Miquel Iceta, at the PSC headquarters. Xavier Jubierre
December 26, 2020 21: 43h
Between teleworking and holiday shifts these days, the headquarters of the PSC is deserted. Miquel Iceta (Barcelona, 1960) has so many interviews behind him that he needs few preambles. The photos first, on a terrace that the pandemic has also made inhospitable. The first secretary of the PSC repeats as a candidate in the next Catalan elections. Only he and Carles Puigdemont will be heads of the list again, although in the case of the former president only in a symbolic way.
Iceta is the oldest of all the candidates, also the most experienced one in politics, something that has made him an astute negotiator, as even his adversaries admit. In headlines and opinion columns, there is already speculation about a possible reissue of the tripartite after 14F. He insists that if ERC raises the holding of a referendum again, there will be no possible agreement with the Socialists. He defines his relationship with Oriol Junqueras as distant, and in order not to harm Pere Aragonès he chooses not to say that with the current vice president of the Government it is better.
He was the first to speak of pardons and responds to the warnings of the Prosecutor’s Office by assuring that if the Government pardons the prisoners it will not be for political convenience. “We have wounds that must be closed and everyone has to make an effort to close them”, he defends.
The socialist leader acknowledges that he would like less “noise” between Podemos and the PSOE in the Government but at the same time he predicts that the coalition is and will be much more stable than many would like.
– This week the Catalan legislature is over. Do you dare put a grading on it?
I don’t think it reaches 4, I would give it a 3.
– Who hasn’t lived up to it to get such a low grade?
To begin with, the pro-independence majority. They started the legislature by trying to invest people who could not exercise the responsibility of president, and then they invested a president who did not believe in autonomy. I am not saying this with a hidden purpose, but Torra has been very sincere in saying that the main obstacle to independence is autonomy. How can you entrust autonomy to someone who thinks that if autonomy goes well it damages their political project?
Third, the management has not been good, leaving aside the pandemic that has marked the third year of the legislature. It would be unfair to project the pandemic to the entire legislature despite the fact that during the pandemic there has been a very serious event such as having the Secretary of Public Health vacant for 46 days, a question to which nobody has given me a minimally solid answer.
– Is Quim Torra the worst president that Catalonia has ever had, as some say?
I think so, but I would like not to project it in a personal or pejorative sense. They just made him run something he doesn’t believe in. They have asked him an impossible. Torra was a person who had not presented himself to be president and then he had to preside over an autonomous community, and from the first day he said that he had not come to preside over an autonomous community. So what have you come for? Because this is an autonomous community.
– The ANC gave the Government a 2 score this week because no progress has been made towards independence nor has anything else been known about the DUI.
In this, the ANC may be very tough but it is still right. Promises had been made that were impossible to keep, starting with Puigdemont’s promise that he would return if he won. From there everything went as it went. Now I am very curious to know the electoral program of Junts, ERC and the CUP. What are they going to promise us now after not fulfilling so many things they promised? They said that in 18 months Catalonia was going to be an independent republic. From that point of view, the balance of the legislature is very negative.
– What are you going to promise in your program? Will be the reform of the Statute in there?
We want to turn a lot of things around. The pro-independence drift of the last ten years has been very damaging for Catalonia. We want to change priorities, and the priority is going to be the pandemic, economic reactivation, social reconstruction and trying to reach very broad consensus for the present and the future. Regarding self-government, the only possibility of moving forward is through a very broad agreement within the framework of current legislation. It is possible and we want to have stronger self-government and better funding. Does this require a statutory reform? It would be good, but it must be recognized that for a statutory reform we need the support of two thirds of the Parliament and today I doubt very much if we can achieve it. I don’t want to commit to something that is not only in my power.
– If it were up to your group, in Catalonia there would be no Budgets because you voted against it.
We voted against because we wanted this Government to end as soon as possible. Neither the budgets nor the continuity of the Government was good for Catalonia. On January 29, the president of the Generalitat made an institutional appearance to say that he felt unauthorized, that the Government was divided and that the legislature was exhausted. What was the point of approving budgets when the president of the Generalitat had made such an emphatic statement?
– Was the alternative to leave Catalonia without Budgets?
The alternative was to go to elections before the summer, which is what should have happened. We have lost another year a little silly, with excuses for the expression, for the benefit of we do not know very well what. The analysis of the budgets did not satisfy us, the continuity of the Government was very harmful and also the Government did not want to agree on the budgets with us. The national Government, which does not have a parliamentary majority, has sought support and negotiated to approve the General State Budgets, and the Catalan Government did not do this with us because surely it already knew that it could count on the abstention of the ‘Comuns’ and did not worry for nothing else.
– Would you like the prisoners to be pardoned?
The first one to speak of pardons was me. Now the pardons are pending and I would not like to pronounce myself before the Government does. We have wounds that must be closed and everyone has to make an effort to close them. The reform of the Criminal Code can point to a solution and the measures of grace as well.
– The Prosecutor’s Office has positioned itself against pardons.
Their reports are mandatory, not binding. The Government must study them and make the decision it deems most appropriate.
– Does the Prosecutor’s Office go overboard when it warns the Government that it cannot pardon the prisoners of the procés for “political convenience”?
If the Government pardons, it will not be for political convenience. Another thing is if one believes that the Prosecutor’s Office has to go into political evaluations, and by saying that it does. This doesn’t seem right to me. But if that’s why, don’t worry. If the Government decides to pardon, it will not be for political convenience, it will be because its conviction leads it to this decision, if it is the case.
– Has the Prosecutor’s Office been political in this case?
Considerations of this kind are political, yes, I do believe so.
– In Spain, coup plotters from 23-F, convicted because of the GAL, torturer policemen and corrupt politicians have been pardoned. In those cases there was no political expediency?
Political expediency is not an option, it is not an endpoint. In all these cases, the Government of the moment considered that it better served the interest of the State by proceeding to pardon. That is what must be done, not for political expediency, but to believe that pardons respond to criteria of justice or to the interest of the State.
– How would you define your relationship with Oriol Junqueras?
Distant. For obvious reasons, because Oriol Junqueras is in prison, but of course his permanent opinions on the PSC show a very great distance, which I can understand and respect. What happens is that I aspire to live in a society in which the relationship between politicians is good in the sense of respectful and not to delve into the division but to build bridges.
– Is it better with Pere Aragonès?
Now I would not want to harm Pere Aragonès (laughs). With ERC we have a fundamental difference: they believe in independence through a referendum and we do not see it that way because we believe that it is time to deepen self-government and not delve into the division of Catalan society. I don’t like to personalize. The PSC’s relationship with ERC does not depend on the interlocutor but on the background of the policies that we defend and that in this case are very different.
– Knowing of that distance and that they are different projects, in the past you were able to govern together. Why do you now insist that it is impossible even if you added a majority?
In the past they did not put independence and the referendum on the menu.
– This legislature has not put it either, right?
That is why I have said that I want to read their electoral program carefully. They have said ‘we will do it again’ and that they want to bring October1into reality. They haven’t, but they’ve said it too much. That is why some of their followers show frustration. I am very respectful. We are asked a lot about whom we want to govern with or who we do not and we prefer to define the objectives. If we define the objectives, we can govern with the parties that coincide with them. We do not want to establish that dichotomy of ‘with you yes, with you no’. The important thing about the agreements is not with whom but to do what, and to do what we consider best for Catalonia, we are willing to understand each other with those who coincide with these objectives.
– But in the end the numbers are what they are…
I am going to ask you a favor, to remind your readers that they have not voted. No one has voted yet and the polls are not an electoral result. What is certain is that to govern you have to have a majority and the pro-independence have said that if they can rejoin they would do the same Government. Up to that point. That is why the best way for there to be another government is for the socialist party to arrive in the first position. It would be the best way to avoid what, in our opinion, would continue to harm Catalonia. If we define the objectives, we can govern with the parties that coincide with them
– And if the PSC arrives first but does not have that majority necessary to govern, with whom would you like to agree?
We would look for it with those who most coincide with our objectives and priorities. For more powerful social policies, strengthening self-government and improving financing we would find support. But there are elements that would make it unfeasible: if someone asks us for a referendum on independence to support us, we could not agree with them.
– But you govern with ERC in various municipalities and in the Barcelona Provincial Council you agreed with Junts, which has a much harsher discourse than ERC.
There are people who criticize it, but it is perfectly explainable. At the local level the priorities are municipal management. In Sant Vicenç dels Horts we govern with Citizens, in Sant Cugat del Vallès we govern with ERC and the CUP and in the Barcelona Provincial Council we govern with Junts because we have agreed on what to do in these institutions. The important thing is to agree and give in when there are no absolute majorities, because fortunately there is pluralism and nuances.
Now, there are some issues on which one cannot agree and make pacts unviable. It will be necessary to see the position of each other. Catalunya should change course. The lost decade cannot be prolonged any longer. Catalunya has to win. Winning in competitions, in projects, in opportunities, in economic development. You have to change the slope and perspective.
– Do you think Podemos is being loyal to the Government?
I am very respectful with all the parties and even more with those with whom I govern. In Spain perhaps we are not used to it because it is the first experience of a coalition government and sometimes the noise is extreme. Without a doubt, I would like there to be less noise but, despite the fact that many would like otherwise, this Government is showing stability and solidity. If you had told me two months ago that you would get the Budgets with a larger majority than that of the investiture or the vote of no confidence, I would not have believed it.
– Why do the socialists reject the commission of inquiry in Congress on the king emeritus?
Because an issue that is being prosecuted should not be the subject of a parliamentary investigation. We have lived through many parliamentary committees, sometimes we have supported them, others not, and the decision often has to do with deciding what that committee is for. My position is always a bit skeptical because neither the Parliament nor the Congress have real mechanisms of investigation. If, as in this case, there is an investigation in the Ministry of Finance and in the judicial sphere, I almost prefer it to be in those areas where the most truthful information is produced. Bringing it to parliamentary debate may cause us to have more darkness instead of shedding more light.
– In a survey published in October by a group of independent media, it was noted that 60% of PSOE voters consider the monarchy to be an obsolete institution. Do you agree with that majority of voters?
The truth is that I do not believe that the monarchy is obsolete. I think that to replace a fundamental piece of our institutional system, which was the result of a very broad consensus, I would be careful not to do so with an inferior consensus. The history of Spain does not recommend it. Would we say that the British, Swedish, Belgian or Danish monarchies are obsolete? Perhaps what we are talking about is the alleged personal behavior of a certain monarch rather than an institutional crisis.
– Have you been surprised by everything we are learning about the finances of the King Emeritus?
Yes, some of them. Our monarchy has a more than worthy endowment and therefore sufficient to exercise its function without the need to engage in other types of economic operations.
– What has surprised you?
For example, the use of ‘black cards’. It is also true that we are all talking about behaviors that have not yet been proved.
– Well, there is one that has been proven because the emeritus has regularized money that he did not declare to the Treasury.
Yes, yes. What happens is that we must all be aware that when you regularize with the Treasury, you pay your debt and also with an increase. In that case you have had a bad behavior but you have made amends.
– What did you think of Felipe VI’s speech? Were you disappointed that he dodged the emeritus situation?
We share the message of solidarity and concern for the pandemic situation and for all the victims of the coronavirus and the express mention of the functioning of the State as a guarantee of response to an unprecedented crisis. Although there was no explicit mention of the situation that the emeritus king is going through, the King’s commitment to the ethical values that citizens demand of the institutions is remarkable, values that must be above personal or family circumstances.
Our monarchy has a more than worthy endowment and therefore sufficient to exercise its function without the need to engage in other types of economic operations
– One of the political fiefdoms of the PSC, L’Hospitalet, is in the news for the alleged case of corruption that sparks its mayor.
It doesn’t splash your mayor.
– The Police took her fingerprints during her statement before the UDEF.
Yes, but she has not yet been called to testify by the judge. She is not charged. And it must be remembered that the Consell Esportiu is a private entity that, although it has elected representatives participating, is not a body of the city council. Some have wanted to attribute to the mayor responsibilities that she does not have.
– When you talk about some, do you mean the UDEF?
No, I was referring to the media. The UDEF is doing its investigation and will probably follow instructions from the judge. But he has not called her to declare and I insist that the mayor does not have direct management over the Consell Esportiu.
– And the two councilors who did know about the management of that body?
The councilors will have to answer for their activity. They have been called to testify and one of them has submitted her resignation.
– The Higher Court of Justice of Catalonia ruled the obligatory nature of 25% of classes in Spanish. Is it a satisfactory percentage?
And why not a 26%? Or a 23%? I do not think that the courts should be the ones to set percentages. This probably happens because the linguistic consensus in Catalonia is cracking. I really like a system that sets objectives and that the students have a good command of both languages when they finish. And that it is the teachers who must decide how much Catalan and Spanish are needed because in some areas more Catalan is needed and in others more Spanish. Like all court decisions, it must be followed, and now we have a discussion about whether the education law can alter the forecast made by the court.
– Are you one of those who believes that the Celáa law shields the language immersion model?
No, and neither did the Wert law. I am in favor of a system in which the laws are followed and the courts interpret them. That said, the Wert law was intended to change the linguistic model and did not change it. And this law, which brings us to the situation before Wert, will not either. What really shields here is the consensus that exists. At the linguistic level, the problem in the Catalan school is neither Catalan nor Spanish. The problem is English.