It was just after 3 p.m. on Wednesday when the representatives of the pro-independence NGOs arrived at the Palau de la Generalitat in the hopes of coming to an agreement. Four hours later, Artur Mas appeared in front of the media to announce an agreement with seven key points allowing two objectives: re-establishing unity and, in addition, setting a date for the definitive referendum which will take place in the form of plebiscitary elections. Until September 27, the date of the election, Mas and Oriol Junqueras have vowed to work towards preparing the necessary structures to guarantee the success of an independent state in the event that independence wins in the polling stations. "It's time to win", was the pledge of the two leaders after the meeting at the Palau. This is a guide to understanding the agreement that will allow them to act together despite their differences.
Tranquil end of term without a coalition government
Firstly, the agreement includes a tacit deal to "reaffirm" the agreement that the Generalitat's president and the leader of ERC signed on September 19, 2012. The Republicans considered that it had been broken after Mas backtracked on the original call to 9-N and opted for a new format for the participatory process. With this, Mas guarantees a tranquil end to his term in office that has to rest on the capacity for understanding between the two partners.
In the meeting, the possibility of a coalition government with ERC was discussed but, in the end, the agreed formula was that experts designated by the Republicans would join different departments to collaborate, and to monitor, the fulfillment of the agreement. A government reshuffle for the sake of just eight months would have caused tension in the relationship between CDC and Unió, among other inconveniences, and Mas has chosen to avoid this.
The "basics" to complete the process with guarantees
On more than one occasion Junqueras has publicly lamented the fact that more “work” should have gone into preparing the institutions that the new state will require. There is the commitment by the government to create its own public treasury –a fundamental step– and other necessary aspects to build a state. However, it has now become urgent to take specific measures with 27-S in mind. "It is a matter of adapting the Generalitat's own laws to this situation", explained Mas. The President also announced that the arrival of independent experts, as demanded by ERC, will help to complete the Catalan Treasury and National Health Service.
Speed up pending laws
An eye on the electoral administration for the plebiscitary elections
Can the Spanish government suspend the September elections? The reports by the Advisory Council for the National Transition (CATN) mention the possibility but at present this is still unknown. If it were to happen, Mas announced that work will be done to create an electoral administration –even if there is no specific law passed in Parliament due to the short time that left to draft it with the current majority – to face the elections. "It is a matter of having the basic tools of a country by the time that the future elections are held", said the President, without giving further details.
They will also use the next eight months to pass laws such as those regarding professional training or administrative simplification that are still pending in Parliament.
An agreement to ignore the Wert Act
One of the main points of yesterday’s agreement is to start the next school year (2015-16) only under Catalonia's educational law (LEC), currently being appealed before the Spanish Constitutional Court. This law was passed by José Montillas' government, as we were reminded by President Mas yesterday. It was a way of saying that the more controversial aspects of the Wert Act that go against language immersion will not be applied. The start of the school year, when the Generalitat will 'de facto' be challenging Madrid, coincides exactly with the electoral campaign.
Imminent meetings to discuss finances for 2015
Parliamentary discussions about the Catalan budget for this year will start next Monday. ERC had pledged to vote against the draft budget after overturning –as a gesture to Mas– the amendments in their totality presented by the rest of the opposition in December. However, the new scenario implies holding "imminent" meetings to discuss finances. This means that the government and ERC's economic teams have until Monday to solve the budgetary scenario. Junqueras already warned that the budget is "insufficient" because the numbers that the Generalitat is working with are entirely in the hands of the Spanish Ministry of Finance.
"Priority" for agreements between CiU and ERC in local councils
The roadmap that Mas and Junqueras have outlined will also have an influence on the agreements that will have to be made after the upcoming local elections. The President pointed out that this agreement will have "priority" in those "local councils" –municipal, county and provincial councils– that emerge from the election. However, the leader of ERC wanted to emphasise that local republican representatives will be “free” to form a coalition with whatever parties they believe it to be convenient.
Widening the pro-independence support base
The parties in favour of the right to decide have maintained contacts under the auspices of civil society groups to agree on a roadmap that, according to Mas yesterday, "is well underway". These contacts also include the CUP, ICV and EUiA, which means that the unity that was created around 9-N can be restored. In any case, the roadmap must be the basis for the electoral manifesto that the pro-independence parties will share in the 27-S elections.
Separate lists awaiting a definitive agreement for the roadmap
Junqueras has got what he wanted –separate lists– and Mas, the date, a decision that only corresponds to him, as President. The leader of ERC made it clear that the Republicans' list may include independent candidates, and Mas stated that he intended to run again. Under what umbrella? It is a matter which CiU –both separately and together– will have to broach during the coming months. The date of the election, 27 September, means that Parliament will have to dissolve right in the middle of August. It will be at this moment when the parties –o platforms– will pick up their pace in the face of a campaign that will start on the eve of Catalonia’s National Day.