Spain’s socialists and Catalan separatists inch closer to deal, despite tensions

In an interview with Spain’s public television RTVE, the secretary of organisation of PSOE, José Luis Ábalos, said the investiture of Sánchez is now “closer”, and suggested as possible date 30 December. [EPA/ STEPHANIE LECOCQ]

An agreement between the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) and caretaker socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is “within reach”, paving the way for broader government  coalition talks. EURACTIV’s partner EuroEFE reports.

Sources close to Spain’s socialist party (PSEO) and the separatist Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) said on Wednesday that an agreement was “within reach”, EFE reports.

A deal could even be concluded before the end of the year, unlocking wider government talks between PSOE and the lefits Podemos party.

But before that can happen, some politically sensitive issues remain to be solved.

In an interview with public television RTVE, the secretary of PSOE, José Luis Ábalos, said the investiture of Sánchez is now “closer”, suggesting 30 December as a possible date of investiture.

“It would be possible, and even desirable, but it is not up to us,” Ábalos said in reference to the ERC, whose abstention is essential to allow the formation of a “progressive” coalition between PSOE and the leftist Podemos.

Crucial week in Madrid to form ‘progressive’ government

Acting socialist PM Pedro Sánchez is expected to receive some certainties from Catalan separatists of ERC on their essential support to allow the investiture, EURACTIV’s partner EFE reported.

But those sensitive talks could equally fall apart. On Wednesday, the hot potato was a suggestion from Ábalos that the ERC was ready to make “concessions”. Among those is the right to self-determination for Catalonia, one of the ERC’s fundamental political claims along with an amnesty for all imprisoned separatist Catalan leaders.

According to Ábalos, the ERC would be ready to abandon the so-called “unilateral way” – moving towards independence without being forced to dialogue and negotiate with Spain’s central state.

“I believe that ERC has abandoned the unilateral way [towards the independence of Catalonia]. I think so, but I can’t speak on behalf of others,” Ábalos said.

“I am convinced that they [have abandoned unilateralism]. The meeting [between PSOE and ERC] is part of that conclusion,” he added.

ERC angry with Ábalos

Marta Vilalta, spokesperson of ERC and member of ERC’s negotiating team with PSOE, asked the socialist party not to “blackmail” them and not to “leak” any document or details of the bilateral negotiation.

PSOE should not put pressure on ERC in any way, she said.

ERC has so far refused to openly back Sánchez. They continue to protest the fate of 12 Catalan separatist leaders, who were sentenced to up to 13 years in prison earlier this year for their role in an illegal independence referendum in 2017.

Among the so-called “political prisoners” is ERC party leader Oriol Junqueras, who was charged with sedition.

[, edited by Frédéric Simon]

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