The Spanish judiciary’s moves against the Catalan pro-independence block could end up ruining the ongoing talks between the governments in Spain and Catalonia. This was one of the main messages of Catalan President Pere Aragonès in the opening session of the annual general policy debate held in parliament on Tuesday.

“Repression must end” he told MPs, referring to the recent detention of exiled President  Puigdemont last week in Sardinia. The Court of Auditors’ €5.4 million fine to former officials involved in the foreign action during the 2010s, judicial cases on activists such as Tamara Carrasco and open cases against mayors who were in favour of the 2017 referendum were other examples of repression given.

“If it does not come to an end, talking will be difficult,” he added. Yet, Aragonès defended the need for dialogue and talks with Spain: “We need international recognition for independence. And they encourage us to negotiate with Spain.” With this, he sent a message to the junior government partner, JxCat, saying that loyalty, conviction and unity are necessary. Carles Puigdemont’s party is skeptical about the talks.

Get rid of old inertias

Aragonès also referred to “launching a new transformative era” that, according to him, has already begun, alluding not only to dialogue with Spain, but also the post-pandemic recovery. He said that Covid-19 has forced the government and society to “innovate” and that he wants to keep these changes. “We have to get rid of old inertias. We are modernizing the government to avoid routine and easy management,” added the Esquerra Republicana politician.

Also talking about the health emergency, he said that Catalonia is the territory within Spain that has granted more money in direct aid to sectors affected. He also urged people aged 12-39 to get vaccinated: “Do it for your grandparents, neighbours, friends.” He admitted mistakes in letting 69,000 doses expire and said he would have kept some old restrictions in place before knowing about the effects of the delta variant in the fifth wave.

Free nursery school and renewable energy law

Aragonès announced three new measures during his two-hour speech, including free nursery school for children 2-years-old to offer more “equal opportunities.” This is the first step to turn kindergartens completely free.

Putting forward a new “ambitious” decree-law encouraging the use of renewable energy this October was another policy announced on Tuesday.

The third measure uttered by Aragonès is an extra €3.5 billion in the 2022 budget compared to the previous one for 2021. The spending plan for next year will be presented this autumn.

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