Sánchez and Aragonès return to dialogue to close the stage of mistrust after ‘Pegasus’

The President of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sánchez, will receive this Friday the President of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, in Moncloa in a visit with high political significance. And in the Generalitat they hope that also with the same level of content. The foreseeable handshake at the gate of Moncloa between the two leaders will mean a photograph that certifies the beginning of the thaw of relations frozen after various episodes of high political tension, such as the one caused by political espionage to the independence movement of the pegasus case or the discussion on the investment in infrastructures of the State Government in Catalonia.

Sánchez and Aragonès will certify with the meeting this Friday, not only the restoration of relations between governments, but also the return to the dialogue table on the conflict between Catalonia and the State. Of course, in an incipient way, step by step, according to the Government of the Generalitat. But with a goal shared by both parties: “close tangible agreements that can be presented to society”. This is confirmed by sources from the presidency of the Generalitat and this was also stated by Pedro Sánchez during the debate on the state of the nation.

Sources from the two governments recall that these meetings between presidents do not have an agenda and that they are open to different topics. But as far as you know Publicthe central issues planned will deal with the dejudicialization of Catalan politics, the new start-up of the dialogue and negotiation table that Aragonès proposes in the line of specifying a roadmap for the “democratic solution of the conflict”, and the investments of
State government in Catalonia.

A “very important” meeting

From Moncloa they describe this Friday’s meeting as “very important” and one more step in the normalization of bilateral relations. “It is one more episode in the commitment to dialogue and to looking for meeting points that have already been taking place during the legislature,” state government sources point out to Public.

Vilalta: “The credit has run out, now we need facts”

For its part, in the Palau de la Generalitat there is an air of satisfaction contained by the meeting and the idea is transmitted that “it will not be a simple photo, there will be content and the important one”. But suspicion also remains, and the same sources close to Aragonès warn that “recover mutual trust and advance in the resolution of the conflict will depend on the willingness of the Spanish Government to reach agreements
concrete”. Esquerra’s assistant general secretary, Marta Vilalta, makes it clear: “The credit has run out, now we need facts”.

In the Government of Sánchez they recognize “the pothole” produced in recent months after the crisis caused by the pegasus case. But the feeling is that that has already been overcome with the “willingness to dialogue” shown “by both parties”. The real turning point, according to the state Executive, came last week after the meeting between Felix Bolanos Y Laura Vilagra. “That agreed document laid important foundations,” they say from Moncloa, in
reference to the agreement that lays the foundations for the functioning of the dialogue table from now on.

The Bolaños-Vilagrà turning point

A turning point that the Government of the Generalitat recognizes. Sources familiar with the meetings between Vilagrà and Bolaños highlight good working environmentjo that has been generated in the last two meetings between the Minister of the Presidency and the Minister of Presidency. Very different from the tense meeting that the two interlocutors had in Barcelona just after they met on pegasus case. “There has been a change“, they recognize in the Generalitat.

The same sources of the presidency of the Generalitat indicate that “a lot of good work has been done in the two meetings and also in the days before them” and they assure that “the meeting between presidents has been possible because of that work and it comes with content”. Of course, all the sources consulted are very cautious in revealing specific details of the work between Bolaños and Vilagrà: In the Generalitat they also value the document agreed upon a week ago.

For their part, in Moncloa they emphasize that “now it is about talking, continuing to bet and working on a medium and long-term horizon”. In this sense, they reiterate that shared objectives are not achieved in a day. “You have to get to work and talk until you reach a midpoint between the positions of both,” they add. The objective is to consolidate coexistence in Catalonia and guarantee that what happened in 2017 does not happen again, with the PP in the Government and in part “as a consequence of its policies and attitude”.

Three meetings in July and now there are two

Pedro Sánchez and Pere Aragonès are not expected to set a date for the restart of the dialogue table. And the sources consulted rule it out. But from the Generalitat they are not closed to the fact that there may be a first meeting before the holidays. As you have been able to find out Public of sources from the Catalan presidency, Bolaños and Vilagrà proposed a work plan for the month of July a few weeks ago with three meetings: the one carried out by the minister and the minister a week ago, this Friday between the two presidents, and a third for the dialogue table. At the moment it is being fulfilled timing fixed and therefore a meeting of the table at the end of the month and even at the beginning of August would not be ruled out.

Of course, the Esquerra sources consulted —who admit this planning— are very blunt: “As long as there is an agreement on the table on some relevant point.” The two parties have already put issues on the table on which agreements can be reached and work continues intensely. One of them could be the one related to the defense of Catalan, as advanced Public exclusively, information that was later confirmed by the two governments.

Montero: “I believe and hope that during the meeting there will be a firm commitment to resume meetings of the dialogue table”

In the event of not being able to close any agreement now, the resumption of the table would be postponed to September, one year after the only meeting held so far during the Aragonès presidency, at the Palau de la Generalitat. The goal set by Bolaños and Vilagrà is to hold between two and three board meetings before the end of the year, according to those same sources.

In any case, from Moncloa it is expected that at least a firm commitment will emerge that the dialogue table will resume soon. “I believe and I hope that during the meeting there will be a firm commitment to resume meetings of the dialogue table,” said the Minister of Finance, María Jesús Montero, in a TV3 interview on Thursday.

The crime of sedition and dejudialization

The dejudicialization of the conflict, that is to say of Catalan politics, is one of the relevant objectives proposed by the Generalitat and also one of the mantras that the Sánchez Government repeats when speaking of Catalonia. In Moncloa they emphasize that during this legislature conflicts of jurisdiction have been resolved through dialogue and without having to resort to the courts.

Meanwhile, in the Palau de la Generalitat they warn of the need to act in this regard in the face of the harsh judicial calendar that still remains to be executed in reference to the organization of the referendum on October 1, 2017. Cases that affect hundreds of people, including , numerous pro-independence leaders, including a minister and a minister, Roger Torrent and Natalia Garriga, of the Govern de Aragonès, both from Esquerra. Something that in ERC
they consider “a minefield that must be deactivated or it will destroy the advances we can make”. Not to mention the situation of the pro-independence leaders who are abroad persecuted by Spanish justice, with former president Carles Puigdemont and the general secretary of the ERC, Marta Rovira, at the head.

At this point, it is very likely that in the meeting between Sánchez and Aragonès, the possible modification of the crimes of rebellion and sedition in the Penal Code will be discussed. In Esquerra they assure that their commitment to dejudialization is clear: “It’s called amnesty“. But they open up to talk about the modification of the Penal Code as a palliative measure. At the moment it does not seem that this melon is ripe due to the discrepancies between ERC -which would like to suppress the two
crimes- and the PSOE that proposes a sentence reduction comparable to other European countries, but maintaining them.

Investment Discrepancies

The last outstanding topic to be discussed between Sánchez and Aragonès is that of the
infrastructures. With two diametrically opposed perspectives. Between the
flagrant breaches denounced by the Generalitat in the execution of the State budget and the investment effort that the State Government is making in Catalonia.

From Moncloa the investments made in Catalonia are valued. In fact, Sánchez used many minutes of his intervention this week in the debate on the state of the nation to speak about this in the Congress of Deputies. Some examples highlighted by the president were that in the last four years, Catalonia has received 37.6% more investments than with the PP government. Or that in the 2022 budgets, Catalonia
will have the highest payments on account in the entire historical series: 21,056 million euros6.8% more than in 2021.

Catalonia has received 37.6% more investments than with the PP Government

For its part, the Government is outraged by the low level of execution of the general budgets in everything related to Catalonia, which in 2021 stood at 36% while in the Community of Madrid exceeded 180%. The Government calls for an end to the “historic infrastructure deficit” that the Spanish Government maintains in Catalonia and cites the disastrous operation of the Cercanías railway network as an example.

The two presidents will also speak of all these conflicting figures. Agreements may be reached on some specific investor aspects, but Aragonès will request control mechanisms for the execution of the agreement and guarantees of compliance. One more symptom that the mistrust between the parties is high and that it will take more than a meeting between the presidents and promises in the air, or on paper, to resume the pulse of a relationship
between Moncloa and the Palau de la Generalitat, which is at a standstill.

And that has its derivative in the Congress of Deputies with a partner of the majority of the investiture as ERC very stressed. As reflected in the sour tone of its leader, Gabriel Rufián, in the debate on the state of the nation. Showing the deep discomfort that still exists with the Sánchez government on the part of the Republicans just three days before the summit between presidents.


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