Read in Catalan

The visit by the leadership of Foment del Treball to Northern Catalonia to meet with the president-in-exile, Carles Puigdemont, means, in practice, the absolute normalization of relations between the major Catalan employers association with the figure who held the presidency of the Generalitat of Catalonia between January 2016 and October 2017 and is now running as a candidate in the election on May 12th. Surely, there is no better way to dispel any dismissal of Puigdemont's candidacy for the presidency of Catalonia as "fake" than the trip to Perpinyà by the president of Foment accompanied by the general secretary and the body's six vice-presidents. Sánchez Llibre, who had already held a meeting in Brussels with the president-in-exile, thus publicly normalizes the relations of the employers' group with the Together for Catalonia (Junts) leader after years of a much more discreet profile.

In an electoral campaign in which all the details count, it is to be expected that the recovery of institutional normality between the pro-independence party - with seven important and decisive votes in the Congress of Deputies - and the major business grouping makes the news. It was not so long ago that many top Catalan entrepreneurs looked the other way when people mentioned Puigdemont and it is clear that Foment's action will open a corridor that others may also travel in the coming weeks. The fact that the meeting between the two delegations was about tax proposals and changes to the tax framework - the employers association backs the elimination of the wealth tax, the reduction of marginal rates of personal income tax in Catalonia and the reduction of the inheritance and donation tax, a sometimes-strident package for Junts - as well as a discussion of the state's non-compliance with its investment commitments in Catalonia, made it possible to avoid other discrepancies.

The visit of the Foment leadership to Puigdemont means the complete normalization of relations between the major Catalan employers and the president-in-exile

Coincidentally, or not, the meeting took place on the same day as Pimec, the other Catalan employers' group, was holding the first debate between the leading candidates for May 12th. The debate made it possible to see a tough face-off between president Pere Aragonès and the Junts representative, Josep Rull. The Repubican Left (ERC) candidate reproached his adversary over Puigdemont's absence in the debate and that he had not participated by digital means. Rull turned it back by reprimanding Aragonès for his lack of sensitivity to the president's situation of exile. Thus, something that has been evident for days was visualized: the desire of ERC for hand-to-hand combat with Puigdemont and the criticism of his absence from the multiple debates at which he will not take part. Puigdemont has also not accepted a face-to-face with Aragonès, responding to him that the only one he is willing to hold is with Pedro Sánchez.

The truth is that the proliferation of debates with candidates meeting one day after another also ends up having an interest level between moderate and non-existent. Only the mistakes that a candidate might make could give them some life, as the strict formats and the number of participants make them more of a summation of monologues than a proper debate. It is also true that, as they are organized, they reduce the risks a lot and end up leading to a fairly flat campaign from which unattractive headlines emerge. We'll have to wait and see if the practice of multiple meetings in different forums allows voters to distinguish between the real alternatives of each candidate. If not, they will end up passing unnoticed. At least, until the TV3 encounter arrives, which is always significant in a Catalan election.