Sánchez will ultimately give us independence referendum, Catalan President says

Sánchez will ultimately give us independence referendum, Catalan President says | INFBusiness.com

Despite Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s attempts to tame Catalonia’s independence movement, its President Pere Aragonès told Euractiv that his ultimate goal is still for the Socialists to yield and hold a self-determination referendum.

Since the Spanish elections in July, the Catalan nationalists have held the upper hand in relationships with Madrid, as Sánchez needs their support to stay in power.

After intense negotiations, Spain is now edging closer to approving a controversial amnesty law that will pardon all those involved in the illegal secessionist attempt in 2017 – which shook up the country and dominated the political agenda for years.

But the Catalan President has not forgotten the ultimate objective of independence, he told Euractiv in an interview. Moreover, he is prepared to use his bargaining power to push the Socialists into allowing a self-determination referendum – despite Sánchez having repeatedly said that a referendum is off the table.

“We were told that amnesty was impossible and now it is possible. We are now being told that the referendum is impossible,” he said, adding: “We will put the political force and the electoral force at the service of this objective, we will end up making it possible.”

If negotiations with Socialists stall, Aragonès is ready to use his party’s seven MPs, needed by the Socialists, “as an incentive to move forward the negotiations”.

“This gives us a capacity for influence (…) and I think this is the way to make progress,” he added.

According to Aragones, the amnesty law is only a first step to restarting dialogue with Madrid “to be able to open a second phase of negotiation”, he added.

The amnesty comes as part of a series of actions by the Spanish government to normalise relations with Catalonia, which, Sánchez claims, have appeased Catalonia’s longing for independence.

“We have opted for the total reunion between Catalonia and the rest of Spain,”  Sánchez said after agreeing to a series of concessions from the government to Catalonia in a meeting with Aragonès.

But the separatist sentiment is still high in the region, as secessionist parties are currently polling at second and third place, together reaching a tight majority.

A ‘responsible’ partner

Aragonès is the President of Catalonia and leader of the left-wing independence party (ERC), while current MEP and former President Carles Puigdemont, widely known in Brussels, leads the other main independence faction, the liberal party Junts.

Together, they hold the keys – or MPs – for Sánchez to stay in power.

While Junts and its leader Puigemont have used direct confrontation to pressure the Spanish government into giving concessions, Aragonès said that his party, ERC, prefers the way of long-term dialogue, portraying himself as the Socialists’s reliable partner in Catalonia.

While on Tuesday (27 February) ERC approved the Catalan budget in the regional Parliament with the support of the regional socialist party, last week Junts kickstarted a motion for a unilateral declaration of independence in the Catalan Parliament – to which Aragonès’ ERC abstained.

Aragonès said that the way forward, instead, is a political negotiation with the Spanish government “so that the solution to this conflict ends up being a vote by the citizens of Catalonia”.

“We are at a very important moment right now, which will determine the course possibilities of this negotiating dynamic in the coming years,” he said.

United front against accusations of Russian interference

At the beginning of February, the European Parliament approved a resolution calling on Spanish judicial authorities to investigate the alleged relations between Catalonia’s independence movement and Russia.

While there is an open investigation in Spain, the European Parliament has insisted several times on investigating the possible links between the former Catalan president and current independent MEP Carles Puigdemont (Junts) and Russian officials.

Despite divisions with Puigdemont, Aragonès was quick to defend him, denying any contact between independentist parties and the Kremlin.

“There has never been any interest in having any kind of complicity or relationship with Russia. Our frame of reference to the European framework of the values of the European Union that we defend,” he said.

[Edited by Nathalie Weatherald]

Read more with Euractiv

Sánchez will ultimately give us independence referendum, Catalan President says | INFBusiness.com

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