Further friction among ruling Catalan parties over dialogue table with Spain

President urges JxCat to attend talks, who respond by calling for the removal of "veto"

Catalan president Pere Aragonès (left) speaks with Junts per Catalunya MP Albert Batet (right) in the Catalan parliament (by Bernat Vilaró)
Catalan president Pere Aragonès (left) speaks with Junts per Catalunya MP Albert Batet (right) in the Catalan parliament (by Bernat Vilaró) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

October 20, 2021 02:45 PM

The dialogue table between the Catalan and Spanish governments is once again putting the focus on friction between the ruling Catalan parties. 

In Wednesday’s plenary session, Catalan president Pere Aragonès has called on his junior coalition partner, Junts per Catalunya, to attend the next meeting of the dialogue table with Spain after the party didn’t send any representatives to the last meeting. 

Junts had proposed a delegation that included no ministers to attend the talks with Madrid, but this was rejected by Aragonès, who felt attendance to such an event should be reserved for members of the cabinet.

In response to Aragonès in the Catalan parliament, Albert Batet of JxCat called on the ERC figurehead to remove said "veto".

Aragonès had said that negotiations with Madrid would go a lot smoother if both elements of the Catalan government were present, but Batet retorted that his party has been willing to engage in dialogue “from day one.”

The first meeting of the dialogue table was held in 2020 just before the outbreak of the pandemic and resumed in September 2021 with the Catalan government partners having traded positions after the last election.

Catalan president Pere Aragonès, of the Esquerra Republicana party, said he believes that talks with Spain are "the only viable" way out of the independence crisis following last month’s meeting. 

After the first meeting, he also said he did not want to "lose" a "historic opportunity" to participate in a forum of this kind with the Spanish government after years of urging Madrid to sit and talk about the independence issue.

Catalonia seeks referendum, Spain wants to tackle sectorial issues

The ultimate aim of the delegation led by Aragonès is unitary: a Scotland-like referendum on independence that is accepted by Spain and an amnesty for everyone facing judicial procedures for the independence push in the 2010s, including the return of former president Carles Puigdemont from exile.

As for the government in Madrid, they would like to discuss the "reconciliation" between Catalonia and Spain. Minister Miquel Iceta, the former head of the Catalan Socialist party, said on Monday that if the negotiations revolve exclusively around a referendum and an amnesty, "they will be short and unsuccessful."

Junts’ proposals for Spanish budgets

Albert Batet also outlined five proposals from Junts per Catalunya to Esquerra Republicana regarding negotiating demands over the upcoming Spanish budget vote. 

The Spanish budget has already been agreed between the ruling Socialists and Podemos, but needs a majority in the congress to be passed - something the coalition partners, combined, do not have.

In the Catalan parliament, Batet explained his party’s requests: keeping the extraordinary funds for Covid-19, the co-management of European funds, guarantees of compliance with state investments, defence of the Catalan language in the audiovisual sector, and the transfer of control over the commuter train network.

Commuter trains and police headquarters top Bilateral Commission agenda

In late October or early November, the Bilateral Commission between the Catalan and Spanish governments is also set to resume. 

While the dialogue table was created to discuss the independence and territorial conflict, the Bilateral Commission is a separate meeting point between the two administrations that focuses on more specific issues, such as investment and the transfer of powers.

The group reconvened in August for the first time in three years, and is set to meet again soon, with Catalan officials placing the Rodalies commuter train network and the future of the Via Laeitana Spanish police headquarters building at the top of the agenda. 

On Tuesday, it was announced that the Catalan government’s train operating company, FGC, would take over from the Spanish government’s Renfe in managing the commuter line in the Lleida area

However, the Catalan administration aims to control the entirety of the service lines in Catalonia. 

Also top of the agenda will be the future of the Via Laietana police station. The building is still used by Spanish police and was once a major base for Franco forces, and is a site where tortures took place during the dictatorship

ERC, JxCat and Barcelona en Comú want to convert the building into a space for historical memory, where victims of Francoist repression can be commemorated. 

Presidency minister Laura Vilagrà also wants to gain control of the Maritime Rescue to Catalonia. 

Groups from the Catalan and Spanish governments are close to setting the date and agenda of the next meeting. 

During the first meeting of the Bilateral Commission held in August, it was agreed that the different commissions for various departments such as infrastructure and economy would meet before the end of the year and that a technical working group would be set up to address other transfers.