Talks with Spain aggravate cracks between Catalonia’s ruling parties
Bid to solve independence dispute through dialogue seen as a "step backward"
The latent tensions between Catalonia’s two ruling parties have resurfaced once again following the start of a long-awaited negotiation process with the Spanish government to tackle the independence dispute.
The first meeting in the new round of talks was held in Barcelona on Wednesday between the Catalan and Spanish presidents and some ministers from each side, with both parties agreeing to "favor progress over deadlines" as a means to overcome their stark political differences.
However, the meeting was marked by a notable absence: the representatives of the junior coalition partner in the Catalan government, Junts per Catalunya (JxCat), which was blocked from sending party officials formerly imprisoned for their roles in the failed independence push of 2017, and who were pardoned by Spain last June but are still banned from holding public office.
"We're doing worse than crabs"
Elsa Artadi · JxCat spokesperson
One of the proposed delegates, Jordi Turull, who spent more than 3 years in prison for the crime of sedition alongside eight other pro-independence leaders, believes that JxCat’s absence makes the negotiation table "smaller and wobbly."
The spokesperson of JxCat, Elsa Artadi, even accused Catalan president Pere Aragonès of representing "a minority of the independence movement," and saying that he was not attending on behalf of the government, but of his own party, Esquerra (ERC).
Esquerra became the largest pro-independence party in the parliamentary election held last February, with Aragonès championing the need to engage in talks with Spain in opposition to JxCat’s confrontational approach.
The Catalan and Spanish governments held the first meeting to solve the independence dispute when JxCat was still the leading government back in February 2020, but the coronavirus pandemic and political disagreements impeded any progress.
Commenting on Wednesday’s meetings, in which both governments agreed to give themselves "some time" to negotiate, Artadi described it as a "step backwards" with "poorer results" than in 2019. "We’re doing worse than crabs," she said.
Aragonès: ‘People are tired of political quarrels’
Speaking to the RAC1 radio station on Thursday, Aragonès stood firm in his unwillingness to let formerly imprisoned politicians attend the summit, but conceded that they should play a role "in some way" in the negotiation process.
Aragonès held a meeting on Thursday with vice president Jordi Puigneró, the most senior JxCat official in the government, to discuss the summit with the Spanish government and demand "loyalty."
"I have complete trust in the vice president," said Aragonès, and added that "people are very tired of political quarrels."
Spanish government urges JxCat to join talks
The presidency minister of the Spanish government, Félix Bolaños, urged JxCat to join the round of talks. "I would like for them to join the dialogue and know that this is the only solution," he said on Thursday.
Bolaños also explained that the development of the negotiation table will be conditioned by the next Spanish general election, expected by the end of 2023, when the left-wing coalition led by president Pedro Sánchez risks losing power to right-wing parties, which see the negotiation table as a concession to pro-independence parties and a "treason" to Spain.
"It would be strange that we manage to solve with little time a problem that's been a decade in the making," said Bolaños.