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The left-wing group of En Comú Podem has entered the equation of the Catalan government's budget this Wednesday, while the preferred partner CUP continues to hold talks with the executive on the possible withdrawal of its intention to reject the budget, which it formalized today. The entry of the Comuns, a party beyond the pro-independence forces, became apparent in Parliament this morning, during a question session featuring the president, Pere Aragonès (ERC). Comuns leader Jéssica Albiach offered dialogue on the budget to Aragonès, and the president accepted. At 4:30pm Aragonès and Albiach set to work, in a meeting in the president's office in the Catalan chamber. Formal negotiations will begin tomorrow, in a race against the clock to reach an agreement before Monday's introduction of the draft budget bill to Parliament.

The arrival of the Comuns on stage caused irritation among the other partner in the pro-independence government, Junts. After hearing the exchange of views between Aragonès and Albiach in the chamber, the Junts spokesperson Albert Batet made no effort to hide his surprise at what he described as "new unagreed majorities".

From the back of the chamber, the CUP also watched the scene. The anti-capitalist party, who had been asked to submit a new proposal this morning after their membership voted to reject the budget as it currently stands while continuing negotiations, made their demands to the government last night. At noon they met with Aragonès and his economy minister, Jaume Giró, to explain their demands. At the meeting, held in the president's office, the CUP insisted on its demands in relation to the withdrawal of the Catalan executive from the Hard Rock Recreational Park project in Vilaseca, in the south of Catalonia, as well as the 2030 Winter Olympics bid, among other issues.

ERC and Junts meet over lunch 

When the parliamentary session adjourned at midday, the two government partners, ERC and Junts, had a joint lunch at the Casa dels Canonges, beside the Generalitat palace, to assess the situation. It was the same gathering as had been called 24 hours before to follow the CUP's decision on its rejection of the budgets. Aragonès and Giró, accompanied by the parliamentary speaker Laura Borràs and vice president Jordi Puigneró, and with them Junts secretary general Jordi Sànchez and the heads of the ERC and Junts parliamentary groups, Josep Maria Jové and Albert Batet, ERC's spokesperson in Parliament, Marta Vilalta, and two of the heads of the presidency department: secretary general Núria Cuenca and communications head Sergi Sabrià.

The meeting served to reconstruct the joint strategy, following differences that had become evident between the partners in the morning session in the house. It was agreed to keep the channel of talks and negotiations open with the CUP, but also to open dialogue with the Comuns at the same time.

Meeting with the Comuns

Aragonès returned to Parliament at half past five in the afternoon, accompanied by the presidency secretary general, Núria Cuenca, and went to his office. Ten minutes later, Jéssica Albiach also entered, accompanied by a spokesperson for En Comú Podem, David Cid, and the deputy Joan Carles Gallego.

As a result of the meeting, it has been agreed to open talks with the Comuns. The party is leaving its negotiation in the hands of Gallego and has divided its proposals into four lines centred on: rail infrastructure; mental and dental health; the ecological transition and neighbourhood law; and industrial reactivation.

A red line: the Socialists

When the Comuns left the president's office, it was the turn of the leader of the opposition, Catalan Socialist head Salvador Illa, to meet with Aragonès. This was a protocol meeting, which the PSC leader had requested in a press conference in the morning, via a letter to the president, also making the petition during the question session in Parliament. However, from Aragonès's inner circle it is no secret that negotiation with the Socialists would be crossing a red line.

The time limit for the negotiations puts the government under pressure. The formal vote on either admitting the budget or throwing it out (formally known as "amendment to the entirety" of the bill) takes place on Monday. Before that, the CUP must communicate with its grassroots on the new government proposal and decide whether or not to withdraw its current 'no'.

A CUP-government budget agreement would thus need to be finalized before the weekend, with the additional circumstance that on Thursday evening, Aragonès travels to Paris to attend a signing ceremony at UNESCO headquarters, and will not return until Friday evening. On Friday, the CUP will decide how to approach its second consultation of its members. On Monday, the crucial first budget vote takes place - on the "amendments to the entirety", which, if passed, would sink the government's project.


In the main image, the president of the parliamentary group of the commons, Jéssica Albiach, at the moment of entering the office of the president, Pere Aragonès, in the Parliament / Sergi Alcàzar