María Jesús Cañizares 02.05.2021
Salvador Illa, PSC MCP in the Parliament of Catalonia, in the newsroom of ‘Crónica Global’ / LENA PRIETO
The PSC-Units candidate assures that the Government “is not up to the energy that Catalan society has” and “is not doing its job well” with European funds
Salvador Illa (La Roca del Vallès, 1966) recalls that he is the winner of the elections and, therefore, does not renounce to stand for an investiture in order to preside over a left-wing government because, as he affirms, “the pro-independence parties have failed”. Defeating the pandemic, rebuilding the economy and leaving no one behind are the axes of his ideology. The socialist candidate warns in an interview with Crónica Global that those who criticized him for using Spanish in Parliament “want to impose their way of thinking”, and that harms Catalan people. The PSC, he says, is committed to the re-founding of Catalan public television TV3.
—Question: Last Tuesday a meeting was held in the Lledoners prison between Junts per Catalunya and ERC. Do you think the negotiations are accelerating, do you foresee a new government?
–Answer: What we Catalans do not deserve is that 75 days after the February 14 elections have been held and more than six months after an acting government in office, there is still no government. There are two possible majorities in the Parliament, a pro-independence majority and a left-wing majority. The pro-independence parties are trying to re-edit a majority that has already failed three times. Inability to replace Quim Torra, first and second investiture of Mr. Aragonès. What you have to do is open a new time and try to make that left-wing majority in the Parliament crystallize into a government. And that’s what I’m doing, trying to lead this leftist alternative.
Salvador Illa offers to lead a leftist alternative
–Q. That said, what is better, that there be new elections or that those pro-independence parties that have fought so much against each other in the previous legislature go back to govern?
— A, The best thing is that there is a left-wing government, which I offer to preside; this is what corresponds to me after having clearly won the elections. And that a new time opens, that it be a government of public servants and that it concentrates its energies on the three priorities that, at the moment, around the world, are being addressed: defeat the virus, reactivate the economy to transform it and guarantee that no one is left behind. That is what needs to be done now and that is where we are.
–Q. Is it possible that this happens, do you think that the president of the Parliament, Laura Borràs, will let you appear for an investiture?
–A. She has to fulfill the functions entrusted to her by the Statute, she has to open a new round of consultations; there is still time until May 26 to vote a president. That the formation that I represent has won the elections is not a minor fact if we join it to my expressed will, my commitment that, if I won, I would try my investiture. She must have very powerful and well-argued reasons for denying me that possibility. I already transferred all this to her in the only round of consultations that has been done so far and I will do it again when she convenes the second.
–Q: Are there technical or political reasons for this refusal?
–A It is political reasoning. She must allow the candidate with the best chance to come forward. At the moment she has done it with a person who has failed, Mr. Pere Aragonès. And I’m still there and I’m working to give myself the opportunity.
–Q Have you spoken among yourselves after that veto crossed in the electoral campaign?
–A. I talk to everyone about my inauguration, except with Vox. There was a veto against me and my political background in the electoral campaign. I did not sign any document vetoing anyone. I simply said that in Catalonia, what is convenient at the moment is to generate consensus, to look for points of connection in society. And that independence is a divisive approach. It is true that it has significant support in Catalan society, but it does not achieve broad or transversal support. And that is why I am not going to support a pro-independence approach. I said that and I keep to it.
–Q. When you speak of a majority of the left, you see PSC, Comúns and also ERC.
–A. It’s like that, that’s the majority of the left out there. ERC, at least until now, prefers to give more importance to the independence axis than to the ideological axis of the left. Personally, I think it is a mistake, but obviously these are decisions that they make and they have all the legitimacy to make them. To persist in the independence path is to persist in failure. Three times this has already failed. The last 10 years have not been good for Catalonia, I say it with all the correctness of which I am capable. They have been bad years from an economic point of view. If I say that Catalonia has lost economic leadership, everything is summed up. From a social cohesion point of view, for anyone who has followed Catalan news or those of us who have lived in Catalonia, society is less cohesive and more divided. And from the point of view of the institutions of self-government, its prestige has waned throughout Spain and in Europe. They have not been good years. You have to open a new time, but that is not possible if you persist in a divisive approach. It must be opened with a left-wing approach, appealing to that left-wing majority that exists and that is what I am working on.
–Q. Have you received pressure from business sectors, who want unlocking and have even asked for a rapprochement between PSC and ERC?
–A. No pressures, but it is the tradition of my party to be very attentive to what the different relevant social actors say. The business community, the world of the university, of sports, of culture, of what is called civil society. It is true that there are people who have brought us the convenience of what they call breaking blocks. We are working on it, we propose a government of the left. That the dominant axes of Catalan politics are right and left, and not independence, yes or no. But that does not only depend on me, it depends on other political formations. Each one makes their decisions and citizens take note when forming their opinion and transferring it to the polls.
–Q. I continue with the pressures. There are those who believe that Pedro Sánchez would do very well with that pact between PSC and ERC to give stability to his government. Are there pressures from the PSOE?
–A. There are not. With the President of the Government and Secretary General of the PSOE, and with the PSOE in general, there has been a very close harmony for several years with regard to Catalonia and how to tackle the problem of Catalonia. It is a strategy that has been thought and reflected jointly between Catalan and Spanish socialism for many years, dating back to the Granada agreements, with approaches to a plural and diverse Spain, which is in favor of the unity of Spain, fully active in the European concert that, after the pandemic, we have seen is so necessary to reinforce. In that there are no discrepancies, there is an entente worked for many years. We aspire to open this new time. And we are committed to an agenda for the reunion of the Catalans with ourselves, and with the rest of the Spanish and Europeans. There is perfect harmony with the PSOE.
–Q. There are pro-independence guys who question your Catalan status. They say that you are a candidate thanks to the PSOE, a “product” of Spain.
–A. Nobody gives me or takes away from me my Catalan traits. These are very exclusive approaches taken by some. My political career is long enough so that whoever wants to form an opinion on how I think and how I act, can do so by seeing my performance as mayor of La Roca del Vallès for 10 years. I come from the world of municipal politics. I have experience in other Catalan administrations, in the PSC and, finally, as a minister. The rest are approaches that do not take away a second of my sleep time.
–Q. You maintain a positive discourse, of reconciliation. But after so many years of a government where sentiment prevails, is there hope? Can this situation, in which a lot of resources and money have been invested, be reversed?
–A. I think so. I have moved around Catalonia a lot in recent months, I have been in contact with companies, neighbors, artists … And I see the desire of people to get ahead, to move to a different state, to fight the pandemic, to take advantage of the opportunities we have, such as European funds. I see that the Government and the Catalan institutions are not up to the creativity and energy of the country. In that sense I am optimistic. In the end, Catalan society will find a way for the Government to live up to its desire to push forward. That is why a new time must be opened, without reproach. I am in this and I am excited.
–Q. Is there a disconnection from the reality of the media and politicians? Are we more aware of the control of Carles Puigdemont from Waterloo than of the pandemic, of wages, day to day?
–A. What I see in the visits I make is that people’s concerns are three: getting vaccinated, defeating the virus and rebuilding the health system; the economic issue, where there is an important transformation that generates winners and losers, people whose jobs are threatened and ask for leadership from the Government, and those who are in sectors especially punished such as tourism, restaurants or nightlife want not to stay behind. And they want to be heard and cared for. It is true that there are underlying themes that exist that are to be dealt with. The fitting of Catalonia in Spain. We propose a reunion agenda, but I do not perceive that now this is a priority for the citizen.
–Q: Are pardons and the reform of the crime of sedition on that reunion agenda?
–A. The reunion agenda are the 44 points raised by those responsible for the Generalitat Artur Mas and Quim Torra. They refer to social aspects, financing of Catalonia and infrastructures. And you have to deal with them one by one. These are things that improve the lives of the citizens of Catalonia. In the matter of pardons, what there exists is an obligation of the Government to process them when they are requested. And that is what it is doing. And until the processing is finished and the mandatory reports are received, the Government is not going to have a position. And I’m not going to do it either. The reform of sedition is a commitment assumed by the Prime Minister and has the entire legislature to develop it. It seems reasonable to me that after what we have experienced in Spain since 2017, these crimes against the Constitution are adapted to the experience lived and the criminal types are adjusted to the behaviors that we have seen that put institutional coexistence and the existing typifications at risk in the rest of Europe. It would be difficult to understand if that update was not made. But the last word, being an organic law to reform the Penal Code, corresponds to the Congress of Deputies.
–Q. Do you think that will satisfy the pro-independence side, who are asking for amnesty?
–A This is not done to satisfy a specific political group. It is done because it has to be done and it is convenient. Fortunately, these crimes do not have a daily presence, there are no attempts to destabilize the constitutional regime that a country has. It must be done to adjust it to the lived experience. Amnesty is not possible in the constitutional framework and, therefore, its approach can only generate more frustration.
–Q. Focused already on those three points that the PSC defends, vaccines, economy and that no one is left behind. You have always been respectful of the management made by the autonomous communities of the pandemic, but in Catalonia there is confusion in the vaccination calendar and primary care is overwhelmed. What can be done to improve Catalan health?
–A. The vaccination has been a European and Spanish success. It is a very complex process, we all would like the pace to be faster. But it is happening as we said when the vaccination process began on December 27, 2020. We said that in summer there would be 70% of vaccinations throughout Europe, and in Spain as well. And this is what is going to happen. In August we will reach this percentage, maybe even a little earlier. What you have to do is apply the vaccination plan designed with the autonomous communities. Each of these must be adjusted to your circumstances and it is being done well. In public I have always supported the decisions of the regional authorities. When I have had to convey my opinion, both when I was a minister and now, I have done so in private. Because I think people should see us in this together. The pandemic has taught us many lessons, including the importance of well-endowed primary care. Budgetary and organizational measures will have to be taken to enhance and modernize this care, give it more prominence. Because it is the first line of action.
–Q. What do you think of the forceful judicial resolution that obliges the Generalitat to vaccinate police officers and civil guards? Is it a consequence of that divisive politics?
–A. Vaccination is a technical debate. It has to be the technicians, the experts, who decide how, when and who to vaccinate. And this is being done based on the plan agreed with the autonomous communities by the Ministry of Health and which is being updated. I keep to the phrase from Josep Maria Argimon, Secretary of Public Health of the Generalitat, who said that a mosso should not have any priority over a national policeman or a civil guard. Everyone is part of an essential group and has the right to be vaccinated. Let’s do this..
–Q But Argimon also said that if those squads were vaccinated now, it would delay the inoculation of people over 70 years old. That doesn’t help much.
–A. I’ll stick with the first sentence. I don’t even want to think that one group has been given priority over another. Health concerns us all and we must not distinguish between police forces or ways of thinking. Therefore, comply with the judicial resolution. There can be no distinctions.
–Q. The second axis is to reactivate the economy. If the Generalitat does not communicate with the Government, in fact there are companies that complain about this, how can progress be made in Catalonia?
–A. European funds are a very important challenge for Spanish and Catalan society, with unprecedented resources, to transform the economy. I have to say with all due respect that the Generalitat is not doing its job well, it has not led this process as would correspond to a government focused on what it has to be focused on. It has not reached a consensus with the social agents. If I manage to be president of the Generalitat, the first thing I am going to do is take care of this matter and try to reach a consensus on the presentation of Catalan projects. This way of having an acting government in office for such a long time gets these things: it is not focused on the issues it has to be.
–Q The third point is that nobody is left behind. The funds prioritize technological changes or digitization. How to prevent unqualified people from joining? Is there time?
–A. With the aid package, also unprecedented, that has been launched by the Government of Spain and also from some autonomous communities. Around 200,000 million euros have been mobilized here in terms of guarantees, ERTE, financing, direct social aid. Lately 11,000 million have been allocated to direct aid to companies. Citizens and companies are rescued. There is a movement in all countries, also in the United States. In Spain, comparative studies ensure that the effectiveness of these aids has been high. It is true that you can never do enough. Measures have had to be implemented with great agility, there has not been time to refine legislative measures further, and that sometimes means that they are not as precise as necessary. That is why we must be vigilant and refine them, as is being done with the minimum vital income, a measure that has come to stay, which has a complex deployment that, with experience, is being adjusted. This effort must be made by everyone, by the Government, by the autonomous communities and local administrations.
–Q. The experience in Catalonia with the guaranteed minimum income has been quite chaotic.
–A. I agree, here the management can be improved. Like so many things. The cost of spending many years focusing the energies of the institutions and the government on an objective that is not the correct one for Catalonia, has got this, that we neglect very important things that we now see as necessary. That is why it is so urgent to open a new stage, to create a government of public servants that will once again give prestige to Catalan institutions.
–Q. PSC has signed an anti-fascist pledge in Parliament. Is that the answer that should be given to Vox?
–A. I am in the antipodes of Vox, my way of thinking and understanding politics is in the antipodes. But we are in a democracy, they can present themselves and the people have voted for them. How can you combat this? Well, with arguments and with political action. Not with stones, threats or insults and violating the law. The way is to beat them at the polls.
–Q. There are those who maintain that Vox is a product of the independence movement.
–A. There is some amount of truth in it, of course. Extremes go to extremes. It is not the only reason, but it is clear that something has to do with it. Without a failed attempt at independence and a persistence of sometimes very radical and violently expressed pro-independence approaches, we would probably not have Vox.