The last time they saw each other was on October 27, 2017 in the Parliament. After the plenary session, Carles Puigdemont, his Government and other independence leaders met at the Palau de la Generalitat to analyze what steps to take after having declared a symbolic republic. All the councilors were there except for Justice, Carles Mundó, one of those who had warned of the risk of the path taken hours before in the Catalan Chamber, and his boss, Oriol Junqueras. They had been summoned at six in the afternoon and Marta Rovira, upon arrival at the Palau, apologized to the ERC leader stating that she was not feeling well and informed the president that she would replace him for all purposes. In the book ‘I explain myself’ (La Campana) written by the journalist Xavi Xirgo and which includes the version of the then president, that moment is related as follows:
“And the vice president?” Asked Puigdemont. “The vice president will not come. He was not feeling very well,” Rovira replied. “He wasn’t feeling well? Geez. If we were in Parliament a little while ago and he hasn’t said anything. The most important meeting we have to have, the first meeting of the Republic that they asked all the time, and the vice president doesn’t come? “And he won’t even tell me? He left without telling me anything,” he thought. “This one has been scared,” Jordi Turull told him in his ear.
Weeks later it was learned that Junqueras had not appeared at the meeting because he decided to spend that weekend with his family, isolated and keeping minimal and confidential contact with his most direct nucleus in the game. That day ended a relationship that was complicated from the beginning despite initial attempts to try to get along. Complicated personally and politically. Puigdemont left without warning, although he has always claimed that the problem was that his chief of staff, the only one who was aware that he had chosen to go to Brussels, could not notify the councilors, some of whom were waiting for him in Barcelona while others awaited instructions in a house located in Conflent, already on French territory. Junqueras stayed and ended up in jail, a scenario that was clear to him was more than a possibility, as he had recognized months ago in more than one meeting with the Republican leadership, whom he even warned that they should prepare. for when he wasn’t there.
Although both had already commented during the summer what plans each had in mind, their decisions became partisan ammunition. There were attempts to bring positions closer but they did not work. Marta Rovira, from Geneva, acted as a kind of mediator between them, but often failed. The respective books published by Puigdemont and Junqueras, especially the first, more direct and in which he accused the Republican leader of “unfair”, complicated everything quite a bit. Junqueras assures that he has not read the ex-president’s book and publicly, in an interview on TV3 just a few hours after some excerpts from the book had already been published, he downplayed Puigdemont’s accusations and stated that he spoke to him “two or three times a week “. Nobody believed it, but they said it.
In ‘Enemics intims’ (Pòrtic), journalists Oriol March and Joan Serra analyze the relations between Junts and ERC and explain that the first videoconference conversation that Puigdemont and Junqueras had alone, almost three years after 27-O, was to end of June last year. In that talk, in which there is hardly any talk about politics, Puigdemont explains what his life is like in Waterloo while Junqueras is much more sparing when it comes to recounting his hours in jail. According to this same version, the dialogue did not go beyond “a flat exchange of impressions”.
Until then in the encounters online, which began in the summer of 2020, other leaders had always participated. As proof of the complicated relationship between the two politicians, the book also reveals that Puigdemont and Junqueras had written letters with the help of intermediaries, and that some were never delivered because the person in charge of doing so “preferred to avoid greater evils, thinking in the future”.
The expresident has nailed two episodes. One was the visit to the jail that his wife, Marcela Topor, made in January 2019 to the prisoners and in which all were except Junqueras and Raül Romeva. Another is, a few days later, an interview with the ERC leader in ‘Le Figaro’, in which, citing Socrates, Cicero and Seneca, he affirms that he stayed in Catalonia “out of a sense of civic and ethical responsibility.”
Different political strategies
Beyond the personal reproaches, the differences in political strategy are evident. The former president is much more critical than the Republicans with the Pedro Sánchez government. As an example, this Monday, coinciding with the start of the trial of the two mossos who accompanied him when he was arrested in Germany in 2018, he wrote a tweet in which he stated that “the ‘for them’ ordered by the king continues, with the essential complicity of the Government (yes, that of dialogue) “.
After the pardons that have allowed the prisoners to regain their freedom, those from ERC went to Geneva to visit Rovira, and those from Junts to Brussels to see Puigdemont. In the networks, messages began to appear in which from the independence movement they were reproached for the separate meetings. It was already being negotiated how the most anticipated meeting should be, that of the former president and the one who was his vice president. Junqueras preferred it to be in Strasbourg, taking advantage of this week’s plenary session. Puigdemont wanted it to be in Waterloo, where it finally happened. In the ERC call to announce the meeting, they referred to him as the president of the Junts, something that did not like at all, although it was avoided to show the discomfort in public.
As had been stressed by ERC, the objective of the meeting was more personal than political, more to talk about the family than about the negotiations with Sánchez. There was a joint photo, accompanied by the former Republican councilwoman Meritxell Serret, who returned to Spain voluntarily last April and appeared before the Supreme Court; the ex-minister and MEP of Junts, Toni Comín, who was previously signed by Junqueras to enroll in ERC; the ex-minister Raül Romeva, who in prison has become one of the most trusted people in Junqueras; former councilwoman Dolors Bassa; the former president of the Parliament Carme Forcadell; and rapper Valtonyc. What there was not was a joint press conference.
Only the ERC leader appeared to affirm that it had been a personal meeting, in which, as had already been foreseen, they talked about the families and in which there were no reproaches. He assured that the only thing of the political news that they had commented had been the bonds of the Court of Accounts. They ask each of them for almost two million euros. The visit, including lunch and desserts prepared by Puigdemont, lasted about two and a half hours, and ended with the commitment to meet again. Beyond the “pleasant” tone of the meeting, with a hug included, they still have a conversation pending.