Pere Aragonès (Pineda de Mar, 1982) received La Vanguardia yesterday afternoon in his office with a gentle smile and as if the storm of recent days was not with him. He does not want to speculate yet on whether Esquerra is in a position to govern alone and is still waiting for Junts to send him a proposal to find a solution to the crisis. "Junts has the problem" is the most heard phrase these days in the Republican ranks. With this interview, La Vanguardia closes the cycle of dialogues on the fifth anniversary of 1-O held with other presidents of the Generalitat such as José Montilla, Artur Mas and Joaquim Torra. Jordi Pujol and Pasqual Maragall have not been able to participate for health reasons and Carles Puigdemont because he declined the invitation.
Five years after 1-O, where are we and where is the independence movement?
Five years ago Catalonia took one of the most extraordinary steps forward in history. It is a day full of hope. Also with uncertainties about what level the announced repression of the State would reach, but above all it should serve as learning. Some lessons that show that in Catalonia there is a majority that claims the right to decide its future in a referendum. The second learning is that although there was a vote and there was a very high turnout, subsequent events did not allow the referendum result to be implemented, both for internal reasons and for international recognition. Therefore, the path to independence must be how the result becomes effective and I believe that a procedure in which the two parties accept the result and can be supported by the international community is essential. That is why I have proposed the clarity agreement to resolve among all to agree democratically on the political relationship between Catalonia and Spain.
The 1-O referendum was not agreed upon. What interpretation do you make of 1-O? Do you think that there is a democratic mandate or on the contrary is it just a symbolic act that helped to expand the independence movement?
If 1-O was not an agreed referendum, it was not due to a lack of will on the part of Catalonia. Carles Puigdemont appealed to the State for a dialogue to agree on the terms of the referendum. Now the circumstances have changed. We are in a negotiation process that is very far away on this issue, but there is a willingness to talk. If it was not agreed by the other party, it was because of the inept and terrible management in democratic and political terms of Mariano Rajoy. The 1-O is a legitimate referendum, the result of which could not be implemented and five years later it is necessary that we recount ourselves in a referendum agreed with the State.
He will recognize that the independence movement today is much more divided than five years ago
There was a very clear goal. It was a moment of maximum unity. There are diverse perspectives and diverse analyses. For me, if Catalonia wants to be an independent state and I am president, it has to be through an effective and applicable procedure. Let the will of Catalonia be seen, accepted by both parties, those of yes and those of no. Those who want to remain in Spain and those of us who want an independent state.
In independence there are two speeds: the parties that want to apply independence and then some like ERC that have a more pragmatic and long-term vision. And what happens if there is no progress?
Catalonia must never get up from a political negotiation. You should never give up on an agreed solution. I will not stand up, in any case it will be the government, the current one or one that will come in the future, who will say that this dialogue does not take place. Wherever I can defend a referendum on independence or defend an end to repression, I will make my voice heard. Now we have an initial negotiation process. Five years ago we had the Civil Guard and the National Police entering schools and attacking all voters. Today there is a negotiation process in which the State has recognized the existence of a political conflict, makes a commitment to remove it from the courts and recognizes that there are two parties, which are legitimate and it will be necessary to find a point of agreement ratified by the citizens . We have resumed the negotiation after a very complicated moment of crisis in relations with the government due to the espionage of politicians and professionals.
The negotiation that goes very slow
We have reached three relevant agreements. The first is the methodology of the negotiation with the commitment of two meetings of the negotiating table this 2022, the first has already been held. The second is an agreement that supposes the recognition of the status of the Catalan language, and finally the third to advance in the dejudicialization with international standards. We have to take advantage of this opportunity before reaching the end of the year.
As expressed, it seems that you are satisfied with the pace of the dialogue table
I have wanted independence for years and I would like everything to move faster. My obligation is also to highlight the progress that has been made.
What would you say to the Catalans who are not in favor of independence?
That they have every right to be able to defend their option in a referendum. In order for the result to be accepted by all parties, whether they are in favor of independence or in favor of continuing in Spain, it is best that we agree on the procedures. Today it is evident that Catalonia is not part of the Spanish state of its own free will. For this reason, those who want to continue being part of Spain, which is a legitimate position and all citizens must have the same rights, I am offering a path so that everyone can defend their option. The day we reach an agreement, because sooner or later we will reach an agreement, it will start from these terms. I will work to make it soon.
Do you think that Pedro Sánchez has a real will to reach this agreement or is he letting himself be carried away by partisan strategy because he needs the support of the ERC?
This must be answered by him. What I know is that I have to take advantage of opportunities and if there is an opportunity to influence the formation of majorities in Congress, it should be to put on the table the issues that concern us: social and economic emergencies, but also structural ones, such as the political relationship between Catalonia and Spain.
In this negotiation with the central government, do you feel comfortable having Junts as traveling companions, who criticize your roadmap, or would you prefer to do it alone?
I have been discussing this strategy for a long time and have said that if someone disagrees and thinks it is flawed or thinks it is a mistake, please present me with an alternative. Is the trading strategy good or bad? I think it's good, but it depends on compared to what. Now there is no detailed alternative strategy as such, but there is, on the other hand, in favor of negotiation, with instruments such as a dialogue table, with objectives, with interlocutors, with comparable references at an international level. To the extent that our actions must be measured by the result they have, I believe that abandoning the negotiation strategy and doing nothing without having any alternative would be irresponsible. It is legitimate to criticize it but to present an alternative.
I didn't ask him so much about the alternative, but about whether he feels comfortable carrying out this negotiation with Junts, who reproaches him every day for doing it wrong. I repeat, wouldn't it be better to do it alone?
The Government plan that we have approved clearly states, and it says so in its first point, that it is committed to a resolution of the political conflict through negotiations between governments in which the Government of Catalonia will go to defend the referendum and the amnesty. And that's the deal. I think that everyone should reflect and in this case Junts should reflect on whether they want to continue being part of the Government or not. And they must make a decision and they must make it as quickly as possible, because in the institutions, apart from dealing with an issue like this that is extremely important and fundamental for the governance of the country and also for the country's well-being expectations, there are many other issues of the day by day they can't wait. Junts must decide if they are Government or opposition. Many times I have had the feeling that you want to be both at the same time and that is not possible.
Well, after the Junts executive meeting it was announced that a proposal would be made to try to overcome the crisis. Have they already passed it?
The night before last I could see that it was announced that they would send me a proposal, but it did not arrive until late in the afternoon. It is evident that it is designed not to reach any agreement. Therefore, if they have a serious proposal, with the will to agree, as I have always said, we will value it.
If this drags on, do you consider a gesture of authority so that Junts leaves the Government?
If I cannot be accused of something, it is of not making decisions. I have taken them to carry out the negotiation process, for the budgets and, faced with an unprecedented situation such as requesting a motion of confidence from a party that is in the Government, I have also taken them to make it clear that it is essential that the parties that support the government give it 100%. You cannot have one foot in the government and the other in the opposition. I summon Junts to make a decision as quickly as possible.
I insist, what if they don't?
I always reserve the possibility of making decisions, but we are not in that scenario. It is not about me making decisions that correspond to Junts. I am not a member or leader of Junts. For their own good as a party, and for the good of the Government and citizens, they must clarify this situation as quickly as possible. I already know that the president is always the last person in charge and ultimately I will be the one who will make decisions.
Is ERC ready to govern alone?
Right now we are not in these circumstances. I do not want to advance events because it does not contribute to stability.
But do you see yourself capable?
My priority is to govern with this coalition until February 2025 and that is what I am focused on.
Are you willing to wait for the consultation of the Junts militancy on October 6 and 7?
These days we have seen ultimatums and deadlines disappear. I have already expressed to my interlocutors from Junts that this cannot be prolonged because it damages the institutions.
The reality is that this can take its toll. People don't understand how this situation goes on for so long.
I understand the feeling that part of the citizenry may have, but there are decisions that do not depend on me. If they get too long, I'll decide what's necessary.
Do you have ministers from Junts so that they stay in the Government even if the party decides to leave?
We are not in that situation and I refer to what I said in the general policy debate, when I made a positive assessment of the work of all the departments.
From Junts they maintain that the government agreement has not been fulfilled. Are you willing to make any concessions?
The government agreement must be fulfilled and must be done in its entirety. Junts refers to the breach of three points of that agreement and I do not share it.
Is it possible to make an approach to continue the coalition as if nothing had happened? Is that credible for Catalan society?
What doesn't make sense is that we pretend that nothing has happened and that in a short time Junts will have doubts about whether to continue inside or not. What I ask is that a decision be made and that it be final. I want both parties committed to the government. I think that the three points that Junts claims are being fulfilled, obviously there is always room for improvement. But for many months Junts has been considering carrying out an audit that was not foreseen in the agreement, a consultation that was not foreseen, a question of trust that was not foreseen... They have to make a decision. And if they don't, I'll take it. I have shown that when decisions have to be made, even if they are painful, such as the dismissal of the vice president (Jordi Puigneró), I take them without fear because I am clear about where to go. I am clear that rhetoric must be accompanied by facts.