Anyone who has followed the Catalan political news knows that, unlike what happens in other administrations, that budgets are approved each year is by no means assured in the Generalitat. In the last five years, only two economic projects have been approved and the Minister of Economy has had to engage in long and arduous negotiations to get them through. But this summer the climate has changed and at least two groups seem to be willing to negotiate budgets for 2022. The CUP is taken for granted, as it is considered a preferred partner after having facilitated the inauguration of Pere Aragonès. But in a script twist, the PSC has also been open to talking about the accounts. An initiative that has dislodged the Government’s partner scheme.
The Socialists had already been advancing that this legislature would maintain a more open and dialogical position to agreements with the Executive of Pere Aragonès, in line with the new political moment in Catalonia. But the head of the opposition and leader of the PSC specified this Tuesday in an interview on Catalunya Ràdio that this will even involves negotiating the most important law of the year. “Catalonia needs budgets and the PSC can be given the principle of responsibility,” said Salvador Illa. “From here, I do not want to interfere in anything,” he stressed, after ensuring that, in the majority of the investiture, made up solely of the pro-independence parties, there were “contradictions.”
Illa’s offer comes after a few summer weeks in which the CUP has not stopped launching messages of disgust regarding the Government’s performance. The anti-capitalists were belligerent last July with the agreement reached between the Generalitat and the central government for the expansion of the El Prat airport, matters to which they joined the candidacy to celebrate the 2030 Winter Olympics at the headquarters of “Barcelona -Pirineos “and the injection of 19 million to the Circuit de Catalunya. The training did not like anything either that the Minister of Health, Josep Maria Argimon, disassociated himself from the agreement to deprivatize 061 and health transport in an interview with elDiario.es
The distance between the Government and its main partners, at least on paper, is clear. And the offer of the Socialists to form an alternative majority that allows the accounts to be approved has further fueled the debate on the pacts of the pro-independence parties and the Government. Even more so when the skein of agreements woven by Aragonès to achieve his investiture includes a pact between ERC and the CUP, but in which the Junts is not, and an agreement between the two parties of the Government that the anti-capitalists have not signed. A triangle of commitments that has already been a source of internal controversy and to which we must add that Junts is a party where divergent currents and free verses are never missed.
Aragonès himself has come out twice throughout this month of August to try to quell a debate that for the moment he wants to avoid. “We want to carry out the budgets with the partners of the investiture: ERC, Junts and CUP,” said the president last weekend in an interview with the ACN agency. In his opinion, a pact with the PSC would be “incoherent” with the government agreement, with the pact with the CUP and with the direction that he wishes to confer on this beginning of the legislature. A couple of weeks earlier, Aragonès had called not to rush the anti-capitalists and to allow a calm negotiation in which the parties could analyze and discuss the items and funds.
The person in charge of seducing the CUP is Jaume Giró, an Economy Minister who came directly from private companies and with a background in La Caixa whose profile is one of the furthest from the anti-capitalists. Giró has been laying the foundations of the law since last June and has already had informal contacts with the anti-capitalists. Despite the obstacles, the CUP does not plan to renounce the entry negotiation, but it does enforce its conditions, not only with respect to the accounts but also in the direction of the legislature. After a summer of disagreements in the party, they consider that this negotiation is the right time to put all the meat on the grill and check whether the Government as a whole is or is not willing to carry out the commitments that ERC signed last March.
Although the CUP continues to be the priority partner, the truth is that the two parties of the Catalan Executive have shown their willingness to reach agreements with parties that are not pro-independence. Last year the binomial formed by Quim Torra and Pere Aragonès already managed to bring the Comuns closer to their positions to approve the Catalan accounts and, as happened in the last year, the Republicans have once again placed themselves in the best position to approve the State’s general budgets.
Nor has Vice President Jordi Puigneró been shy about signing the agreement for the expansion of El Prat with the Socialist Minister of Transport, Raquel Sánchez. In Junts those who believe that, once a two-year extension has been accepted to dialogue with the Government at the bilateral negotiation table, the time has come to agree unscrupulously in Madrid and Barcelona on issues of interest. This was, for example, the thesis that last week he defended in El Nacional Professor Agustí Colomines, a man who considers himself close to those of Carles Puigdemont.
The PSC prepares to leave the Iceta era behind
The Socialists have seen in the differences in the pro-independence bloc a good opportunity to finish breaking the bloc policy installed in the Parliament since the beginning of the procés. With an ERC that has made merits to be considered a (almost always) reliable ally in Madrid, the Socialists now see a possible support for the accounts as a gesture with more advantages than disadvantages. The PSC is thus repositioning itself for a new parliamentary stage in Catalonia, which it will complete by consolidating the changes in its scorecard. As confirmed by Illa, the Catalan socialists will hold an extraordinary congress this fall to make official the replacement of Miquel Iceta as first secretary of the formation.
Although the process must be validated and started by the Party Executive next week, the Catalan conclave will surely not be held before the PSOE federal congress, set for October 15, 16 and 17 in Valencia. The objective of this step is to complete the quiet transition opened when Illa topped the electoral list last February and say goodbye to the era of Miquel Iceta, considered crucial for the historic triumph obtained in the last regional elections. But, no matter how well considered the Minister of Culture and Sports, Illa is not Iceta and after definitively taking the reins of the socialist ship, she wants to make her mark.
In the immediate term, a new Executive must leave the congress, including the person who will replace Illa himself as organizational secretary. In the medium term, the goal of the new leader is to promote a generational change in the Socialist Party with an eye on the municipal elections of May 2023, for which there are just over 20 months. After the victory by votes in the Parliament, the PSC is able to sweep the local elections, with special interest in Barcelona, where until 2011 they always governed and where, to obtain the mayor’s office, would sign the return of the PSC to its maximum quotas of power.