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Vice President Aragonès: 'We won't give up talks on self-determination for a new financial deal'

New ministers start work as Catalonia retakes control of its administration after seven months under Madrid's rule

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04 June 2018 10:59 AM

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ACN | Barcelona

The new Catalan government "won't give up" plans for an independent country, according to Vice President and Minister of the Economy, Pere Aragonès. In an interview on Catalan television, Aragonès added that the new government should have a "bilateral relationship" with the Spanish executive, now led by Socialist Pedro Sánchez.

According to the Catalan vice president, Sánchez’s term in Madrid "cannot be worse" than Mariano Rajoy's. Catalan ministers started work on Monday, thus retaking control of the administration after seven months under Madrid's supervision.

"We won't give up on our right to self-determination. And we are not asking the Spanish government to give up its own principles either," Aragonès said. The new vice president added that negotiations with Madrid for concessions on financial issues should not imply renouncing a referendum or a debate about Catalonia's sovereignty. "Catalonia should be able to decide its own future," he insisted.

The new Minister of the Presidency and government spokeswoman, Elsa Artadi, also said in an interview today that the new cabinet won't give up on independence even though it will prioritize negotiations with Madrid. "We should achieve independence using other means, strengthening our society and institutions," she explained.

Damià Calvet, new Minister for Territory and Sustainability, arrived at his office early in the morning and said his priority will be to "reverse the effects" of Madrid’s direct rule of Catalonia. "We have a lot of issues on the table: infrastructure, urbanism, housing. One of the first things that we want to do is defend our Law Against Climate Change, one of the first in the south of Europe," he said. The law was suspended by the Spanish Constitutional Court over concerns that it went beyond the reserved powers of the Catalan administration. "The Spanish government challenged the law when we couldn't defend ourselves, under Article 155, and we want to restore it," the minister explained.

  • We want to guarantee, strengthen and widen our presence abroad"

    Ernest Maragall · Foreign Affairs Minister

The new Minister of Culture, Laura Borràs, said she would do her job in tandem, “from Barcelona and from Brussels,” with Lluís Puig, the culture minister in the government that was dismissed by Madrid. Puig is currently in Belgium after an attempt by the Spanish authorities to extradite him to Spain failed. On what she described as a “thrilling day,” Borràs entered Puig’s former office saying she would later have a meeting with the exiled minister. Borràs also said that her priority was “to get going, as the culture of the country has suffered a lot in this period and before, because the financial supervision of culture was already in place when Article 155 was imposed.”

Meanwhile, the new Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ernest Maragall, said that he will try to "restore" the institutions shut down by the Spanish government, including the delegations abroad and the Public Diplomacy Council, Diplocat. In comments to the press on his first day at the ministry, Maragall said the Catalan government needs to "guarantee, strengthen and widen" its presence abroad. Maragall said that he will travel to the Madrid prison of Estremera on Tuesday to visit his predecessor, Raül Romeva, who is behind bars and faces charges of rebellion for his role in the October 1 referendum and independence declaration.

Justice minister met with large yellow bow

As for Ester Capella, the new Minister of Justice, she started in her new post by thanking the ministry’s employees for “keeping the flame alive” over the past seven months of direct rule from Madrid. When Capella arrived at the ministry just after 9am, she was welcomed by dozens of ministry employs and a large yellow bow, the symbol showing solidarity with the Catalan officials being held in preemptive prison. After meeting the people she will work with most closely, Capella went on to hold a meeting with over a dozen high-ranking officials.

New health minister, Alba Vergés, arrived at her office defending universal health care in the face of a high court suspension of measures introduced by the previous Catalan government. Vergés insisted that “we will bring health care to everyone,” in reference to the measures aimed at overturning a 2012 decree that she claimed “did away with” the right to universal access to the health service. Vergés went on to say that the new Spanish president, Pedro Sánchez, has “the opportunity to overturn the 2012 decree,” before she went on to meet ministry officials.

"A free and strong country"

The new agriculture minister Teresa Jordà has argued that a “strong” and “competitive” sector is needed in order to create “a free and strong country,” stating that “we are what we eat.”

On her first day in office in the new Catalan government, Jordà also confirmed that she will meet with her predecessor Meritxell Serret in Brussels, where she will travel with the new culture minister Laura Borràs and the health minister Alba Vergés.

Move on with labour reform

For his part, the Minister of Work, Social Affairs and Families, Chakir el Homrani, highlighted the “positive” employment figures in May. Despite this, he also pointed out that the “regulatory framework of the working world has not facilitated employment with good and indefinite conditions.” For this reason, he called on the new Spanish president Pedro Sánchez to “move forward with labour reform.”

Homrani stated that current legislation creates a precarious working situation. “We need to create jobs, but jobs of quality,” he added.

Taking new digital revolution seriously

Jordi Puigneró, the Minister of Digital Policy and Public Administration spoke of creating a ministry dedicated to boosting Information and Communication technologies for the first time.

“This is a clear indication that this government takes the new digital revolution very seriously,” said Puigneró.

Education ministers visits Badalona

The head of education in the new government, Josep Bargalló, began his first day in the post visiting the city of Badalona, not far outside Barcelona. During his visit, the new minister promised to resolve enrolment problems, to provide an educational plan for the city, and to find a solution to long-running problems over the construction of new school buildings in the city. Bargalló also defended the Catalan education system and its “clear” commitment that all pupils finish school knowing “at least” three languages.

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