Wednesday, November 28, 2012

President Mas and Opposition Leader Junqueras began to explore agreement on legislature

By Josep Casulleras Nualart. Originally published in Vilaweb on November 28, 2012

Oriol Junqueras, the president of ERC announces that ERC will not form part of the government, but instead has offered support on the investiture, budget, foreign affairs, and referendum on independence

The negotiation between CiU and ERC in order to get to an agreement that ensures the governability of the country as well as the celebration of an independence referendum during the next legislative session has begun. Today Artur Mas and Oriol Junqueras had lunch together at the Palau (Catalan government building) and in a cordial setting, they exchanged impressions: Mas wants the Republicans to form part of the government, and the president of the Republican Left has announced that they will not do so, but that they are committed to guaranteeing the government's stability in four key areas: the investiture of the president, the budget, foreign affairs, and the independence referendum.

The Republicans don't want to form part of the government but they have committed themselves to guaranteeing its stability from the outside. Junqueras says that he is convinced that he has correctly interpreted the will expressed at the polls, according to statements he made today to Catalunya Ràdio. In exchange, ERC wants assurances that the independence referendum will continue forward and that the budget cuts be softened.

The Republicans are aware of the fact that even if they don't form part of the government, if they want to offer stability to CiU's government, they will have to accept that some additional budget cuts will have to be made. Yesterday, government spokesperson Francesc Homs warned that similar budget cuts will be necessary in 2013 as there were in 2011 and 2012. But ERC aims to soften the austerity plan, and to implement changes in fiscal policy with measures like the reversal of the 1 euro per prescription drug plan, or the reinstatement of the inheritance tax on the highest brackets.

Today, then, Mas and Junqueras inaugurated the negotiations, and put their cards on the table. And according to sources close to the conversation, they are preparing to delve deeper into the negotiations, with the participation of a team of economists who will be studying budget-related matters as well as a team of judicial experts who will analyze the steps necessary so that the people of Catalonia can be consulted on independence.

ERC (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, Republican Left, and often referred to as the Republicans, but in the sense of Republic, not GOP) is the traditional centre-left independentist party in Catalonia. They won 21 seats (up from 10) in the Catalan Parliament on November 25th, and were the second most voted party. Their leader is Oriol Junqueras.

CiU (Convergència i Unió, Convergence and Union) is a centre-right coalition of CDC (social democrats) and UDC (Christian democrats), who won 50 seats in the Catalan Parliament, (down from 62) and thus are the most voted party. Their leader is Artur Mas, who will be the President of the new parliament.

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