The President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, has confirmed his presence at the dialogue table that will bring together the Government and the Generalitat next Wednesday in Barcelona, an announcement that comes after several days of uncertainty and that gives ERC a vital oxygen balloon . Sánchez had so far avoided specifying whether he would attend or not, despite the fact that he had defined the rest of his delegation, made up of five ministers and Vice President Yolanda Díaz. For his part, President Pere Aragonès and his team demanded the presence of Sánchez and affirmed that they did not contemplate his not attending, while his members of the Junts increased the pressure.
Republicans have lived a nervous day this Monday before Sánchez confirmed his presence. On the one hand, the Government maintained until the last moment doubts about the final composition of the delegation at the meeting, which in the opinion of the independentists was intended to lower the profile of the meeting. On the other hand, his Junts partners, who have spent the first 100 days in office launching criticism and putting distance from the table, demanded this Monday that Aragonès not attend the meeting if Sánchez ended up standing up.
“We do not contemplate that Sánchez does not attend and at the moment we have no reason to think that he will not come,” they said in the Palau de la Generalitat this Monday afternoon. It is the message that the Aragonès team has repeated poignantly in recent weeks, faced with the realization that neither the date, nor the composition, nor the agenda had just been closed at the table. And despite everything, Aragonès continued to assure that he would participate, as a formula to demand that Sánchez travel to Barcelona. “We consider it important that both presidents go, they pointed out at the Palau.
However, sources from the Presidency team recognized with small mouths that, if Sánchez’s absence was confirmed, the expected scenario would be different, so they would think again if it made sense for Aragonès to attend or not in person. Failure to do so could mean leaving the representation in the hands of Jordi Puigneró, leader of Junts, something that for ERC was a terrible option, both for giving prominence to the rival and for leaving his most staunch critics at the front of the table. But that Aragonès attended without Sánchez broke the institutional symmetry that they have always wanted to give the forum.
Finally, ERC has seen its expectations fulfilled after Sánchez’s announcement, which highlights the Government’s commitment to the dialogue process and corners Junts. As announced by Sánchez and confirmed by sources from the Palau de la Generalitat, the meeting will begin with a meeting between the presidents, which will then be followed by face-to-face meetings between the delegations. The first meeting between the heads of government “will serve to establish the objectives and methodology of the table for the resolution of the political conflict, which will meet later,” explained the Government.
The feeling in ERC in recent days, since the Diada demonstration last Saturday and until this Monday, was to be under maximum pressure. On both sides, PSOE and Junts, they saw an attempt to lower the political profile of the meeting in Barcelona. However, the slogan that extended both in the party and in the Presidency of the Generalitat was not only to endure, but to redouble the commitment to the dialogue table and underline its importance as much as possible. To begin with, since last week all the positions aligned with ERC made an effort to refer to the forum as a “negotiating table” and not a “dialogue table.” Aragonès also described the negotiation last Friday as a milestone that “Catalonia had never achieved before.”
This Monday the party’s message continued to be to give the meeting in Barcelona the highest possible profile. “We are beginning a very important week,” said the Republican spokeswoman, Marta Vilalta, who assured that ERC is “in the obligation to lead” this dialogue and to guarantee that both parties sit at the table. “A leadership of the negotiation process that will ensure that we have the endorsement and complicity of more and more people,” Vilalta remarked, speaking of internal support from Catalan citizens but also from an international level. The spokeswoman has come to assure that “the international community awaits this negotiation.”
ERC’s commitment to the negotiating table has increased every time its partners have boycotted it or that the central government has shown that its interest in the format had more to do with maintaining the support of the Republicans than with its own conviction. Republicans, however, have made this table their main flag in this legislature, to the point that they have managed to identify with it. In this way, they have linked their political future to the good progress of the negotiations and, rebound, also to not completely breaking the alliance with the Government in Congress.
Last week Aragonès already took care of putting distance between the institutional clash produced by the expansion of El Prat and the rest of the “folders”, as he named them. He was referring to the negotiating table, as the first milestone, but he also spoke explicitly of the General State Budgets. In the opinion of the president, the clashes should not introduce interference in these two issues, negotiation at the dialogue table and the majority of the investiture in Congress, because for ERC both are strategic.
But this need on the part of ERC to preserve what it considers to be its main conquests is also ammunition for its Junts partners, who have made the dialogue table the symbol of the division of strategies. This Monday, in addition to demanding that Aragonès condition his presence at the table, Junts have avoided any responsibility for a possible failure of the dialogue space. “This table comes from an agreement for the investiture of Pedro Sánchez, which was done behind the back and in secret to the independence movement and therefore who has the responsibility of making it work is ERC and the PSOE,” said spokeswoman Elsa Artadi. One more point of pressure for a negotiation that has already had its first crisis before being born.