José Montilla (Iznájar, 1955) receives La Vanguardia a few days after joining ex-president Carles Puigdemont in a tribute to Pau Casals in Northern Catalonia (southern France).
Seeing you and Carles Puigdemont there together was surprising.
I went there because I was invited and because I think it was part of my institutional obligations. It was an event attended by all the presidents of the Generalitat, except for two, one for obvious health reasons and another for personal reasons.
But the political reading was and is inevitable...
I don't deny it. But the morbidity that Carles Puigdemont's peculiar circumstances and those specific to this moment can bring has no more significance.
As former president of the Generalitat, you don't have to give explanations to anyone, but did you warn that this meeting would take place in Sant Miquel de Cuixà?
I don't usually ask for permission for my activities, nor does anyone ask me to ask for it. We can say that the people who might have an interest in it knew about my presence in this event.
The question is obligatory: how did you see former president Puigdemont?
Like all the people who have had institutional responsibilities in Catalonia: with concern, but I also think with hope. It was a more normal encounter than people think.
From this conversation – all the presidents had lunch together – do you dare to make a prediction about what will happen? You know, the investiture...
I don't think Feijóo will get the votes to be president. Then President Sánchez will try. Will he succeed? Hopefully. Hopefully they end up crossing each other's red lines in the name of the general interest and the governability of the country, which needs to be governed in times of global uncertainty. It will not be easy, the negotiation involves many actors.
In your speech at this event you talked about your federalist proposal. And they whistled at you.
This goes to the post. In an event of these characteristics, with an independence-minded audience, let's not forget, it's normal that there are whistles when you talk about Spain, not to criticize it but, in any case, to say that it has to change. I think you should tell people what you think, not what they want to hear. There were others for that. I wanted to make this appeal to the need for change for those who have a single, centralist vision of Spain, to recognize the other, the plurality. There is no single way of understanding identity. And this is useful for Spain, but also for Catalonia, whose plurality is also forgotten by some.
The PP criticized you for being there.
( River). I agree on an institutional act with Puigdemont and it is a shame, and they try to show that they can get a majority with Junts and this is part of normality. This review has no consistency!
The idea of an amnesty... what do you think?
I think it is necessary to explore all the possibilities of the legal system and the rule of law to find solutions to this contention. To try to sew up the big gap that took place in 2017. There are some lawyers and experts in constitutional law who indicate solutions. Everything must be explored to ensure coexistence.
The question is: amnesty without an ethical response? Without an acknowledgment of mistakes?
The problem with ethics and morality is that it ends up being a personal thing. And there is another problem: "We will do it again". I think even those who say it know they won't do it again. But why does this happen? Because the various electoral calls have not resolved the hegemony within independence. It is only necessary to review the speeches of the event in Cuixà... And this competence will also be given to the negotiation process of the investiture. And it doesn't help, exactly. But we must count on this plurality within the pro-independence formations themselves.
In 2007 you talked about disaffection. Are you still there?
It was long before the Constitutional Court ruling on the Statute. Long before also the absolute majority of the PP and the cuts. But now we're not the same: I don't know if it's reached the ceiling but, obviously, the situation that exists now is not what it was four or five years ago in Catalonia, nor in the Basque Country, let's not forget that.
How do you see Catalonia today?
We are not bad. The economic fabric is solid, although opportunities have been missed. If we are still here after what has happened, how could we be if we had done things right?
Will the companies that left Catalonia in 2017 ever return?
It is early to assess the progress of the companies. Although there are things that are obvious: the decision centers are far from here. The long-term cost will be very high.
Do you fear a decline?
I fear the loss of economic weight and decision-making power. It is lethal and hardly reversible. The public authorities must create the conditions of trust so that companies that can and want to can return, but as long as there is uncertainty I don't think there will be a queue to return. And some won't come back. This is a mistake that sovereignty has not admitted. I would ask those who said that the banks would not go away if they have anything to say now.
However, this perspective masks another piece of evidence: State capitals take everything... The same thing happens all over Europe.
The current policy accelerates the global processes of capital absorption and concentration. In Madrid there has been a clear desire, especially from the mid-1990s, with the first Aznar government, to keep everything. Is it like that. But the government of Catalonia has also helped here in a certain period linked to the process. Not in an intentional way, but the consequence in the end was this.