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Socialists’ Illa calls for pardons for jailed independence leaders to open ‘sincere’ dialogue

The head of the opposition in the Catalan parliament is against independence but wants to see “decisive step” taken


09 June 2021 10:00 AM


ACN | Barcelona

Salvador Illa, head of the Catalan Socialist party, says he wants to see the “decisive step” taken of pardons given to the independence leaders jailed for their roles in the 2017 push to split from Spain in order to open “sincere” dialogue on the political conflict. 

In an interview with TV3 on Tuesday night, Illa also mentioned that Oriol Junqueras' recent article, which hinted at welcoming a potential pardon, was "a step in the right direction." Up until then, jailed independence leaders had only ever backed a full amnesty law. 

Illa stated that he can understand why people on both sides of the conflict "are reluctant," but he believes it’s “necessary” while not being easy. 

The head of the opposition in the Catalan parliament also admitted that after the Supreme Court report siding against pardons, the measure may not be "total". Media reports have suggested the pardons offered could be partial and reversible.

Also, he considers right-wing protests called for June 13 against the move as “wrong.” 

Aragonès-Sánchez prior to pardons

The Spanish government expects that the leaders of the Catalan and Spanish administrations will meet prior to the resolution of the pardons for the jailed independence leaders. 

Pedro Sánchez is due to meet with the Andalusian leader, Juanma Moreno, on Thursday, June 17, and it is expected that he will then meet with Pere Aragonès after this date. 

Sources justify these weeks of delay in resolving the pardon requests with the need to make a legal argument that hinders appeals and even a possible repeal of the decision by the Supreme Court. “Quality must prevail over haste,” they point out.

They also welcomed the "gesture" of Oriol Junqueras' letter, which, they admit, "has a cost" politically for him. They are grateful for the ERC party president’s shift in attitude.

The move comes at the same time that the Spanish government spokesperson, María Jesús Montero, appealed to citizens who have "reservations" about pardons and dialogue.

The Spanish administration is convinced that "doing nothing has a higher cost than offering pardons" and therefore wants to appeal to all sides to help stabilize the country in a time of economic recovery with the arrival of European funds.

Giving up the unilateral approach?

One of the most controversial bits of Junqueras' recent article was the suggestion that a unilateral referendum like the one held in 2017 is not "viable or desirable", opting instead for a vote recognized by Spain.

Pro-independence allies urged Junqueras and the Esquerra party to clarify their stance. "If Spain has never renounced and will never renounce acting unilaterally, I, therefore, don't see why we should not do the same," said Catalan vice president Jordi Puigneró, the highest-ranking government official of the JxCat party.

Junqueras' remarks have also enraged right-wing unionist parties, who fear Pedro Sánchez might eventually concede an agreed referendum.

"What we're looking at is very worrying. There is an attempt to go from an illegal, unilateral referendum, to one agreed with you that is beyond the constitution," said Cuca Gamarra, an MP for the People's Party in the Spanish Congress.


Socialists launch shadow cabinet

The Socialist party, who won the most votes in the last election but had no options to form a coalition government to rule in Catalonia, have set up a shadow cabinet to mimic what they would do in power as well as offer contributions to solving issues of public interest.  

The “alternative government” consists of a president, 15 alternate ministers, two commissioners and a general secretary.

Inspired by how Pasqual Maragall ran the Socialist party in 2000, before eventually becoming president in 2003, Salvador Illa wants to monitor the actions of the government of Pere Aragonès and provide political proposals. The shadow cabinet will meet on Fridays every 15 days. 

Top of the list of priorities for the shadow government will be the expansion of Barcelona airport, as well as calling for dialogue among all Catalan political forces.

The Socialists hope to contribute to the advancement of the country from their position in the opposition. Thus, they will offer a "critical follow-up" to the executive of ERC and Junts with proposals for actions and public policies and offer an outstretched hand and collaboration for issues of general interest. 

The group offers “maximum availability” to reach major agreements, and the parliamentary group has already made contact this week to negotiate new budgets - although the ERC administration has ruled out making new accounts for 2021, and will instead focus on 2022.


  • Leader of the Catalan Socialists and head of the opposition in the Catalan parliament, Salvador Illa (image from Catalan Socialists)

  • Leader of the Catalan Socialists and head of the opposition in the Catalan parliament, Salvador Illa (image from Catalan Socialists)