Catalan minister Laura Vilagrà's visit to the Moncloa palace in Madrid to meet with her counterpart Félix Bolaños has been of little use, beyond the dialectical pyrotechnics that usually accompany this type of meeting. No progress on her government's agenda, which was laid down more than a year ago and was based on an amnesty, an agreed independence referendum and an end to repression. Nor is there any satisfactory response that will allow a page to be turned on Catalangate, the largest illegal espionage scandal that has come to light in Europe, and whose solution must involve the creation of an independent commission of inquiry in the Congress of Deputies and the assumption of political responsibilities. The famous dialogue table seems to have gone straight onto one of tonight's Sant Joan bonfires, as neither of the two governments had any special interest in convening it. The only concession by the Moncloa to the Generalitat has been a meeting, still without date, when Pedro Sánchez's agenda allows it, with president Pere Aragonès. An appointment that the minister Vilagrà asserted would take place before the summer holidays and which, of course, has not been accorded any urgency at all since she first requested it on May 6th.
The fact that Vilagrà and Bolaños appeared before the press separately and in different places - the Catalan, in her government's Madrid delegation, and the Spaniard, in the Moncloa - already gave an idea of the need they both had to send different messages and that we weren't likely to see a major announcement. And even less, a positive one. Vilagrà's vagueness, emphasizing that work had to be done on the guarantees and that they were a minimum condition for re-establishing the negotiating framework - which has never existed - and her insistence on the anti-repression agenda: all this failed to go into tangible details. On the other hand, specific concerns were voiced over the possibility that the Supreme Court may change its doctrine on the pardons granted by the Spanish government, in particular, with reference to the Catalan political prisoners. The issue of the pardons has reappeared, too early and too strongly, in the framework of the dialogue between the two governments.
The minister Bolaños, damaged like the whole of the Spanish government and the PSOE are by the disastrous election results of last Sunday in Andalusia, used the meeting to carry out an exercise - so to speak - in institutional and political stability, something which the Socialists lack in the Congress of Deputies. And to restate the empty discourse that the Spanish government uses to deactivate the independence movement. Thus, Bolaños repeated several times the need to build trust between Catalonia and Spain, since Catalan society needs agreements. He spoke of the need for a new era that looks to the future and projects new agreements, and stressed that in this context we must never return to the unbearable tension that was generated in Catalonia in 2017. In this idyllic Catalonia of the future based on a regional agenda, it will be possible to return to economic leadership, to talk about social protection and strategic investments. All the concepts are from minister Bolaños and are a copy of Pedro Sánchez's agenda for reconciliation.
And this is the sum, in general terms, of what each side conveyed from its lectern. In the hidden agenda, in addition to the pardons, is the Spanish government budget for 2023. The Sánchez executive wants to know if the conditions exist to depend on ERC's votes before diving into an issue on which it doesn't know if it will have support, but it does know that the budget needs to be expansive in the face of the economic crisis next winter. While this route is being opened, the Moncloa and the Socialist barons will have to assess whether in the run-up to the municipal elections next May, the alliance of recent years that has given the PSOE so much stability is the right way to go, in the face of the Andalusian electoral setback. It is a slippage that points to a more than probable electoral defeat in Spain as a whole when the elections to decide on the next tenant of the Moncloa are held.