Beatriz Navarro, Brussels, 20 June 2022
The Vice-President of the European Commission, Margaritis Schinas, will visit Barcelona next week (Partido Popular)
The official visit of the Greek commissioner, the first by a member of Ursula von der Leyen’s executive, reaffirms the message of “institutional normality” towards Catalonia.
The process of normalisation in the once close institutional relations between the Generalitat de Catalunya and the European Commission has begun. The Vice-President of the EU executive, Margaritis Schinas, will meet on Thursday 30 June in Barcelona with President Pere Aragonès, as this newspaper has learned from EU sources, coinciding with his visit to the Catalan capital to take part in several events related to health and the pharmaceutical industry. It was Schinas’ office that requested the meeting from the Generalitat, which today confirmed the meeting to the EU executive.
Schinas will be the first member of Ursula Von der Leyen’s executive to make an institutional visit to the Generalitat since taking office in December 2021, although Aragonès already accompanied her when she visited Barcelona in May to receive the 2nd Cercle d’Economia Prize for European Construction. Strictly speaking, however, this is not the first meeting between one of its members and a member of the Government, as in January the regional Minister for External Action, Victòria Alsina, met with the Commissioner for Cohesion, Elisa Ferreira, albeit accompanied by representatives of the Balearic Islands and Aquitaine, within the framework of the Euroregion.
In January, regional Foreign Minister Alsina demanded “normality” from Brussels with Catalonia.
On that visit, Alsina called for “normality” in relations with Catalonia. And that is the key word used by the European Commission to explain this meeting. “The visit is part of institutional normality,” explain sources around Schinas, a Greek politician with close ties to the Spanish Popular Party, who was recently criticised for meeting with Vox MEPs to talk about immigration. “We see each other with everyone”, his entourage said at the time and now repeat the aforementioned sources.
The symbolism of the meeting between Schinas and Aragonès is not lost on either side. Government sources, who are currently working on the agenda for the meeting, which in principle will take place at the Palau de la Generalitat, have hailed the fact that relations between the two parties are at this stage as very good news.
The last meeting between members of the Government and the European Commission dates back to 2015, when President Artur Mas met at the headquarters of the EU executive with the Commissioner for Transport, Violeta Bulc. By then relations were already strained, but from that moment on, coinciding with the rise of the independence process, the fluidity that had historically characterised relations between Barcelona and Brussels, above the weight that generally corresponds to a European region, went from tension to indifference and absolute silence.
The visit of the Vice-President of the European Commission, who also holds the portfolio for the Promotion of our European Way of Life, aims to break with this past and bring institutional relations back to normality. Schinas will arrive in Barcelona late on Wednesday 29 June. The following morning he will meet with Aragonès and then take part in the opening of the annual Medicines for Europe conference in Sitges, followed by a visit to an antibiotics production centre. At the end of the day, Schinas will hold meetings with members of the business world. In short, an agenda that in effect exudes institutional normality.