Cristina Sen, Juan Carlos Merino
Madrid-Barcelona, 28 July 2022
The representatives at the dialogue table before entering the meeting in Moncloa
THE ROAD TO AGREEMENT
The dialogue table seals its first pacts after months of disagreement
Putting every word and comma in black and white in a document with the letterhead of the Spanish Government and the Generalitat de Catalunya costs blood, sweat and tears, as both sides admit. And no wonder, after ten years of the independence process, from its now distant precedents to disastrous consequences that are still being paid for, and the scandal of spying on the pro-independence movement that just three months ago threatened to dynamite all the bridges of dialogue.
The determination of Pedro Sánchez and Pere Aragonès to take a political approach to the conflict, reaffirmed at their last meeting at the Moncloa on 15 July, after two arduous preparatory meetings with Félix Bolaños and Laura Vilagrà, managed to begin to put the broken pieces back together again.
The rehabilitated dialogue and negotiation table between the two governments, despite the powerful enemies in both Spain and Catalonia who persevere to derail it, managed to seal its first two agreements yesterday on overcoming the judicial conflicts and on the defence of the Catalan language.
The progress of the dialogue table also serves to define the political scenario in the coming months, with a guarantee of mutual stability both for the Spanish Executive, which needs the support of the Republicans, and for ERC in Catalonia. The relationship between the ERC and JxCat in the Government is strained, with clashes exemplified by Junts’ decision not to attend the dialogue table and to form a divergent and critical strategy.
There was satisfaction yesterday in the two delegations that took part in the roundtable as they understood that, despite their different political demands, agreements have been reached with specifics but which also frame a path to follow politically.
An agreement for “the protection and promotion of the Catalan language”, and another to “overcome judicialisation and reinforce guarantees”. Two documents, of three pages and one and a half pages respectively, which emerged from the meeting that, after the intense negotiations of the last two weeks, the representatives of both delegations sealed in a meeting that lasted an hour and forty-five minutes, once again at the Moncloa.
“Today we are abandoning monologues and the attempt to impose on the other, and we are embracing agreements and dialogue as a useful form of politics”, celebrated the Minister of the Presidency, Félix Bolaños, who headed the government delegation, which also included the Vice-President Yolanda Díaz and the ministers Isabel Rodríguez and Miquel Iceta, at the end of the meeting. The two agreements, Bolaños stressed, “respond to a broad, cross-cutting majority of Catalan society that leaves behind the blocs that seemed irreconcilable just a short time ago”.
La Moncloa celebrates the scope of the agreements signed with the Govern: “It is the end of unilateralism”.
The Councillor for the Presidency, Laura Vilagrà – at the head of a delegation from the Government made up of Roger Torrent, Joan Ignasi Elena and Natàlia Garriga, and which Junts refused to join – also stressed that the first concrete agreements have emerged from this meeting to overcome the judicialisation of Catalan politics and to put an end to the political conflict, and she also stressed that the solution lies in the construction of a broad majority.
Moncloa highlighted to La Vanguardia as the most relevant points of the agreement to overcome the judicialisation of the political conflict that the Catalan Government commits itself in writing to developing its political and institutional activity always within the legal framework, that it assumes the reform procedures already established in the law and the commitment to move forward with agreements that represent a broad and transversal majority in the social and parliamentary spheres. All of this, in the government’s opinion, implies “the end of the unilateralism” that drove the independence process.
As for the agreement for the protection and promotion of the Catalan language, Moncloa highlights the last point of the document, which extends its scope to the rest of the official languages of the state other than Castilian, namely Basque and Galician, if so required by their autonomous governments.
In the area of the defence of the Catalan language, Pere Aragonès’ government particularly valued the agreement on the use of Catalan in education, understanding that the document protects the commitment – reflected in the law passed this year in Parliament with a large majority – to overcome the 25% imposition of Spanish required by the TSJC. Moncloa’s opinion on the shielding is not the same, but the line of linguistic policy set out in the document is.
The Government stressed the importance of setting a date of this year to carry out the reforms to overcome the judicialisation of the procés. These reforms will entail changes to the Penal Code.
The Catalan Government values the commitment that the reforms for the de-judicialisation will be made this year.
The divergences with Junts were already expressed shortly after the end of the dialogue table. Spokesman Josep Rius asked President Aragonès to explain in parliament “the drift that the dialogue table is taking”, as it is “moving away” from its initial objective of achieving amnesty and the right to self-determination. The CUP also considered that the conflict is no longer being approached from this perspective.
Criticism thus came from various quarters. The PP spokeswoman, Cuca Gamarra, accused Sánchez of “renouncing the application of the law” with the pro-independence supporters, and also considered that he was denying “the equality of Spaniards to study in Spanish”. Ciudadanos branded the meeting a “blackmail table”, pointing out that the system is based on the rule of law and the separation of powers.
The table is expected to meet again next autumn.