'Déjà vu': opposition slams Clarity Act idea to solve independence issue

Parties believe president's proposal "does not solve anything," but economic measures get mixed responses

Leader of the Catalan Socialists, Salvador Illa, speaking in the Catalan parliament during the general policy debate, September 27, 2022
Leader of the Catalan Socialists, Salvador Illa, speaking in the Catalan parliament during the general policy debate, September 27, 2022 / Job Vermeulen

Cillian Shields & Gerard Escaich Folch | Barcelona

September 27, 2022 06:18 PM

September 27, 2022 09:55 PM

Reaching consensus with other political parties to propose a Clarity Act to Spain to solve the independence conflict will not be an easy task for the Catalan president, Pere Aragonès. Opposition parties were largely critical of his idea announced on Tuesday during his opening speech in the general policy debate in the parliament.

Aragonès aims to build support in society for a referendum agreed with Spain, while bringing in as much involvement of social actors as possible. The president likened the proposal to Quebec's Clarity Act, which foresees a potential future referendum in the Canadian region if there is a clear majority support for such a vote, based on an unambiguous question.  

One of the most vocal opponents of the idea was Socialist (PSC) leader Salvador Illa, who said he believed the idea "does not solve anything," and even called the proposal "déjà vu." 


However, the former Spanish health minister and current leader of the opposition in the Catalan chamber said he was open to voting "yes to agreements, but no to splitting" from Spain, he said.

During his speech, Illa railed against the government's actions which he described as "very poor," and likened the executive to "a broken toy." The Socialist figurehead criticized that "there is no country project" for Catalonia because "it is only governed for half of Catalans at most."

Second up to speak was Ignacio Garriga of the far-right party Vox. He criticized president Aragonès for focussing so much on attempting to achieve independence with systems such as the clarity agreement, as well as other institutions such as Catalonia's foreign affairs ministry and the department of equality and feminism, newly created during Aragonès's mandate. 


"On the streets, nobody talks about agreed referendums, clarity agreements, or amnesties," Garriga said in the chamber. "Go out to the street, leave this parliament and speak with Catalans out there who are afraid of the brutal increases in their bills." 

The leader of the Catalan branch of the far-right party spoke at length about immigration in Catalonia as well, blaming various crimes, both at times specified and other times unspecified, on different ethnic groups. The speaker of the chamber had to intervene to remind Garriga on numerous occasions of the code of conduct of the parliament. 

Far-left pro-independence party CUP spoke after Vox, with their MP Eulàlia Reguant criticizing the clarity agreement proposed by the president, saying it was discarded by the Spanish government in less than 30 minutes. 

Reguant said that the fast manner in which Spain rejected the proposal shows that the dialogue table between the Catalan and Spanish administrations on the independence crisis is a "useless tool" for the current political context the pro-independence movement is in.

She added that the dialogue table has been reduced to bilateral talks between Esquerra and the Socialists, with "poor results." "It's necessary to build a shared understanding of October 1 (the 2017 referendum) and analyze the mistakes, we have to stop living in the past and in nostalgia," the CUP politician concluded.


Jéssica Albiach of the left-wing party En Comú Podem spoke next. They are the only party not-aligned on the independence issue, but generally in favor of a referendum, and Albiach pointed out that her party brought up the idea of the "Canadian way" years earlier


Albiach said that the proposal was made "years ago" when Quim Torra was president of Catalonia, but that those governing at the time said it was an "outdated" idea. Indeed, one year later, in 2019, ERC's Roger Torrent brought up the idea in a conference in Madrid when he held the position of parliament speaker. Even Miquel Iceta, the former leader of the Catalan Socialists and current Spanish minister for culture, proposed a "clarity law" in 2016, but the notion has since fallen out of favor among his party. 

The En Comú Podem politician said that ERC knew that Junts had no intention of negotiating with Spain on the independence issue when they went into coalition government with them. She was also highly critical of the fact that ERC supported Laura Borràs becoming the speaker of the parliament despite knowing that she was involved in an alleged corruption case that has since seen her suspended in the role. 

Ciudadanos leader Carlos Carrizosa took the opportunity during his speech to explain Stephane Dion's proposal. Dion, who wrote Quebec's Clarity Act, came to Barcelona years ago, the unionist politician told the parliament. 

During the Canadian's visit, he explained the reason why the Clarity Act was written, because "in Canada, there was no Constitutional article that held the unity of the country, and what this law made was to fill a blank of what other constitutions, such as the one in Spain, already included," Carrizosa said.


What they had to do in Canada, "was to come up with a law that stopped those annoying people who kept calling for self-determination referendums," the Ciudadanos politician told lawmakers.

In fact, the unionist party believes the Catalan independence movement "does not have any national nor international support, and the only thing that the government does is to bring out the worst in people," the Cs spokesperson added. 

On a similar note, the spokesperson of the conservative People's Party, Alejandro Fernández, reminded Aragonès of the legal intricacy behind the Canadian Clarity Act. 

"The Canadian Clarity Act was approved according to Canadian law. Not the ones from the future independent Quebec, as some wanted," the unionist leader said, before adding "president Aragonès, you should present a constitutional reform project to the Spanish congress."


"Respect judicial decisions, something that the Quebec pro-independence figures did," he added, addressing the Catalan chamber.

Opposing views on tackling inflation and green transition

While the opposition political forces mainly slammed the Clarity Act idea, some viewed the new measures to tackle inflation positively. 

The leader of PSC confirmed his party's support for the different actions taken by the executive, and will even send several more proposals "to improve or add more measures" in the coming fortnight, he explained.

Among the measures announced by the president were €100 grants per schoolchild to help families pay for school materials, extending the age range for the T-Jove transport card up to the age of 30 instead of 24, and housing grants for young people. Additionally, Aragonès spoke about offering grants to small- and medium-sized businesses to help them in their energy transition, highlighting the possibility of installing solar panels on roofs and buildings. 

However, for far-left CUP, "a fundamental and radical change is needed," as MP Eulàlia Reguant said.

"We cannot make an ecological transition and at the same time promote a Winter Olympics, or the expansion of the airport, or abandon public transport," she criticized.

Jéssica Albiach of En Comú Podem was also highly critical of Aragonès's measures to usher in the green transition, denouncing that the president had made promises to create a public energy company on numerous previous occasions and that such an entity does not yet exist. She branded Aragonès's ideas as "useless" proposals, criticizing that the company will not be commercialized. 

She was also critical of the decision to travel across the Atlantic Ocean to visit New York for a climate summit. 

The leader of the Catalan branch of the conservative People's Party, Alejandro Fernández, criticized the head of government for the independence push and economic and social policies. 

"You don't work toward independence, you work toward taking advantage of Catalan people's dream of independence," Fernández said, before adding, ironically: "If I were an independence supporter, I would send you to fry asparagus."

The PP figurehead took aim at Esquerra's discourse of what he described as "tourism-phobia." To Fernández, tourism has "helped save" 2022 and may well do the same next year.

"Tourism-phobia in Catalonia must be curbed." He also criticized Aragonès's treatment of the Spanish language, referring to the moves the administration has taken to preserve the immersion system in schools, where Catalan is used as the working language.