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It was perhaps the most important party conference of the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) in recent decades and for it to have reached decisions with support from more than 93% of members demonstrates the extent to which the pro-independence party of Oriol Junqueras, Pere Aragonès, Marta Rovira, Gabriel Rufián, Ernest Maragall and Roger Torrent - to name a handful of the most qualified leaders - has changed from being an assembly-based group in which everything was disputed between two irreconcilable halves to a pyramidal, structured and disciplined organization. Some say that ERC has emerged from its stage of political adolescence, others claim it has become pragmatic, and for many it has simply taken on the challenge of a party which, after winning the last two Spanish elections in Catalonia and being the largest party in this year's municipal polls, aspires to be the largest party in the Catalan Parliament and to obtain hegemony in the independence movement.

With Saturday's conference out of the way, ERC now has its hands free to carry through the investiture of Pedro Sánchez as new Spanish prime minister and to move forward on the difficult path of dialogue with Sánchez and the PSOE. With Oriol Junqueras having made it clear that the independence of Catalonia is irreversible and a new referendum inevitable, it is up to both sides in the negotiation to work rapidly to bridge the distance between the Socialists (PSOE) and ERC but at the same time, they also seem condemned to reach an understanding. The key is to find the right agreement and precise words that make it real and credible for the repression of the independence movement to disappear completely and for a negotiation on a political solution to the conflict to be carried out.

Contrary to how some may see it, ERC has taken neither the easiest nor probably the most thankful and comfortable path for a section of its party base. It is, on the other hand, the route that is most consistent with its political strategy of the last two years and which, in addition, has given it very good electoral results. In the coming days we will see a gesture from the State Solicitor towards Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras although the really differentiating element would be a pronouncement of the Public Prosecutors' Office to amend what Supreme Court prosecutors have said in relation to his immunity and in line with what the Court of Justice of the European Union has just established.

Pedro Sánchez's words on November 6th stating that the Public Prosecutors were dependent on the government now require him to make good his insinuation. Carmen Calvo's remarks warning the Supreme Court that it must abide by the EU court's ruling cannot be a mere pronouncement. It is much more strongly obliged than that, in line with what Sánchez has said about the Public Prosecution service, the head of which is appointed by the government and is hierarchically dependent on it. In a negotiation, each of the parties has to take risks and ERC certainly holds some trump cards. The truth is that the Catalan party has begun counting down to a decision which, however it turns out, will have enormous consequences.

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