A meeting lasting over two and a half hours without the use of the word "unilateral". Yesterday, in the proclamation of the National Pact for the Referendum, the President of the Generalitat Carles Puigdemont, did not speak in terms of "a referendum or a referendum" as he did during his vote of confidence speech, instead he referred to the majority support for a "negotiated" referendum on the political future of Catalonia. The birth of the new platform to replace the National Pact for the Right to Decide, took place in the auditorium of the Parliament of Catalonia with an image of a consensus in favour of the referendum that did not exist before the participatory process of 9-N [9 November]: the pro-independence Junts pel Sí and the CUP shoulder to shoulder with the components of Barcelona en Comú, represented by the Mayor of Barcelona Ada Colau, Podem and ICV-EUiA.
Puigdemont therefore omitted the outcome of the general policy debate which called on the Catalan government to hold a referendum in the autumn of 2017 –suspended by the Constitutional Court last week– to remind those present at the summit that the agreement made with Catalunya Sí que es Pot remains in force. And in fact, the content of the resolution coincides with the commitment reached yesterday between all the stakeholders to undertake a campaign, both in Spain and internationally to garner support in favour of a negotiated referendum in Catalonia.
Following the meeting, which began at half past five and lasted until almost nine o'clock, Puigdemont gave a speech to explain that the first step in expressing the desire for the right to decide will be the creation of an executive committee to draft a manifesto to obtain the broadest consensus possible between those who are pro-independence, those against the creation of an independent state and abstainers. "It is a space created with widespread support, with the common aim of holding a referendum in Catalonia as to what the relationship between Catalonia and Spain ought to be," Puigdemont declared in a speech which was not followed by a round of questions.
All of the participants were in agreement as to the need to call for a negotiated referendum. Last September Puigdemont stated that the commitment to negotiate an agreement with the state "does not have a time limit, but it does not delay" the vote. What will happen if the Spanish government continues with its refusal to accept the referendum? Would the representatives of Barcelona en Comú opt for the unilateral path? According to sources present at the summit, Colau, who is highly critical of the judicialisation of the process, defended Catalonia’s right to decide and the referendum, while declaring that there could not be a repeat of 9-N.
The mayor of Barcelona distanced herself from a unilateral referendum, declaring it "a government proposal." However, Colau went on to say that "a negotiated agreement is unavoidable for those of us with democratic principles". Colau made it clear that the referendum was "not a screen pass" and the right to decide remains "the largest, transverse, plural space, with the greatest consensus." Once again Puigdemont has the collaboration of Barcelona en Comú in exchange for trying to reach an agreement with the state, something which had apparently been abandoned since 27-S [27 September]. Nevertheless, Ada Colau insists on the amendment to the government’s entire roadmap, which continues to include a unilateral vote. The mayor declared that to achieve a binding referendum with democratic guarantees "it should not include short-term deadlines." For Colau the summit was not about independence, but rather "democracy".
"An agreement is not possible"
The ERC and the CUP, the two parties which least oppose a unilateral approach, provided the opposing view. "Experience shows that it’s not possible to reach an agreement with the state," said Junqueras, who recalled the "18 attempts" that had previously been made. The vice president put it to Barcelona en Comú that if those who are sceptical of a pact side with those who do believe in it, they expect reciprocity in the future to "defend the right to vote".
The CUP MP Anna Gabriel sent the same message, stating that she expects Barcelona en Comú to join the common path of a unilateral referendum "when it is confirmed that the negotiated path does not exist". The anti-capitalist CUP have been calling for a summit for several weeks, but they gave the outcome of the meeting a lukewarm reception. Gabriel welcomed the fact that the meeting shows the broad social and political support for the referendum, while wishing to make her position clear by sending two messages. The first, warning that the pursuit of an agreement with the state should not mean "delays or digressions" in terms of holding the referendum. The second, making it clear that the CUP has a clear commitment to the unilateral path, since there is "sufficient evidence" to suggest that the negotiations will not succeed. "And because we already have the legitimacy" to hold the referendum. For the CUP, there are sufficient guarantees and support to go ahead.
Those responsible for drafting the manifesto
Those responsible for drafting a manifesto acceptable to more than eighty parties and organizations that attended yesterday’s summit will be chosen from political backgrounds covering various sensibilities: the former PSC MP Joan Ignasi Elena; the former mayor of Badalona Maite Arqué; the former Ciutat Vella councillor Itziar González; the former president of the ICV Francesc Pané; the former CDC councillor Carme-Laura Gil; the former ERC MP Carme Porta; the director of the Catalan International View magazine Francesc de Dalmases, and the former ICV MP Jaume Bosch, will constitute the executive committee of the Pact.
The highly-politicized (43 of the 83 participants were politicians) and largely masculine summit (with only 22 women present), represents another turning point in the process, once more focused on the referendum.