A new initiative among the Catalan pro-independence parties after further days of tension. A three-way meeting called by the smallest of the political groups favouring independence, the CUP, has enabled the two discordant partners, ERC and Junts, to start mending their fences after the weekend's rupture in talks to form a new government. This was announced by all three parties after a two-hour meeting in Parliament, via a statement describing their agreement based on a set of "essential points as a basis for unblocking the start of the legislature."
There are four points agreed in the statement, in line with the proposal that the left-wing CUP launched publicly this Wednesday morning to save the teetering negotiation. The document refers to a commitment to "respond to the social and economic crisis" and "to build a wall to defend fundamental and basic rights that have broad support from Catalan society and that do not fit within the framework of the [Spanish] state".
Thirdly, the parties agree that "to take the initiative and call a first working meeting to build a broad National Agreement for Self-Determination that goes beyond political parties and brings together the vast social majority of the country in favour of the democratic solution that the country is experiencing, with the unequivocal commitment that through dialogue and democratic contention in the state, the exercise of self-determination and amnesty can be achieved during the next legislature". Finally, they assert that they are jointly committed "to achieving a space for the debate on the independence strategy beyond the framework of governability".
This last section, which is, effectively, on the roadmap to independence, has been slightly modified with respect to the initial CUP text - endorsed by ERC - which spoke frankly about parking the debate about the strategy of the process and the role of the Council for the Republic until after the investiture of Aragonès. In the end, more ambiguous wording was chosen which, in any case, implies that the members agree to isolate this debate from the vote on forming a new government in order to resolve the situation. The text refers to governability, but it is not made clear whether the agreement will be for a coalition government between ERC and Junts or for an executive in which ERC governs alone.
Referendum this legislature?
Also, at the request of the Republicans, a mention has been added of the "unequivocal commitment to dialogue." At the same time, the text opens the door to the possibility of "exercising the right to self-determination during this legislature." In other words, there is a desire to explore all avenues for the holding of a new referendum in the next four years. Of course, without specifying whether it will be unilateral or agreed with the state.
Thus, after ERC and Junts had demonstrated the hardening of their respective positions on Tuesday, they have today each offered a minimal retreat, with the CUP seated between them, and with a document vague enough so that both parties can feel comfortable. The quid of the question, however, remains unresolved, at least in public: will Junts agree to provide the four parliamentary votes needed to invest Aragonès as new Catalan president without entering government themselves? Or will the Republicans give in to renegotiating the governing coalition with Junts and abandon their intention to start the leglislature by themselves in a minority government?
The next few hours will be crucial. There are now 14 days until the May 26th deadline when a repeat election is automatically activated. If it were to come to elections, they would be held in mid-July.