The President of the Catalan government Pere Aragonès on Wednesday pleaded on political parties to take “responsibility” and approve the amnesty law in an interview with Euronews.
It comes a day after the controversial amnesty bill was unexpectedly struck down by a small margin in Spain’s Congress.
The law is part of a pact struck between Spain’s socialist party (PSOE) and Catalan separatists that allowed Pedro Sánchez to form a coalition government last November.
“I appeal on all parties to take responsibility so that this amnesty law is not put at risk,” Aragonès told Euronews in Brussels, adding that he wants to see the text approved “as soon as possible.”
His remarks are likely directed against Junts per Catalunya (Junts), the separatist party of former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont whose seven Congress members voted against the amnesty law on Tuesday. The surprise move has forced the text to return to the Congress’ Justice Committee.
Junts and Aragonès’ Catalan Republican Left (ERC) parties had both negotiated the bill with Sánchez’s Socialists.
The text seeks to grant amnesty to all those involved in the procès, the Catalan push for independence from Spain between 2012 and 2023.
But despite having fiercely defended the law, Junts’ deputies struck down the text submitted before Congress, fearing the latest draft would not ensure amnesty for its de-facto exiled leader Puigdemont.
Fierce backlash against the law – including condemnation from opposition groups and violent protests on Spain’s streets – has invited international scrutiny. The European Commission is currently analysing the text, but is yet to issue its opinion on the bill’s compliance with the principle of rule of law.
Junts’ resistance could threaten Sánchez’s government, which relies on the support of the pro-independentists to sustain its slim majority.
For Aragonès, the pact is a “historic opportunity” for Catalonia to “obtain more powers,” as Sánchez “will have to have to rely on the support of 14 pro-independence deputies” to guarantee the stability of his government.
But Aragonés says that his pro-independence ERC party, which previously shared power with Junts in Catalonia, is taking a more collaborative approach to the pact with Sánchez’s socialists.
“I reaffirm my commitment to using all democratic political tools to move forward and to commit ourselves to a better future and to find solutions,” he said.
Aragonès calls for a new referendum
One of Aragonés’ objectives is to secure an independence referendum, something he says he is already negotiating with Sánchez.
Catalonia’s latest attempt at secession from Spain with a referendum in 2017 was hailed illegal under Spanish law.
“Everything that previously seemed impossible is now happening,” he said. “Therefore, everything that they tell us is impossible can be possible in the future, if we generate the right conditions and continue in our commitment.”
When asked if he believes that Sánchez will authorise a referendum, Aragonès argues that he trusts in his party’s “strength and abilities.”
For him, negotiation is key. “In the same way that a year ago he [Sánchez] was telling me that he did not see the amnesty as a possibility, he now tells me that the referendum is not a possibility.”
“Now amnesty is on its way. And I say to him [Sánchez] that we will obviously continue to defend the referendum on self-determination”, he added.
Catalonia has held two unilateral independence referendums, in 2014 and 2017. The consequences of the second led half of the then government, including Puigdemont, to seek exile in European countries, including Belgium.
Other political leaders were imprisoned until 2021, when they were pardoned by Sánchez’s government.