Sánchez tries to redirect relations with ERC with a meeting tomorrow in Moncloa between the Minister of the Presidency, Félix Bolaños, and the Minister of this area in Catalonia, Laura Vilagrà
With the ashes still burning from the political fire that the absolute majority of the PP in Andalusia has meant for the PSOE, the Government has decided to move away from that fire and explore other paths. After weeks of great tension with ERC due to espionage on pro-independence positions, in which the Republicans have abandoned the Executive in important votes in Congress, Pedro Sánchez chooses to try to redirect the relationship with one of his most prominent parliamentary partners.
This Tuesday the Minister of the Presidency, Félix Bolaños, will receive the Minister Laura Vilagrà in La Moncloa, responsible for this same area in the Government. Initially, when the investigation by the ‘Citizen Labs’ organization emerged, in which it was pointed out that up to 60 pro-independence officials had been spied on with the Pegasus ‘software’, the president of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, demanded a meeting with the head of the Executive. That meeting did not take place. Sánchez first decided to send Bolaños, precisely to see Vilagrà, and try to avoid the crisis. In that interview, the minister already suggested that the CNI could be behind part of these wiretaps, by proposing an internal investigation at the National Intelligence Center to find out what had happened.
This hypothesis was confirmed a few days later with the appearance in Congress, in the official secrets commission, of the head of Intelligence. Paz Esteban who recognized the espionage with the endorsement of the Supreme Court on 18 separatist leaders, among whom was Aragonès himself. Barely a week later, the Council of Ministers approved his dismissal, justified by a new scandal in Spanish politics: the attacks and the theft of information from the telephone number of the Prime Minister and other ministers by an “external agent”, who he met because Moncloa decided to check his mobiles as a result of the first news in The New Yorker of the massive listening to the independence movement.
The investment gap
The dismissal of the director of the CNI allowed the Executive to purge responsibilities for this security breach but at the same time satisfy and try to ingratiate yourself with ERC. For weeks it seemed that she had been of no use. Aragonès continued to demand more measures from the president and as a sign of the cooling of relations, the Republicans voted against the anti-crisis measures decree, which includes the gasoline bonus, despite the fact that days before they had been in favor of supporting it.
But the ‘Pegasus case’ has faded away and ERC has redirected its criticism to the investment deficit in Catalonia, just when the budget preparation process has just begun. Its deputy general secretary and spokesperson, Marta Vilalta, warned last week that right now the Republicans do not plan to negotiate or support the 2023 bills: “If there is no trust, there can be no new agreements”. In his statements he made no mention of espionage and limited himself to pointing out that the commitments reached with ERC in previous years have been breached. According to budget execution figures, investments in Catalonia were limited to 35.77% while in Madrid they shot up to 183.97%, almost double what was expected.
In this context, the recovery of the dialogue with the Generalitat takes place. As published by El Periódico de España, a newspaper belonging to the same group, Prensa Ibérica, that this newspaper, in the socialist group, began to find it very difficult to count on ERC for budgets and they planned to focus on seeking the support of EH Bildu and the most small, of a single deputy, which already allowed saving the gasoline decree.
Carpetazo to Andalusia?
The meeting between Bolaños and Vilagrà opens a window of opportunity, although it is still difficult to guess where it leads. In principle, it allows the Government to introduce another issue on the agenda and avoid the entire internal earthquake that has caused the electoral catastrophe in Andalusia, the request by the PSOE for a mid-term remodeling of the Executive to face the regional, municipal elections with more guarantees and general and the demand of the socialist barons themselves for a revulsive because Moncloa “does not make profitable” its management or its social policies.
Rebuilding communication with the ERC would allow the PSOE to face the votes in the Chamber without much suffering, some of them narrowly missed. But this reconciliation affects one of the reasons that many prominent socialist officials consider that the Executive is eroding: the constant display of dependence on ERC and EH Bildu.