Sánchez measures his steps to save the serious crisis with ERC and the legislature

  • The law that regulates the CNI prevents the Government from giving explanations about its actions, but Aragonès demands answers. In the air, the ERC votes in Congress

  • Bolaños travels to BCN this Sunday to offer face-to-face information to the Government. Added to the crisis with CKD are the threats of the war and the rise of the PP

In the last three years, Spanish politics has barely gone through moments of rest. When it seems that he enters a period of calm, some event disrupts everything. Spain was beginning to leave the pandemic behind and a war has broken out in Europe. The Government relied on the relief of European funds and is now facing a reduction in growth. Nothing is in its place anymore. The uncertainty about the evolution of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the economic crisis caused by the effects of the conflict and the arrival of Alberto Núñez Feijóo to the leadership of the PP new threats.

The Executive is not even sure of being able to count on its partners. In the midst of this confusion, the ticking of another time bomb has begun to sound: the discovery that more than 60 independence leaders, including the ‘president’ of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, have allegedly been spied on through their mobile phones. It would have been done, mainly, with the Pegasus ‘software’, according to the investigation of the Citizen Lab organizationunveiled by ‘The New Yorker‘, which points to the government itself as responsible.

It does not seem unreasonable to think that this could have really happened in the framework of the separatist process, the referendum of October 1, 2017 and the flight of Carles Puigdemont, that the National Intelligence Center (CNI) was watching. But the fact that has shaken Spanish politics is that this espionage spread until 2020when the links between the PSOE and ERC were already very close.

An appointment by Sánchez and Aragonès is not ruled out, but the impression in Catalonia is that the Government is not realizing the political scope of espionage for separatism

In Moncloa, concern has spread because this directly compromises the Socialist Administration. As this newspaper has learned, they knew the information days before it was published. Was contacts between the Executive and the Generalitatbut the impression they had in Catalonia is that they were not realizing the political scope that the possible use of Pegasus against them could have.

Throughout this week, Pedro Sánchez and Pere Aragonès have exchanged messages without ruling out a meeting, which has not been held due to the tight schedule of the Prime Minister. They could not see each other in Barcelona and a visit to the Ukrainian refugee center in Malaga, this Wednesday, also prevented an appointment in Moncloa. Sánchez flew from the Andalusian city to Poland, to continue the trip to kyiv by train to meet there, on Thursday, with the Ukrainian president, Volodímir Zelenski.

a first move

The head of the Government has been asking for days face-to-face explanations and, although it has not been possible to square agendas, this newspaper has already published that the president is open to a meeting with Aragonès, which may be crucial for the rest of the legislature. While it takes shape, the Executive has made a first move. The Minister of the Presidency, Félix Bolaños, travels to Barcelona this Sunday to meet with the ‘consellera’ of the Presidency, Laura Vilagrà, at the Palau de la Generalitat. Sánchez’s right-hand man is the one who has piloted the discreet contacts with the Government that have materialized in this first call.

The ‘president’ wants explanations now, “in a matter of days, a week maximum”, that an investigation be mounted within the Government and in Congress and responsibilities be purged

A step that shows everything that is at stake. Added to the fact of espionage is a somewhat more mundane but absolutely fundamental circumstance: the Coalition Executive depends on each vote of the 13 ERC deputies. Junts does not participate in his parliamentary majority, but the Republicans have been a fundamental partner since the investiture. And they have already warned that, although they can support this week the royal decree law on measures against the effects of the war in Ukraine, from that moment every vote in Congress can become a ‘Vietnam’. Hence, in the heights of the PSOE and in Moncloa they prescribe maximum prudence and not to take false steps. Must “expect“, “lower the soufflé”, they indicate in Ferraz.

The Defense Minister, Margarita Robles, to whom the CNI depends, has offered to appear in Congress and give information also in the official secrets commission, despite the fact that at this stage of the legislature it is not constituted by the crossed vetoes of the parties. And this Monday the director of the President’s Cabinet, Óscar López, does it in the Mixed Commission on National Security, where the scandal will most likely surface. But all this would not replace a possible meeting between Sánchez and Aragonès, in the agreed format. The government does not shy away, despite Bolaños’ first attempt to pacify the situation. The ‘president’ wants explanations now, “in a matter of days, a week maximum” and that an investigation be mounted within the Government and in Congress, according to what he warned in a interview in ‘El País’ published this Saturday.

Pending a pronouncement from the minister, only at the highest level does it seem possible to resolve the problem with ERC, which threatens the objective of completing the legislature. The Generalitat, as this newspaper has learned, demands an explanation that I can later transfer to the independent world. This means putting the Government in a quagmire. Why were sovereignists spied on until 2020? Who did it? Who knew? It is necessary to remember that one has never stopped speculating with a possible return of Puigdemont to Spain and that in October 2019 Barcelona and the rest of Catalonia suffered a wave of riots due to the ‘procés’ ruling. Both matters of importance to the CNI, which needs the authorization of a judge of the Supreme Court to intervene in communications.

A case that has dragged on since 2020

The Executive ensures that “it has nothing to hide”, but recognizes the complexity of providing information, which is reserved matter. own law that regulates the CNI forces him to keep quiet. And not only answers are demanded, but be able to make them public. Aragonès also demands that responsibilities be assumed, that action be taken. In short, for someone from the government to be sacrificed for the use of Pegasus.

Although the Executive has approved Budgets and that guarantees governability, it could be harassed by two flanks: PP and Vox and ERC and Junts

The destabilization caused by this alleged espionage does not end there. The institutional aspect Has been affected. The Generalitat assures that relations are on hold until a satisfactory resolution of the crisis and that is why Bolaños made an urgent visit to Barcelona. The Executive recalls that he has worked hard in recent years to recover the dialogue with Catalonia and turn the page on the separatist tension, even at the cost of the misunderstanding of his own electorate. It is considered a success that Aragonès participated in the last Conference of Presidents in La Palma and that the Government has returned to multilateral meetings.

Related news

There is no longer much talk about the Catalan conflict and the Spanish public opinion received the pardons with little question. What seems distant can now be resurrected by the so-called ‘CatalanGate’. The Generalitat has revived its international presence to denounce the case, after making the telephone numbers of most of the independence leaders available to Citizen Lab. A decision adopted after learning, in July 2020, that the cell phone of the ‘ex-president’ of the Parliament Roger Torrent had been spied on with this Israeli ‘software’. A circumstance that is being investigated by a court in Barcelona and that opens the door for espionage on his colleagues also end up in courta way that the Executive also encourages.

While awaiting explanations from the Government, the independence movement now has a new element to add to its attempts to victimization. Divided and disoriented in recent years, it has now found a new cause to unite. The ‘Pegasus case’ resonates with increasing force in Spanish politics. The slowdown in growth may alter the Executive’s plans to hold the general elections at the end of 2023, strengthened by money from European funds. Also the course of the war and the fact that the PP has an alternative with Feijóo that Pablo Casado never represented. But one more problem has been added. A nervous, rising tick that can finally burst and complicate every vote in Congress. Although the Executive has approved Budgets and that guarantees governability, it could be harassed on two sides: PP and Vox Y ERC and Together. And that would make it even more difficult to get to the end.