The emergency unleashed by the sixth wave of the coronavirus has altered many calendars in the political life of the Government, but that will not be the case of the State-Generalitat Bilateral Commission. Sources from the Ministry of Territorial Policy explain that the meeting of this constitutional body (in charge of studying transfers of powers and analyzing breaches, among others) will take place within the established time (at the end of this month) and will not have to wait, as it happens with the dialogue table between Executives on the political conflict in Catalonia. This year the Generalitat has the rotating presidency and, with it, the power to convene the meeting. This week, technical work is expected to begin to close the agenda.
In the Department of the Presidency, led by Republican Laura Vilagrà, they are very cautious about the “embryonic state” of the agenda, although the minister herself explains that the idea is to start the preparatory work this week. The August meeting was the second since 2018 (the previous one had been in 2011) and there are many issues on the table.
Agreements emerged from that summer meeting in Madrid that were later analyzed in the mixed commissions, working groups on more specific issues that depend on the Bilateral. For example, that of Infrastructures, which met last November. In it, with the Vice President Jordi Puigneró, from Junts, at the head, the roadmap for the transfer of the necessary economic resources in the Cercanías was agreed. The one on Economic Affairs was not held by mutual agreement, waiting to analyze the respective budgets.
On the list of very mature topics is, for example, the completion of the transfer of university scholarships. Despite the fact that the talks are well advanced, sources close to the negotiation explain, the Generalitat wants to specify how the management of these aid will be paid. There are also classics such as completing the transfer of maritime rescue powers, or the specifics of the third additional provision of the Statute, which provided that the investment of the State in Catalonia in infrastructures should be equal to the percentage of GDP that Catalonia contributes to the State – around the 19% annually – from 2007 to 2013. There is also the management of the Minimum Living Income. The Government, to avoid amending the entire PNV to the Budgets, agreed to this transfer for the Basques. The list of pending transfers of the Statute has 52 points.
Despite this willingness to negotiate, the Generalitat has not agreed to give the green light to the Bilateral Commission while they stick to the dialogue table, which was also scheduled for January but which the central Executive considers prudent to delay to address the pandemic. Junts, ERC’s partners in the Government, again criticized on Monday that the PSOE acts in a partisan way and freezes the dialogue, in their opinion, to obtain electoral returns in the elections of Castilla y León.
President Pedro Sánchez himself insisted yesterday in an interview on Cadena SER that he is committed to dialogue in Catalonia, although without “tying himself” to a date for the meeting. “It will take place, it will be held, but right now the institutions are in something much more important for citizens, such as the health emergency,” he settled.
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Criticisms between partners
In September, at their meeting in Barcelona to reactivate the dialogue table, both Sánchez and the Catalan leader, Pere Aragonès, agreed to a negotiation with two different lanes. The first, that of the negotiation on the political conflict, arising from a pact between PSOE and ERC to achieve the investiture of Sánchez two years ago, and, the other, the bilateral treatment bodies contained in both the Constitution and the statute.
Aragonès himself was the one who located any sectorial debate in the Bilateral Commission to avoid diverting attention from the idea that an agreed solution to the territorial reserve is being negotiated. Although both routes will always depend on the will of the parties, the forums contained in the current legislation are governed by rules and times ruled. The only guarantee of the dialogue table is the agreement between the parties.
Junts spokeswoman Elsa Artadi took the opportunity on Monday to charge against the current scheme of the meeting between Executives. “A dialogue table without meetings is neither a table nor is it dialogue,” he said. His counterpart in ERC, Marta Vilalta, was ugly that they do not participate: “The best place to confront proposals is a dialogue table and not making statements or tweets,” he said.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.