The price of an agreement

The focus is on Carles Puigdemont's demands.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
16 September 2023 Saturday 10:21
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The price of an agreement

The focus is on Carles Puigdemont's demands. He is the one who has the upper hand in deciding whether or not to investigate Pedro Sánchez. The opposition assumes that the socialist will give in to all of his demands, given that he is already studying the viability of an amnesty for pro-independence defendants. But Sánchez also has limits when it comes to agreeing with Puigdemont and the renunciation of unilateralism is going to become one of the main obstacles to reaching an agreement.

During the process there was a dissociation between what the independence leaders maintained in public and in private. It was difficult for ERC to get rid of the epic rhetoric of those years, to the point of not daring to demand pardons for a long time for fear of being accused of lacking independence ambition. If the pragmatic turn was difficult with ERC, it is even more so with Puigdemont. Can Sánchez give in to the demand for an amnesty without the former president making it clear that what happened in 2017 will not be repeated?

The “reconciliation” that Moncloa advocates, for it to be such, must concern both parties. Sánchez will propose a political pact for reconciliation that guarantees that the independence movement will adhere to legality, while Puigdemont pursues a “historic agreement” based on a referendum that includes the option of independence. The PNV also proposes a territorial pact based on a reinterpretation of the Constitution. (The trip of the Peneuvistas Andoni Ortuzar and Joseba Aurrekoetxea to Waterloo is not minor. The PNV ceased the relationship with Puigdemont in 2017 and recovers it now that it shows its intention to participate in Spanish politics).

The pardons were accepted by society because the majority considered the four years in prison that the independence leaders, led by Oriol Junqueras, were sufficient. But Puigdemont provokes more animosity due to her belligerence against Spain (this week she said that “she is rotten”) and would not have even gone through a trial. An amnesty will also be read as an amendment to the entire judiciary.

For this reason, Sánchez needs guarantees that Junts will contribute to the detente of the Catalan conflict. Only then will the PSOE have any option to recover from the cost of the investiture. And Junts does not contribute to that scenario for now.

Puigdemont has issued contradictory signals. His lawyer and trusted person, Gonzalo Boye, tweeted in August against “political purism” and stressed that “construction must be attached to reality and the materials available at all times.” The former president, showing off his rhetorical ability, gave a conference that could satisfy both the Moncloa and his most radical followers. He avoided including self-determination as a condition for the investiture and alluded to the constitutional framework, but insisted on unilaterality if there is no referendum at the end of the legislature. But this week he has been more visceral when reacting to the condemnation of former Interior Minister Miquel Buch for having provided him with an escort in Belgium: “The king's orders to go after all of us remain intact. If you have not understood why we will never renounce unilaterality and independence, and why we distrust the Spanish State, here is one of the many that we have accumulated."

With demonstrations like this, Sánchez is going to have a lot of problems convincing his people and explaining a possible agreement. What is worrying for him is not the rejection of the PP nor Aznar's thick admonitions about the breakup of Spain, but what he himself and the PSOE have defended: that there would be no amnesty and that Puigdemont would only return if he appeared before justice. Getting Junts to assume the burden of renouncing maximalist postulates is not going to be easy. Every agreement has a price. For both parties.