Joan Tapia, September 16, 2021
President of the Editorial Committee of El Periódico
The President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, and the ‘president’ of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, at the Palau de la Generalitat in Barcelona, before the meeting of the dialogue table on Catalonia. / FERRAN NADEU
The relief photo
Sánchez and Aragonès are brave. They look for agreements that will not be easy and they face skepticism and criticism from a part of their own
In Catalonia there is so much accumulation of historical dates that they have led nowhere, that an elementary mental hygiene requires prudence. Every day I look closely at the four paper newspapers that are published in Barcelona and the five in Madrid. On Thursday, the main part – almost the entirety – of each cover was occupied by the photo of Pedro Sánchez and Pere Aragonès in the Palau de la Generalitat restarting “without haste, but without pauses and without deadlines” the negotiating table between the two governments. It may not be a historical photo, it is significant.
Already the day before, the measured tone of the successive speeches of the two presidents in the Gothic gallery of the Palau had an impact. Both stated that their starting positions were not only different, but that they were very far apart, but that – despite this – they had the will to initiate dialogue to find meeting points. For Aragonès, the starting point is that of the Catalan voters on October 1, 17, repressed by the police forces. And he asks for a referendum and amnesty. But his speech was far from unilateralism. Sánchez is the head of government of a state whose Supreme Court condemned the pro-independence leaders. True, he recently pardoned them partially, but he supported 155 and believes in the constitutional framework.
How, then, to judge Wednesday’s meeting between the two presidents? EL PERIODICO this Thursday said with great realism: ‘They sit and talk.’ It’s what happened … after all that much has happened. He would say that Wednesday’s photo is the relief photo. I am sure that many Catalans – and Spaniards – felt relief at a photo that indicates that the repetition of the serious shocks of the last 11 years (since the Constitutional ruling on the Statute) is not inescapable. That perhaps can be overcome.
Sánchez knows that the continuous confrontation with the Generalitat de Catalunya, which governs a fifth of the population and the GDP of Spain, is not a good path. Aragonès confirms that the unilateralism of 2017 not only did not win, but it is not approved in Europe. And that the progress of Catalonia is not very compatible with a climate of moral insurrection – and at times in the streets – of half of its population.
Sánchez and Aragonès are brave. First, because they renounce the trite. Repeat each one of their reasons, which they have, and blame everything on the contrary. Second, because they run serious political and electoral risks. In the rest of Spain, the vast majority of the right-wing -and their media- say that the sentence should end the problem (the letter with blood enters), they are against pardons and accuse Sánchez of giving in to separatism . They even speak of “diabolical” pacts.
In Catalonia, an excited part of the independence movement (the ANC) demands from Aragonès another immediate DUI (Unilateral Declaration of Independence), without explaining how it would not end like the one in 2017. And JxCat, half of the Government, believes that the table is demobilizing, without offering alternatives. Do they want to return to the banners of Torra, withdrawn minutes before the arrival of the Mossos? And there are already accusations of treason and rehearsed screams of “botiflers (traitors).”
Sánchez and Aragonès embark on a very complicated route because they both know that repeating what has happened in the last 11 years is a path of perdition. Does the pool of realism – Spain is not France but a nation of nations and 50% of Catalonia is only 50% – have enough water? Today, maybe not. But reasoned and pragmatic agreements could raise the water level.