The Catalan minister for Foreign Action and Open Government, Victòria Alsina (Barcelona, 1983), has not hidden her support for the proposition that Junts (Together for Catalonia) should continue in the pro-independence coalition government. In fact, last weekend she joined the Junts party to be able to defend her position before the party's executive and announced that she intends to campaign actively for 'yes'. According to Alsina, this is a crucial moment for Junts, and one which will define its strategy for the coming years.
This Monday, you made your debut at the Junts executive and said you were doing so to defend the party's continuity in the government...
I like to say that my commitment to the Junts project began on my first day as minister. I have decided to become a member because I understand that in difficult moments you have to step up and this is a transcendent moment for Catalonia, for the party and on many levels. I was able to attend the first executive meeting as a member of Junts, where a very important matter was decided: that Junts is not afraid of the ballot boxes and that it will put the question of whether to leave the government or not in the hands of its members.
And what are your arguments in favour of continuing in the government?
I always ask myself two questions. First, whether abandoning or resigning from the government brings us closer to, or further away from, independence. And the second question is: why are we leaving? That is to say, are we leaving because ERC has not complied with the agreements? Or are we leaving because we believe that outside the government we'll work better for Catalonia and for independence? I think you act differently depending on whether you respond with your stomach, your heart or your head.
If we respond with our heads and not with our stomach or heart, I am convinced that all of that is more difficult to do from outside the institutions
And what are the responses in each case?
If you respond with your stomach, the most immediate answer is that we have to leave because ERC has flagrantly breached essential points of the Government Agreement it signed with Junts. If you respond with your heart, we all want what is best for independence and for a rich, prosperous and full Catalonia for everyone. Now, if we answer with our heads, I am convinced that all of that is more difficult to do from outside the institutions. And here, I would add a third question: what will we do the day after leaving the government, how do we approach this "crossing of the desert", what is the map?
Did you find out the answer to this question at Monday's executive meeting?
No. Because the executive focused on very operational issues of how to articulate the process of giving a voice to members.
ERC does not prioritize the strategic direction of independence because it thinks in terms of party and not country
At the outset, Junts focused the demands it out to ERC on the need for compliance with three commitments in the 2021 coalition government agreement: a strategic direction for independence, coordination in Madrid and the dialogue table...
It is clear that in the case of strategic direction, ERC does not prioritize it because it thinks in terms of the party and not the country; in the case of coordination in Madrid, we all know that ERC has not negotiated well and intelligently for the interests of Catalonia; and the dialogue table, we know that it has not prospered. Therefore, Junts is right when it claims these points and, moreover, when ERC does not comply with them, we all lose, all of Catalonia loses. What I am saying is that all of this, these three demands, are better pressured for from within the government than without. And here I wonder, really, with Junts as the second-ranked party of the opposition - because it would not be the first - as the second party of the opposition, will it make better demands than from within the government? I believe that it is easier to oppose ERC from within the government and raise your voice. Therefore, that we need more government and not less, to get closer to Junts's founding goals, which is Catalan independence. From there I have a very long list of specific reasons to justify it.
Really, with Junts as the second-ranked party of the opposition, will it make better demands than from within the government?
You say that it is to move forward on the road to independence, but if no progress has been made so far why should it be any different from now on?
Junts can work on many fronts that it has already been working on. This legislature lasts for four years, there is still a lot of room to work on it. It is clear that the government is in itself a tool of democratic struggle, as the 1st October referendum demonstrated. Stronger institutions, defended from the agenda and with the ambition that Junts has, allows us to protect rights, our linguistic rights, allows us to fight against repression, if Junts had not been in the Government the Complementary Risk Fund would not exist, nor would the international denunciation that we are making of all this repression in all the institutions, at the Council of Europe, the United Nations, the European Union...
If ERC was left alone, it would be completely tied hand and foot before the PSC and the Comuns
So are these your arguments for defending that Junts must continue in the government?
There are more reasons: to be a wall of containment with respect to the unionist parties, we all know that if ERC was left alone, it would be completely tied hand and foot before the PSC and the Comuns, but especially the PSC; also, avoiding recentralization in the face of ERC's passivity in defence of Catalonia's interests in Madrid and with the central government; the usefulness of sectoral policies, in the pro-independence field; to put into practice the political report of Junts, the entire Preparem-nos [Council of the Republic document] seeks to advance towards independence from the institutions themselves... And I leave for last, but not least, the fact that the country is also made town by town, and Together for Catalonia must help mayors and councillors who will present themselves in the municipal elections and who also want to build this country from the local level.
The day I leave the government of Catalonia I will rejoin my permanent position, with a salary that is double the salary I receive as a government minister. So I'll be paid twice as much and have half the worries.
The majority opinion among the Junts members of the government is to continue within the executive. This has raised criticism as to whether they are doing it to keep their positions, it has been said disparagingly that they want to keep their salary. What do you say to people who argue this?
In the case of the salary, I don't feel it's relevant to me at all because the day I leave the government of Catalonia I will rejoin my permanent position, where I have a salary that is double the salary I receive as a government minister. So I'll be paid twice as much and have half the worries. To me and to many others, this argument has no relevance to us at all. We are here because we think it is good for the country. All of our ministers have made many personal sacrifices to be able to lead our ministries. Speaking of personal sacrifices, there are many people who have suffered a lot to get to where we are in terms of losing their liberty, their freedom of movement, loss of assets... Therefore, it is a matter of respect for the collective legacy of all these years to continue to maintain the unity of the pro-independence movement because only together will we move forward and do so from the main platform from which it can be done, which is the government of Catalonia.
Will Junts be able to maintain internal cohesion with a split like the one that has become evident between supporters and detractors of continuing in the government?
This Monday, the executive was told that whatever comes out of this vote, the party's executive will take it into account and act accordingly. I have no doubt that the executive will not break up but will take the mandate that the membership expresses these days at the polls. Both the people who advocate abandoning and resigning from the government and those who say that this must not happen, we all want the best for Together for Catalonia. And it's all part of the same project.
This is a crucial moment for the future of the party and so this week is key. It will define Junts's political strategy for the coming years.
The general secretary, Jordi Turull, has said that he will defend a position in relation to the vote and the president, Laura Borràs, has made it clear what she thinks. Do you think that the result, depending on which way it goes, could raise doubts about the current executive? Will there be winners and losers from this vote?
This is a crucial moment for the future of the party and so this week is key. That is important and Together for Catalonia members must know that. This week will define Junts's political strategy for the coming years as well as a lot of other things. Therefore, it is a moment of enormous transcendence. I think that both the people who defend one line and those who back the other, everyone, wants the best for the party and will accept the results. I think there won't be a split. Yes, there will have to be self-criticism about how to continue. But we will see that after Friday 7th when the votes close and, therefore, from the 8th onwards, a job that Junts will have is to take a critical look at ourselves, and decide how to face the coming months and years of the party, also taking into account what the members have said.
There won't be a split in Junts. Yes, there will have to be self-criticism about how to continue.
This Tuesday you have a meeting of the Catalan cabinet, how do you face a meeting of the government in this scenario?
The Junts ministers will go into the cabinet meeting to push forward our policies, which are as ambitious as possible, both at the national level and in the area of better serving the citizens of Catalonia. You cannot be frivolous at a time like the present and stop thinking about either of these two things, therefore maximum responsibility, maximum institutionality and maximum will to work for the future of the country.