Manel Manchón – Barcelona – 09/02/2020
Image: Javier Faus, President of the Economy Circle, together with President Quim Torra and other members of the business lobby at the Palau de la Generalitat / Jordi Bedmar
The Economic Circle Board chaired by businessman and lawyer Javier Faus has clear objectives. Without looking for the confrontation, without telling anyone what to do, the business lobby does not deviate from its principles and defends an agreement between Catalonia and the rest of Spain that goes through improving self-government and financing, and that the the role of Barcelona, as the capital of the State, that knows how to find a way of collaboration with Madrid. Is it complicity with independentism or the opposite?
Mariano Rajoy asked the Circle not to be “equidistant” in the economic days of Sitges just before the October 1 referendum. But the Circle has maintained a line of its own. And what happened this week has been illustrative. The Círculo de Economía, in collaboration with the Association of European Journalists and the Madrid Diario Foundation, organized a debate on regional financing.
The amendment to the whole of Gordó
And, although there were reproaches in the audience of attendees who often participate in the events – although they are not members of the Círculo -, there was a symptomatic intervention: that of the former Minister of the Generalitat, Germà Gordó, right hand of Artur Mas, and a man who knows the house.
Gordó left everyone amazed with his amendment to the entirety: it is past screen, he considered. Improved funding, at this point, when the pro-independence movement, despite all its mistakes and internal frustrations, is still mobilized? His comment provoked a response from the former President of the Generalitat, José Montilla.
The business lobby doesn’t fool anyone. It will make things difficult for the central government, because it considers that, although independence has meant a disaster for the whole of Catalan society, state institutions must also move. There has been a coherent line, in the last Decades, that has not changed now: request for infrastructure investments, Reject Madrid from centralizing political and economic power and modernization of institutions: from Salvador Gabarró, Javier Faus, through Lara Bosch , Salvador Alemany, Josep Piqué, Antón Costas or Juan José Brugera. But it doesn’t want to know anything about unilateral ways or independence projects.
Independentists in the Circle?
That constant, however, with nuances and with more determined positions, such as those of Piqué in the key years of the beginning of the pro-independence movement, has not prevented sovereignty from maintaining super power. “The problem in the Circle is that, de facto, there are many ‘independentists’, although they do not want to assume it, and, although they were not in the Board, they are partners, influence and participate in events,” says a good knower of the home. Another historical leader of the Circle indicates that there has not been “unsubscribers all these years”, which implies that the members of the Circle feel totally connected with a its line of action, “that is not independentist.”
And that project itself goes through the reform of the Statute, for the Improvement of self-government and a financing model offering a greater “co-responsibility”, as the economist Teresa García-Milà points out in this week’s debate in the Circle with the economist Emilio Ontiveros. García-Milà, Member of the Board of the business lobby for years, left her mark in the document of the Circle of May 2018, which remains the reference now, and in what was requested to “shield” the powers. At that time, in the middle of the battle between constitutionalism and independentism, the contributions of the Circle, chaired by Brugera, gave the idea that the supposed “truths” of independentism were supported, when the important thing was to maintain a firm position to put a dam to the movement of Carles Puigdemont and Quim Torra.
However, the consulted members of the Circle understand that the institution has not moved. “The problem is that these independentist leaders do not assume in public what they say in private, they cannot, because they do not know how to explain to their parishes that there is only one way, that of the agreement and the gradual improvements,” says one of them.
That is, the Circle marks a path that has already begun to pave. In the interview between the president of the Government, Pedro Sánchez and the mayor Ada Colau, the commitment of the co-capitality of Barcelona arose, an idea that Javier Faus defends with conviction. And the Government of Sánchez has prepared a document with various points to negotiate that go through infrastructure investments. Is that complicity with independentism or is it the same plan that has always been defended, and for which Germà Gordó himself should bet, as soon as he can?
A third way or responsibility
The Circle continues with its debates. The principal, now, who has led, is that of digital humanism, with the imprint of José María Lassalle, member of the Board of Directors. The members are active and participate in the different sessions. This runs parallel to the impulse for a more inclusive education, with the premises of innovative schools, directed by Antón Costas as president of the Circle Foundation. And the perception is that it is marking its own itinerary.
Is the reviled third way? “Name it as you like, the truth is that if there are deficiencies on the part of the State, if there are issues that deserve to be resolved, why not to expose them, why deny what has always been defended?” Asks a leader of the Circle.
A part of Catalan society
Then there is the very nature of the institution: there are financials, academics, entrepreneurs, communication experts. That amalgam, – is representative of Catalan society, but of a part of that Catalan society, professional, more inclined to bourgeois Catalanism – forces warm, sometimes shy positions. But in one direction: improving political and economic understanding between Catalonia and the rest of Spain, always looking towards Europe.
A former member of the meetings of the Circle indicates that everything will take time, but that what Javier Faus wants to achieve – marking a mandate with key issues – will end up being achieved, and that independentism will end up accepting it.
Pujol does go to the Circle
In this medium-term scenario there is a possible reform of the Statute, and a relevant role of Barcelona, because one of the central concerns, which remains the subject of debate in all the sessions of the Circle – and that motivated some experts, such as Jacint Jordana at the beginning of the independentist movement – is the economic rivalry between Madrid and Barcelona. “If it is clear that what must be done is to cooperate, establish a better distribution, in which everyone wins, the independentist nerve will be largely deactivated,” he says.
At least, the nerve of that “bourgeois” independentist, who got on the movement, because he expected economic improvements. That is, the majority of Germà Gordó and Artur Mas’s companions, who have moved away from the Circle since 2012, although Jordi Pujol himself approached many sessions in the auditorium of Cercle d’Economia at Provença Street.