The President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, receives this Tuesday at Moncloa president of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès. This is their first bilateral meeting since the Catalan leader’s inauguration at the end of May, and it will precede the activation of the table between the central Executive and the Generalitat. Beyond the symptoms of “institutional normalization” – a term that Sánchez used to refer to the dinner he shared with the king, Aragonès and Ada Colau on Sunday, within the framework of the Mobile World Congress – it will be in that negotiation forum where will have to articulate a mutually acceptable solution, which could go through an improvement in financing, more self-government for Catalonia and the vote of a new political agreement.
In an interview this Monday on Cadena SER, Sánchez assumed that there will be no agreement on “territorial issues”, since Aragonès plans to demand a referendum on self-determination and amnesty for those sentenced by the trial.
The president replied that the Constitution “is not a dogma”, but that it “marks the territory on which we can dialogue.” In that space there is room for “many things”, with special emphasis in the development of the “reunion agenda”, a document that in February 2020 Sánchez transferred to the then president Torra, and that it contains “many issues that nationalism had raised as unresolved demands.” But what are those demands that the Government is willing to satisfy or, at least, to negotiate with the Generalitat?
In the first place, according to Sánchez, there are unresolved issues regarding “infrastructure and investment”. The so-called “reunion agenda” expressly contemplates more investments in rail matters – with the Mediterranean Corridor or a Rodalies (commuter) plan -, ports – with new accesses to the port of Barcelona – and airports – with 1,500 million for El Prat -, as well as the reform of the regional financing system, the softening of deficit targets and the fulfillment of investment commitments with Catalonia.
In the 2020 General State Budgets, the only ones approved to date by the coalition Executive, Catalonia took the largest item of investments of the central Executive in the autonomies.
The second issue that Sánchez referred to is the aspiration of the Catalans who “they want more self-government, but always within Spain and Europe”. In this sense, the document that the Government offered Torra and that now suggests as a basis for negotiation contemplates promoting the Generalitat-State bilateral commission, opens to negotiate “coordination in foreign action matters” and in “cultural matters” and it even suggests the “decentralization of aid and subsidies”.
The Government also contemplates cede management of 0.7% of personal income tax for social purposes in Catalonia and is open to satisfying demands of a more symbolic nature, such as those related to democratic memory.
Where there will be no agreement is in a self-determination referendum. The Government considers, in the words of Sánchez, that this would amount to posing a “problem” to the public and that “it would demonstrate the inability of politics to reach agreements.”
The president added that he has the “deep conviction” that “we live together” and, asked about the possibility of a consultation agreed with the current legal framework, he replied that “an agreement would be possible in the law” and that “we will have to decide together, the Spanish citizens, what we want Spain to be”.
Government sources admit that for now there is no proposal for the bilateral table But they do aspire to reach an agreement that overcomes the usual division between pro-independence and non-pro-independence supporters and raises levels of popular support similar to those of the Statute of Catalonia, which in 2006 obtained almost 74% support.
The present moment “It is the beginning of a long road where we must all be generous”said Sánchez, who asked “to be humble in terms of objectives” and to take steps “gradually”, because “the important thing” is to sit down “and start working.”
La Moncloa does not need for now when will the negotiation begin in earnest at a bilateral table surrounded by uncertainty – neither its members have been defined nor does there seem to be an obvious point for consensus – but the tone of the meeting that Sánchez and Aragonès will hold this Tuesday will give clues about the environment with which that negotiation will begin.