Cristian Segura, Barcelona 17 June 2021
The leader of the PP, Pablo Casado (on the right), together with the president of the Círculo de Economía, Javier Faus, before speaking this Thursday in the second meeting of the Cercle d’Economia, this Thursday.QUIQUE GARCÍA / EFE | VIDEO: EFE
The president of the Popular Party, Pablo Casado has come out this Thursday to fight in a difficult square, the annual days of the Cercle d’Economy, the agora par excellence of civil society in Barcelona. The president of Cercle, Javier Faus, affirmed this Wednesday that the institution is in favor of pardons to the Catalan independence leaders convicted in 2019 for the illegal self-determination referendum of 2017 and for the attempted unilateral separation from Spain. Faus assured that the pardons are “a historic opportunity for harmony”. The Cercle has returned to defend its thesis on Thursday before the leader of the PP, invited to give a conference. “The chronification of the political conflict is very negative for Catalonia and for Spain, although they may be electorally profitable in the short term for some political parties with more intransigent positions”, has warned Jordi Gual, vice president of Cercle and former president of CaixaBank.
Not only the Catalan business community has spoken out in favor of pardons. The president of the CEOE, Antonio Garamendi, attending the Cercle conference in Barcelona, has also spoken in favor of the grace measure. “In the rule of law there is room for pardons. There are many opinions among businessmen, but if this ends with things normalizing, the pardons are welcome, ”Garamendi reflected in an interview on TVE. Subsequently, Garamendi wanted to contextualize his statements by ensuring that when he speaks of the term “normalize” he refers to the companies that moved their headquarters during the process to return to Catalonia.. And he has tried to relativize his initial statement: “I’m not going to answer about pardons, I’m not a politician, I represent businessmen. We respect the legality, the Constitution, the Statute. There is a huge space for dialogue. The CEOE president is not going to talk about politics ”. What Garamendi has said again is that “the Constitution allows pardons.”
Jordi Gual has pointed out that “the political movements of recent weeks are not unacceptable concessions, but the beginning of a real dialogue that must end up being transactional”. “ The pardons do not solve the problem but they initiate the dialogue, they diminish the confrontational climate“, has added. The current president of VidaCaixa, CaixaBank’s insurance company, also referred to the commitment of the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, and the President of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, to reactivate the dialogue table between the two executives before the summer to seek solutions to the crisis caused by the rise of independence in Catalonia and its unilateral challenge in 2017. The vice president of the Cercle d’Economia has also affirmed that Catalan society “is not divided into two diametrically opposed parts”: “Not half of Catalonia it is independentist nor the other half is constitutionalist. The dynamics of the parties have brought us here but the reality is more nuanced and far from all or nothing.
Casado’s visit to Barcelona also coincided with a statement from the Catalan bishops supporting the pardons and the dialogue process between the central government and the Generalitat: “We are convinced of the strength of dialogue and grace measures in all conflict situations ”. “There will be progress if the dialogue is serious, capable and open, and if it is admitted that dialogue always means renouncing one’s own demands in order to meet the other’s resignations on the road”, indicates the document of the Tarragona Episcopal Conference: Sincere feelings of mercy and forgiveness, respecting justice, will help the agreements we all hope to be reached soon ”. Casado replied to the prelates in a subsequent intervention before the media: “With all respect for the Episcopal Conference, the employers and the unions, decisions are made in the Congress of Deputies, which is the representation of all Spaniards.” Casado has said that despite the fact that this week Congress has rejected precisely an initiative of the PP to oppose the pardons.
Casado has taken the glove when Gual has asked him to join the dialogue to achieve harmony. The president of the PP has replied that “it is not possible to speak of the rupture of Spain as concord”, and has stressed that with the campaign against pardons, what his party does is defend legality. “In Catalonia there is a problem of compliance with the law”, has valued Casado: “The sublimation of harmony is the Constitution, and the sublimation of dialogue is the law.” “There is talk of pardons without evidence of repentance, when recidivism is threatened, when the prosecution is against it and when the sentencing court says they cannot be granted,” Casado recalled. The leader of the opposition has reflected that the pardon to the condemned in the trial of the procés it can generate “more frustration” because it would give wings to the independence movement to once again test a unilateral pulse to the State.
“We ask you to reflect”
The political differences between the institution of intellectual promotion par excellence of the Barcelona business community and the PP are not new. Cayetana Álvarez de Toledo, who was the candidate of the popular in Catalonia in the 2019 general elections, wrote in an article in El Mundo that the president of the PP in Catalonia, Alejandro Fernández, “is aware that his voters are not exactly the third party heroes of the Círculo de Economía ”. With “third party”, Álvarez de Toledo referred to the attempts to find a balanced position of the Cercle between constitutionalism and independence movement.
Despite the differences in such a sensitive issue, Casado has been well received by the big businessmen attending the Cercle meeting. The president of the PP has been in great demand by attendees during breaks between conferences. One of his interlocutors has been Josep Sánchez Llibre, president of the Catalan employers’ association Foment. “We ask Mr. Casado to reflect on some elements that help to normalize the situation and that coincide with the majority sense of the Catalans,” Sánchez Llibre explained to EL PAÍS. His predecessor in the presidency of Foment, Joaquim Gay de Montellà, also expressed himself in the same vein: “I like Casado’s plan to fit Catalonia into Spain, but he has to reflect and approach this understanding and dialogue” .
Casado has detailed that the PP proposes a new financing model for Catalonia, and has recalled that it was the second Government of José María Aznar (2000-2004) who promoted the current system. Some questions from those attending his conference have asked the leader of the PP to correct a centralizing model in favor of Madrid. Casado has assured that in Spain there is no asset concentration process in Madrid and has reiterated that it is, together with Germany, the most decentralized country in the European Union. In a document made public coinciding with the conference, the Cercle d’Economia thinks the opposite: “Madrid must be aware that the effect of capital status favors it, which is accentuated by the presence of the headquarters of the main companies”. “The capital of Madrid cannot act as a vacuum cleaner for resources from the rest of Spain,” concludes the document published by this think tank of businessmen and academics.
Casado’s speech in favor of drastically lowering the tax burden or improving infrastructure in Catalonia has been received favorably by many attendees at the conference. The vice president of Foment, Baldiri Ros, and the former president of the Cercle d’Economia, Carlos Cuatrecasas, positively valued the proposals of the leader of the PP: “I like consistency, and Casado is, he does not lurch”, said Ros: ” His economic speech has been impeccable. And in politics, we all know that nationalisms always want more and that pardons are not a solution ”. Cuatrecasas has also praised Casado although he asks him to be clear that the dialogue promoted by the Cercle starts from the basis that “compliance with the law is essential.”
Support for Mas-Colell
The second day of the annual Cercle days has had other moments of special symbolism. The auditorium received the professor and economist Andreu Mas-Colell with a standing ovation. Mas-Colell is being investigated by the Court of Accounts for his involvement in promoting independence during his years as Minister of Economy of the Generalitat (2011-2015). The Court of Auditors could seize his home, his pension and his bank account, according to the Mas-Colell family. This situation has generated a flood of support for Mas-Colell, also this Thursday from the most prominent ranks of the Catalan business community. The person under investigation had stood in recent years against the unilateral independence race.