accepted a formula that was a euphemism. But I told you that I was a pro-Felipe … I’m also a pro-Alfredo. And when Pérez Rubalcaba saw this, he said “come here, this ‘right to decide’ thing is over, but we are going to offer a solution”, which was precisely the Declaration of Granada. Now everyone speaks well of Rubalcaba … … there are politicians and politicians. And Alfredo for me was a giant. We had a very good and constant relationship. These days, I have thought a lot about him: what would he say, what would he think. Today I would be asking his opinion, and he would enlighten me by questioning mine, for sure. Good politicians are needed for good politics. And we are not always up to the task, really.
— Maybe Rubalcaba would call Iceta, but also someone in an office on Genova street, right?
— Sure. He always did it in life. In what we know and in what we don’t. I do not know about the negotiation with ETA, so I will not speak. But I do know that for the abdication of King Emeritus … we need politics, and politics is dialogue. And the dialogue today is magnanimity and pardon.
— But does the president call Casado? “Pablo, we have a problem and I want to do this, why don’t we agree to the public discrepancy while we discuss in private?”
— I don’t want to compromise anyone other than myself, but my thesis is that in countries that are doing well, they have good government and good opposition, with spaces in which both parties understand each other. Now the “state pact” is less used, but I think there should be. In Foreign Policy, in European Policy, on the structure of the State and institutions … and it is not that I want to criticize the PP again, but blocking the renewal of the CGPJ is not a good path. And if we stick to history, the PP has practiced it much more than the PSOE. The opinions are free, but the facts are indisputable. The pardons are not a sign of the weakness of the Government, they are a sign of the strength of the State: who can pardon, and convicted persons are pardoned.
— Isn’t it the fault of both sides?
— Sure, there are shared responsibilities, and they can be distributed in almost equal proportions, but I would like there to be a normal dialogue. Without avoiding shock, even radical discrepancy, but preserving the ability to dialogue. And then, some specific spaces in which we are able to go hand in hand.
— You tell me that one of the state pacts should be the territorial structure. Wow! But if they are going to talk about it before with the pro-independence side than with Casado …
— Yes, but watch it. You can talk about what you want with whoever you want. But imagine that at that table the conclusion is reached that the Constitution must be reformed … I would love to! But immediately you come to the conclusion that without the PP you cannot. And above all, you should not. The constitutional history of Spain, until 1978, is very sad. And that is why I, who am a firm supporter of reforming the Constitution, am very respectful of the constitutional pact. Because it seems to me almost a miracle and many times I have doubts, even, about whether today it would be possible to make a Constitution like that, so inclusive and so advanced. And that worries me too! To make reforms, you have to do them hand in hand. So I wouldn’t come up saying “this is my solution”. I try to slow down a lot, because for me it is very clear, I am so convinced …
–… of what?
— of what I am saying. Look, I’ve been in politics for a long time. And one of the documents that is worth reading from time to time is in the biography of Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, the document that he gives to Rajoy with reflections on an eventual constitutional reform. It was a very great effort by Alfredo, and very sincere, trying to share a possible reform to do it together.
— Not today. But it should be. I reread the Constitution from time to time, and Title VIII, today, is a very empty title. Luckily it was done like this! Because in 1978 it was not known how many or what the Autonomous Communities would be. This was more of a start-up manual. In this sense, the fathers of the Constitution were visionaries. As could not be foreseen, they let the Statutes be modulating self-government. But of course, more than 40 years later … we could already put into the Constitution things that practice has established. I believe that loving the Constitution today means be willing to reform it.
— Well, the Catalan Government arrives at the negotiating table in high spirits, based on the fact that in Pedralbes Sanchez already admitted that there is a political conflict here, and to negotiate “without limits other than legal security”.
— We’ll see. I am very much in favor of the Declaration of Pedralbes.
— But, the fact is that anyone doubts that there is a political conflict in Catalonia?
— Excuse me that it’s bad … okay, the PP denies it and Vox … … well, words are not free. If you don’t want to, don’t call it conflict, because sometimes it is good to run away from the language of war. But there is a political problem like the crown of a pine tree and it must be solved politically.
— The self-determination? Hey, self-determination is not possible! On the United Nations website are listed the territories that have the right to self-determination that have not yet exercised it. They are seventeen. And none of them are part of Spain!
— Engaging in that path and pretending to protect it in international law, which does not protect it, is wrong. Another thing is that one says “hey, I want to discuss everything”. You can do whatever you want, but if you really want a deal, don’t get hooked on an item that the other party won’t accept. You say no the first day. And the second. And the third. But what about the fourth, what do we do? Do we decide that since we do not agree on that, we no longer talk about anything else? The independence movement has to mature its position.
— But the fact is that a pro-independence guy only wants … independence, you have to know that.
— It’s like the elephant in the room, it is what it is. But to solve it, you cannot deny the problem or commit yourself to a solution that the other party will not accept.
— Okay, and how do you negotiate then with someone who only wants to negotiate how to get to what he wants to impose?
— I’d like to start by making a list of topics. What has been broken, what has failed so that a significant part of Catalan society perceives that Spain is not welcoming? Because if we agree on what is wrong, we can find solutions. Look, in ’78 that’s what was done. I remember the debate on nationalities and regions. And it was the right wing, it was Fraga, the one who said that nationality and nation were the same, and that is why they refused to put “nationality”.
— Is the nation disputed and debatable?
— The nation is very difficult to define. But there are feelings in certain societies that believe that their own elements have to be respected … that is the law of life. Let’s find the best way to make this compatible with the common project. It was possible in ’78 and it has to be in ’21. It’s easier said than done, of course. But I believe that an agreement is possible and what is certain is that we have an obligation to seek it.
— You said that if 80% asked for independence, they should be listened to…
— … yeah, yeah, mind you. I love teasing [laughs]. To verify whether a statement is absurd or not, put it in the negative: “If in Catalan society, 80% ask for independence, we do not have to listen to them” [and mark the no]. Hey, listening does not mean agreeing! but what we cannot do is close our eyes … … what I was going to do is that there are already more than one generation of adults who only know politics like that.
— At this rate, your 80% is just a matter of time.
— Or not, Alberto. Or not. This fight has been going on for a long time, hey. That’s it.
— And isn’t it time to take stock?
— That is why in Catalonia there are many who reflect, beyond the legitimacy or not of their claim, “what have we obtained in these 10 long years after the ruling of the TC?” Nothing, and in very sensitive terrain you have run back. Isn’t the approach worth reviewing? I do not ask the pro-independence people to kneel and repent, tear their clothes and cover themselves with ashes. Nerd. I tell them that until their magic moment arrives when everything will be solved, in the meantime, what do we do? I can think of an endless list of things we can agree on.
— That is another thing.
— Catalonia has stagnated. I always say, and forgive me, that in Catalonia we did not sleep thinking about whether Madrid would overtake us. Well, it has already overtaken us. But maybe now we start not sleeping thinking that Valencia is overtaking us! Hey, let’s see … we still have to wake up and not live installed in a discourse in which nothing moves … Many pro-independence guys are already saying ‘anem per feina’, let’s go to work, to our thing. Conflicts are not eternal, remember how they killed each other in Vietnam with the US and there came a time when they said to each other, hey this doesn’t make sense! So, there are pro-independence people who no longer want to leave.
— Are there? Where?
— Catalonia will always be where it is: in the south of France separated by the Pyrenees, on the border with Aragon and the Valencian Community, and a little further out to the sea are the Balearic Islands … always in the Northeast of Spain, in a corner of the Mediterranean, a fascinating place, a privileged place. And that is not going to change in life! So the question is, what better relationship can you have with your neighbors, who will be until the end of the centuries. Maybe I will come very up, but I see it so clearly that sometimes one thinks that it is impossible for others not to see it that way. The best relationship with neighbors is not to separate yourself from them or offend them gratuitously. What is this about not receiving the King? But what nonsense is that! If he is the King of all Spaniards, and even if you do not consider him yours, you should respect him because of those who do consider him in the rest of Spain and in Catalonia itself. Defends what is yours, but never break, do not deny the other party the same legitimacy in their opinions as you have.
— Well excuse me, but there are 72% of socialist voters who do not see it so clearly, at least with the pardons…
— Things are very different than three or four years ago. Without the intention of offending, the independence movement failed. I know it’s very hard, and that’s why the digestion of that won’t be quick, but hey, that didn’t go well. And dare to say in public what you say in private, and in private they say that this did not go well. It is the minimum … But they are changing, there is a demand for dialogue and these days it is being seen. Entrepreneurs tell us “stop this nonsense and let’s go where we have to go”. And they are right.
— Of the mess of the last decade, how much to blame for the 30 years of bickering with the competences and powers?
— It is not to bother, but I am going to give you an argument so that you see that it is not that simple. 1979, Statute of Gernika: prison powers for the Basque Country, which was voted by the UCD, right? Year 2021, the transfer is signed, and they tell us that this is little less than selling out Spain. We have let 10 years go by since the end of ETA and they still made us those covers! I used to tell you before that it was an advantage that the Autonomous Communities were defining what the territorial model of Spain was like, but also from now on it may be an inconvenience. We leave the powers to be determined by each Statute, but as these can be modified, it is a very open process and without guidelines. Those guidelines should be incorporated into the Constitution. It would be very difficult! But if not, the logic is that the autonomies each time stretch more for their side and the State each time resist more. And a dynamic of inevitable tension is generated. Sure! That is why I believe that after having seen the things that have gone well and badly, those that are missing and in excess, it would be a good moment … although in Spain, a good moment for a great consensus, I don’t know if we are going to see it. Aznar himself has already declared the end of that war: “The State of Autonomies has been closed”, he said … … and notice that, in addition, as life always ends up imposing itself. Clavero Arévalo has just died, who devised pre-autonomies and anticipated what did not yet exist. But not even he could guess all this. Although there are federal structures that work better than ours, in the pandemic – for example – I think we have approved. When it all began, I put my hands on my head, to see how 17 autonomies will be coordinated from the outside, without losing their competence in Health but permanently agreeing…
— The public utility of the pardon is simple: Does it help me that they are in jail or that they are on the street? Well that… And now? It seems that the president leaves the restrictions to the CCAA and he keeps the good news, such as removing the masks.
— Well, at first it was easier to come to terms and now that the pandemic is subsiding, there are more discrepancies … We should have learned from when we made virtue out of necessity. Above all for the territorial model. I know that in the conservative field there are people who also think so. Look, the same former minister Margallo gave me a book in which he outlined a constitutional reform. I hope things like this keep moving and allow us to find solutions. Although magic does not exist.