Jaume Bauzà, 29 August 2021
Salvador Illa, in Palma, interviewed by Diario de Mallorca /
GUILLEM BOSCH (DMA)
“You can talk about amnesty and about what everyone wants, but amnesty is not allowed by our laws”
Salvador Illa (La Roca del Vallès, 1966) visited Mallorca on Wednesday invited by the Cercle d’Economia to give a talk. He was on the front lines of the pandemic as Minister of Health and reaped a bittersweet victory in the Catalan elections in February. He spoke with ‘Diario de Mallorca’ about Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and the post-pandemic.
In September, the dialogue table between the Government and the Generalitat will be resumed. But, how can a dialogue be established if one party wants to talk about one thing and the other party says that it cannot be talked about?
What worries me most about the dialogue is that it is born lame because until today there is a refusal by Mr. [Pere] Aragonès and the pro-independence parties to sit down with those who think that independence is not only not a solution for Catalonia, but that it has been a problem because it has divided. The Council of Europe ruled that an attempt should be made to reform the crimes of sedition and rebellion, and there is a commitment to do so. He advised regarding custodial sentences, and there have been some pardons. And he asked for a dialogue. A meeting of the dialogue table between the Government of Spain and that of Catalonia is scheduled, but there is a refusal to have that dialogue on the part of the pro-independence parties. Why those who claim to champion dialogue do not practice it?
“Coexistence in Catalonia has suffered a great deterioration”
There will be no talk of self-determination. Can you talk about amnesty?
You can talk about what each one considers convenient, what happens is that there are things that are not possible. Self-determination does not apply in Catalonia because Catalonia is not a colony and Spain is a democracy. And amnesty is not allowed by our laws. What occurred was a serious violation of the framework of the rule of law and the mechanisms provided for in the rule of law have been applied. Respecting that is essential and it is a red line. It is very important not to generate more false expectations in Catalan society and to tell the truth. It is true that there are many people who are not satisfied with how things are working in Catalonia and we have to find a consensus on improving self-government. We will not find that consensus with those who think that the only solution is independence.
Will the dialogue table serve to turn the page to the ‘procés’?
Catalan society began to turn the page with the February 14 elections. The grace measures agreed on June 22 by the Government of Spain have also helped a lot. There has been an important change that has to be accompanied by an action by political leaders to consolidate this new political time. I’m on it. It is important that we focus on the real issues that concern people, especially at a time of such profound change. For example, we have raised a debate on the expansion of the Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat airport. And the idea of organizing a winter Olympic Games together with Aragon.
“You can talk about amnesty and about what everyone wants, but amnesty is not allowed by our laws”
In July, Francina Armengol and Ximo Puig held a bilateral summit in Palma in which they wanted to stage an alliance of Mediterranean territories against the weight that Madrid has. If you had been president of the Generalitat, would you have been in that photo?
Yes, I have a very good relationship with President Armengol. I greatly appreciate the political work that she is doing on the islands and I have a fluid contact with her. Also with President Puig. There are two visions of Spain, and it has been seen especially in this post-pandemic moment. One, the one that Puig, Armengol and myself defend, according to which the diversity of Spain is a source of wealth, creativity and encouragement. And that it demands that the Government of Spain know how to take advantage of this diversity of languages and approaches. And this vision is opposed to another much more uniform, even fearful, that does not help. I believe that you and your readers will be able to put faces to that vision that does not go in the direction of present times. I feel identified with the approach that Puig and Armengol make, and I subscribe to it. It is also the approach that all Spanish socialism makes.
Both vindicate a model of federal state. You too?
Yes, I have always defended it. And Spanish socialism, in the Granada agreements, already points to a model of a composite state with co-governance, a trend that the pandemic has reinforced. And not only Spain, also Europe. Many people thought that they would never see a mutualisation of debt at the European level and a stimulus package of 750,000 million euros, of which 140,000 million will reach Spain. The federalization mechanisms of the European Union are working, and we are seeing this also with the evacuation of Afghanistan. Spain is a host hub and that for me is a source of pride.
“Dialogue is born lame because Mr. Aragonès does not want to sit with those of us who are not independentists”
Is this defense of a federal model shared by the entire PSOE?
Sometimes we have heard statements from socialist leaders of other communities who do not seem to understand it. The PSOE is a choral party, but I have already made reference to the documents that were agreed upon. And I refer to what the socialist government is doing in practice: eighteen conferences of regional presidents, many of them telematics due to the pandemic. Very recently there was a face-to-face meeting, in Salamanca, which included the unjustified absence of Mr. Aragonès. It was a very serious mistake.
The Government is supported by two parties, ERC and Junts, which have a difficult coexistence. Do you think you will have the opportunity to be president of the Generalitat before the end of the term?
I do not know. I do know that I had a very broad support from the citizenry and there were – and there are still – two options: a majority of the left, which I believe is the one that is convenient for the country and that I was, and continue to be willing, to lead. And a pro-independence majority that has been governing for ten years with the result of zero improvements for the Catalans. On September 2 will be a hundred days of this Government and I am disappointed. The goals of fighting the pandemic and reactivating the economy with no one left behind have not been achieved. I don’t like admitting it, but communities like the Balearic Islands have done their homework much better than Catalonia in terms of European funds. It has not even been agreed with the economic and social agents of Catalonia which are the transformative projects for the Catalan economy. What’s more, this 2021 we don’t have budgets. Those of the prepandemic are in force, at a time when a rhythm of decision-making and government action is required to transform the economy.
“I subscribe to the vision of a diverse and federal Spain that Ximo Puig and Francina Armengol have”
Politics has placed him in the position of managing a pandemic and leading an electoral candidacy in a very short time. Do you have the feeling of having lived on a roller coaster?
No. I have had a vocation as a public servant since I was very young, when I was mayor of Roca del Vallès, the municipality in which I was born and where I live. I feel very honored to have served the Government of Spain alongside President Sánchez at a very delicate moment. Later, Miquel Iceta asked me to lead the candidacy for the elections to the Parliament of Catalonia, and President Sánchez released me from the commitment I had with him. I did it with great pleasure and I feel very motivated. It is very important that we turn the page to ten years which, I am not exaggerating, have been the worst of the last three hundred in the history of Catalonia. They have led us to economic impoverishment, to a loss of institutional prestige, both in Spain and in Europe, and coexistence has greatly deteriorated. As can be seen by any person and any reader of your newspaper who has a relationship of some kind with Catalonia. But I detect a new climate and I believe, with modesty, that we are contributing to it.
“The expansion of El Prat can be done with respect to environmental legislation”
What does the former Minister of Health say to those who today continue to refuse to be vaccinated?
That they are wrong. Fortunately, Spain has very high voluntary vaccination rates, but they are wrong. This is a matter of scientific evidence, not personal belief. And the scientific evidence is incontestable: vaccines have eradicated diseases, and thanks to the vaccination process this latest wave of covid has not had the cost in human lives that it would have had without vaccines. I invite them to inform themselves on the official websites and to take the vaccination as an act of solidarity with the rest of society.
The opposition suspends Aragonès due to the lack of budgets and a social shock plan
The autonomous communities and the judges are clashing over measures such as requesting the covid certificate to enter bars and restaurants. The judges demand a pandemic law to unify criteria. Do you think it is necessary?
There is always the possibility of improving what we have, but our legal system has shown us that it has the mechanisms to respond to different situations. I understand that there must be judicial control of certain decisions that affect freedoms, but I refer to the discussions that may be held within the inter-territorial part of the national health system, in which there is a bioethics committee.
To those who refuse to be vaccinated, I tell them to inform themselves because they are wrong “
Is expanding the El Prat airport compatible with combating climate change?
I think so. This reductionism of opposing economic development with preservation of the environment is a false story. It reminds me of those who wanted to contrast health and economy, two things that are closely linked. Economic progress is only viable if it is done with criteria of preservation of the environment. I have no doubt that Catalan society has the economic and technological resources for the Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat airport to improve the infrastructures to become an international hub, an essential fact for the economy of Catalonia, of all Spain and in particular of the islands. And I am sure that it can be done with respect to environmental legislation. In general, I tend to mistrust those who say no to everything, and those who under environmental arguments defend what they call economic decline.