In the Catalan Parliament's general politics debate, which this Wednesday has celebrated its second of three days in the house, MPs have not ceased to look across to events in Madrid. The process of forming the next Spanish government and the negotiations with the pro-independence parties on an amnesty and self-determination have constantly hovered in the chamber. They were present in the speech of Salvador Illa, first secretary of the Catalan Socialists (PSC), who, deeply conscious of his party's need for ERC's votes in Congress, came to the debate with his hand outstretched; but they were also there in the crossfire of mutual criticisms between the Catalan president, Pere Aragonès, head of the Republican Left (ERC) minority government, and his former government colleagues from Together for Catalonia (Junts), to whom he called for unity in Madrid in the face of what he described as an "historic moment".
Aragonès' debate with the president of the Junts parliamentary group, Albert Batet, was one of the most anticipated face-offs of the day. In fact, the pro-independence coalition government, formed by ERC and Junts, imploded right after the last general policy debate, one year ago, when Carles Puigdemont's party asked Aragonès to submit to a confidence vote. Unlike the friendly tone maintained by the PSC, with Junts there was a much sharper debate. "Try to avoid this being a completely failed legislature. Either rectification or elections", called Batet, adding ironically that "it would be a shame if the president of Catalonia had now changed his discourse due to the arithmetic in Madrid".
Aragonès makes an appeal to Junts
Aragonès didn't spare the critiques and ironies with Junts either. Nevertheless, he did make an intense appeal to his former government colleagues, warning that the general election of July 23rd has left the key to the investiture of a Spanish government in the hands of the pro-independence parties and has given rise to an "historic moment", opening the "possibility of a leap forward", which forces all parties to "put the interest of the country above all" and negotiate with all their strength. He emphasized that ERC and Junts agree on "the what" - amnesty and self-determination - and now also on "the how" - "taking advantage of the negotiation scenario with the State" - while "the who" "cannot be a problem, because the who is Catalonia". "A year ago we might not have agreed, but now we agree", argued Aragonès, in addition to insisting again and again that he will put "all the capacity and political assets" of his presidency at the service of this agreement. In any case, he urged Junts to stop looking into the past and recreating former differences, affirming that all the presidents who have ever gone to negotiate in Madrid have had the support of ERC, from Pasqual Maragall with the 2006 Statute, Artur Mas with the fiscal pact and through to Carles Puigdemont with the independence process.
In reply, Batet warned that Junts's intention is to hold its position, "we will not save either [Catalan] governance or the legislature". He affirmed that his intention is not to trust the PSOE - "since we already see what they have done to you, we want guarantees in advance"; and, finally, he asserted that his party will act with prudence and humility, without speaking for third parties, or speaking publicly about the negotiations - in a clear reference to recent ERC statements affirming that the amnesty has already been agreed. "And listen, welcome. It's been four years of dialogue, welcome to the negotiation," joked Batet, who stated that more has been done in four weeks of Carles Puigdemont's negotiations than in four years of the dialogue table.
The PSC's outstretched hand
The second day of the debate was opened by the first secretary of the PSC, Salvador Illa, who, despite strongly criticizing the Aragonès's management, extended his hand to the Catalan government and committed his party to a "demanding collaboration". The leader of the Catalan Socialists even directly warned ERC not to let the fire of argument or the tussle with Junts prevail, as they both pursue separate negotiations with the PSOE. "This is not the time to compete to see who arrives first and gets the best photo," he warned. Faced with the Socialists' predisposition, Aragonès limited himself to answering the criticisms made of his executive's management, and insisted on the need to demand a referendum so that Catalans can decide on their future.
The CUP also took part in this debate. "The Catalan political scene is today more captive to the Spanish state", criticized the deputy Laia Estrada, who denounced that, in the negotiation, an amnesty is being considered as a substitute for self-determination, and affirmed to Junts and ERC that the way out of the conflict cannot be just to end the repression. "In the current context, no Spanish government will open itself to our right to decide our own future through a self-determination referendum," warned Estrada.
Aragonès denied that the epicentre of the debate in Barcelona was the investiture in Madrid, but rather, in the amnesty and the referendum. "We are ready to use all the democratic levers there are. Not doing so would be resignation and we will never give up the amnesty and the referendum", he argued, affirming that "we must use the opportunity with all our strength and our most un-complexed attitude" and fight the battle in all parliamentary chambers.
Only the 33 deputies of ERC have given support to the government management of Aragonès. And not only that: the spokesperson of ERC's parliamentary group, Josep Maria Jové, despite admitting that his party does not have a solid or guaranteed majority in Parliament, celebrated that the Republican Left administration is no longer "in the instability of a year ago", when the agreement with Junts broke down. During his speech, Jové insisted on the call to "reconnect" the independence movement from an attitude of diversity, making a call to avoid infighting since "crying and lamentations are of no use". Of course, he stood up for the dialogue strategy of the Aragonès executive. "On the path that some of us have cleared, it now seems that we are no longer travelling alone", he celebrated in reference to Junts's talks with the PSOE.
At six in the afternoon the session was adjourned, and it will resume on Friday with debate and voting on the proposals which the various parties made for parliamentary resolutions arising from the debate.