The decision of Catalonia's Junts party to appoint Jordi Sànchez, Jordi Turull and Míriam Nogueras as its representatives on the dialogue table with the Spanish state, as well as the vice-president, Jordi Puigneró, raised the temperature of this Tuesday's meeting of the Catalan cabinet to pressure-cooker intensity. The safety valve began to whistle dangerously at the moment that a presidential proposal was put on the table in defence of the dialogue table, in which the executive reaffirmed "its commitment to the negotiating process" - a speech very much in line with ERC's commitment, but which provokes skepticism in their coalition partners. At this point, and in the face of the call from the president, Pere Aragonès, to vote in favour of the text, the alarm whistle got so loud that the meeting had to be suspended.
The meeting had begun with Aragonès deeply irritated to find out, via a phone call from Jordi Sànchez, the proposed Junts list of names for the dialogue table. Aragonès asserts that the agreement was for all members of the delegation to be part of the government. Junts, however, denies that this is the case and recalls that this condition is not included in the government pact. Before starting the cabinet meeting, Aragonès also expressed his discontent to the vice president, Jordi Puigneró. This morning, the president arrived at the cabinet meeting escorted by ministers Laura Vilagrà and Roger Torrent, the two members of the executive who will accompany him in the discussions with the Spanish government at the meeting this Wednesday.
Ministers took advantage of the cabinet meeting recess to discuss the situation. Those from ERC were able to confirm that Aragonès's decision not to accept the names proposed by Junts was firm and that the president's visible annoyance was not play-acting. The Junts ministers concluded that they would not back down, that they would not withdraw their proposal, but nor did they want to tighten the noose, overturning the text proposed by the presidency, or to appear as an obstacle to the meeting. Finally, they agreed that the proposed ERC names should go forward, but by an amendment to the text, and a vote of abstention.
Thus, the Catalan government's proposal for the dialogue table passed this Tuesday by the government only includes the names of Aragonès and ERC ministers Laura Vilagrà and Roger Torrent, although it leaves the door open: "The president, at the proposal of the vice president of the Government, may complete the delegation".
The preamble has been deleted from the final text and the original declaration has been reduced to a commitment to "Defend the end of repression, the amnesty for those currently suffering retaliation and the exercise of the right to self-determination as the basis on which to achieve a democratic and lasting solution".
With the Catalan government traversing a dangerous abyss of rupture, the department of the presidency called off the usual 12:30pm press conference and instead called an appearance of the president in the Gothic gallery of the Generalitat palace, to make a statement.
There, Aragonès demanded loyalty from Junts and called on the party to present a proposal of names for its delegation that are part of the government. He insisted that this had been agreed verbally between the two parties and regretted that he had not known until the last minute the names to be proposed by Junts, which meant he had no room to negotiate. However, he denied that this situation had undermined internal confidence.
Sànchez: veto by Madrid
Junts also tried to avoid fueling the image of governmental division any further and the response was left in the hands of the party's general secretary, Jordi Sànchez, who attributed the veto to a decision at Spanish government headquarters. Sànchez recalled that the Spanish PM himself had said a firm 'no' to the suggestion that ERC president Oriol Junqueras become part of the table. The Moncloa palace does not want former political prisoners at the dialogue table, Junts asserts.
Despite the statements from Pere Aragonès and Jordi Sànchez denying that the crisis has put the future of Catalan government at risk, the truth is that the partners are aware that they have tested the elasticity of their governmental fabric and the tension has been considerable.
Bolaños coordinates the Spanish delegation
Meanwhile, in Madrid, the PSOE-Podemos government did not hide its applause for president Aragonès's decision to leave Junts outside the dialogue room due to its delegation proposal. Tomorrow, Pedro Sánchez will arrive at the Palau de la Generalitat accompanied by his ministers, hold a meeting with Aragonès and they will appear, first one, then the other, in the Gothic gallery. After that, according to the note provided by the Spanish government, the dialogue table will meet - at which the Spanish delegation will be "coordinated by the minister of the presidency, Félix Bolaños".