Who Are Catalonia’s New Ministers and President?

Catalonia’s Coalition Government

President and Ministries Led by ERC

President – Pere Aragonès is a law graduate with a masters in economic history. He joined the youth section of ERC in 1998 and was elected as Catalan MP in 2006 at the age of 24. He was vice president and economy and treasury minister in the former government of Quim Torra. He became acting President when Torra was disqualified from office in 2020.

Presidency – Laura Vilagrà has a degree in political science and administration from the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), where she specialized in tourism and commercial promotion. She became a Catalan MP at the age of 30 and was Mayor of Sanpedor, in Bages county, for several years. Vilagrà was the second person on the ERC’s electoral list on February 14.

Education – Josep González Cambray is an industrial technical engineer with a marketing degree. He was one of the people in charge of bringing early childhood, primary and secondary school students back to the classroom for in-person learning during the 2020-2021 academic year.

Climate Action – Teresa Jordà has a degree in modern and contemporary history from the Autonomous University of Barcelona. She was agriculture minister under former president Quim Torra. She will continue in the department that will now also focus on combatting climate change. Jordà was mayor of Ripoll from 2003 to 2011 before becoming an MP in Spain’s Congress.

Feminism – Tània Verge is a professor of political and social sciences at Pompeu Fabra University and was one of the 2017 independence referendum electoral board members. She was acquitted after being accused of disobedience by the Spanish justice system. She is also a professor of political and social sciences at UPF, where she is also director of the Equality Unit.

Interior – Joan Ignasi Elena was Mayor of Vilanova i la Geltrú and ex-coordinator of the National Pact for the referendum. Elena was a member of PSC until 2014, when he resigned over disagreements over the right to self-determination of Catalonia.

Culture – Natàlia Garriga has a law degree from the University of Barcelona and a master’s degree in management from the School of Public Administration of Catalonia. She has worked as a professor at the Open University of Catalonia (UOC). In 2007, she became the manager of the Catalan Institute of Cultural Enterprises, a position she held until 2016. She is also a close confidant of the new president, having worked with Aragonès as director of vice-presidency services of the Catalan government.

Business and labour – Roger Torrent has a degree in political science from the University of Barcelona. He was Parliament Speaker during the past legislature. He will have the task of addressing the economic and social reconstruction needed as a result of the financial crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ministries led by Junts

Vice President and Minister for Digital Policies and Infrastructures – Jordi Puigneró is an engineer specializing in information and technology and is considered close to party leader Carles Puigdemont as well as the General Secretary and person overseeing the negotiations, Jordi Sànchez. He studied at the University of Surrey and worked in Frankfurt as an ICT engineer in the computer area of a German bank.

Economy – Jaume Giró is the former Caixabank CEO. He has also been in charge of the financial institution’s foundation, Fundació La Caixa. He was the only CaixaBank board member who opposed the transfer of the headquarters from Barcelona to Valencia in the aftermath of the 2017 independence referendum. In 2020, he launched a reputation and strategy consulting firm, Giró Consultants, and was also the editor for an online news outlet, The New Barcelona Post.

Foreign Affairs and Transparency – Victòria Alsina has a PhD in political and social sciences from Barcelona’s Pompeu Fabra University, with a degree in management and public innovation from ESADE. She is a professor and the academic director of the Center for Science and Urban Progress at New York University and chief researcher of the Governance Laboratory (The GovLab) at the same university. Alsina is also the former delegate for the Catalan government in the United States and the current co-coordinator of the Catalonia 2022 working group.

Research and Universities – Gemma Geis is a doctor in law as well as being a professor at the University of Girona. She is a close confidant of former president Carles Puigdemont. She will lead a ministry that is being revived after 15 years. It was created in the remodeling of the current department of business, which now includes labor.

Health – Josep Maria Argimon has a degree in medicine and a doctorate from the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), with a specialization in preventive medicine and public health from Barcelona’s Bellvitge Hospital, as well a diploma in epidemiology and statistics from Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris, a master’s degree in evidence-based healthcare from Oxford University and a master’s in epidemiology and health planning from the University of Wales. He has held the post of General Secretary of Public Health in Catalonia’s health system and will now lead the health ministry.

Social Rights – Violant Cervera has a degree in Hispanic philology from the University of Lleida and a postgraduate degree in information technology for non-computer scientists from the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC). She served as an MP between 2012 and 2017 first with Convergència (CiU) and then with electoral alliance Junts pel Sí. She will be in charge of a new department that comes from the reorganization of the previous department of labor, social affairs, and families.

Justice – Lourdes Ciuró has a degree in law from the Autonomous University of Barcelona. She was MP for CIU in the Spanish parliament. She has been the head of the Junts municipal group in the city of Sabadell since 2019.


Catalonia: ERC-Junts Agreement on a Pro-Independence Coalition Government

The deal between ERC and Junts on a pro-independence coalition government is now a reality after almost three months of disputes and a decisive six-way summit between the pro-independence forces ERC, Junts, CUP, the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), Òmnium Cultural, and the Council for the Republic, and a subsequent three-way meeting between the three pro-independence parties, pushing towards a deal. These are the new government structure and the key points of the coalition government deal:

Government Structure

Ministries led by ERC

Presidency

Interior

Education

Feminism

Culture

Business and labor 

Climate Action

Ministries led by Junts (will include vice-president)

Economy

Health

Foreign Affairs

Justice

Digital Policies

Research and Universities

Social Rights

Key Points of the Coalition Government Deal:

1- Dialogue and Peaceful Confrontation

The Catalan government will hold negotiations with Spain in an attempt to face and resolve the political conflict between Catalonia and Spain and to put an end to the repression and political persecution of the independence camp. In parallel, both parties call for working firmly to be able to lay out a democratic confrontation [with Spain] that will lead to independence as the Catalan Republic.

2- Referendum

“Only a self-determination referendum held with Spain’s approval can replace the democratic mandate of the October 1 [2017 independence vote] of working to make a Catalan Republic a reality.” Both parties are also committed to joining forces to achieve an amnesty for the political prisoners, exiles, and those activists who have been enduring judicial procedures for their pro-independence activities since the 2010s.

3- International Mediation

The Catalan government will seek “the possible intervention of European and international institutions to achieve an agreement for a referendum.” For that purpose, both parties are committed to “building a favorable public opinion abroad.” They will also coordinate the defense in the judicial cases affecting the 2017 referendum organizers, both in Spain and internationally.

4- Coordination, Leadership, and Roadmap for Independence

A collegiate leadership of the pro-independence movement in coordination with the Catalan Council for the Republic will be created. The three pro-independence parties ERC, Junts, CUP, and the two main pro-independence organizations, the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), and Òmnium Cultural will participate from this group. They will all have the task of creating a new roadmap for independence and to prepare and execute mass civil disobedience until the Catalan Republic is achieved. The leadership could be integrated into the Council for the Republic once it has been reformed to represent all the pro-independence forces.

5- Vote of Confidence and Confrontation with Spain in 2023

A vote of confidence on the Catalan government will take place in parliament in the mid-term in 2023. The pro-independence party CUP demanded a vote to make sure they are able to put an end to the legislature if ERC has not complied with agreements on social issues and confrontation with Spain by then. According to parties, there should be a confrontation on social issues starting with the beginning of the legislature and a confrontation for independence in 2023 if negotiations with the state fail. CUP also opens the door to joining the government if the agreements are fulfilled.

6- Mechanism to Prevent Infighting

Junts and ERC will establish a mechanism to restore and preserve the damaged trust between the two to anticipate possible flare-ups like those that took place during the past legislature. To this end, several coordination committees have been created at different levels that will meet periodically to monitor day-to-day issues, both in Parliament and in the government, as well as between the parties.

7- Monitoring of  Deal

A group will be created to monitor the fulfillment of the deal on a regular basis.

The Bureau of the Spanish Parliament Vetoes Debate of an Amnesty Law Bill

On Tuesday, the Bureau of the Spanish Parliament rejected a motion to debate an amnesty law for the Catalan pro-independence political prisoners, exiles, and those facing legal action. The bill, promoted by the pro-independence parties ERC, Junts, CUP, and PdeCAT, already received a blow in March, when the pseudo-socialist party PSOE closed ranks with the right-wing and far-right PP and Vox parties to block its admission.

The argument used to refuse the petition was a report from politicized lawyers of the Congress who recommended not accepting it because “the granting of a general pardon” to pro-independence prisoners would be in “obvious” contradiction with Article 62 i) of the Spanish constitution, which states that “general pardons” cannot be granted.

The unadmitted bill calls for amnesty for “all acts of political intent” linked to “the democratic struggle for the self-determination of Catalonia” that have been classified as “crimes.” The bill would pardon actions carried out from January 1st, 2013 until the entry into force of this law.

The Catalan cultural organization, Òmnium, announced that it will attempt to bring the law back to Congress by transforming the bill into a popular legislative initiative, a citizen’s right that is included in article 87.3 of the Spanish constitution and regulates organic law 3/1984. The presentation of the initiative requires a minimum of 500,000 signatures.

CUP spokesperson Mireia Vehí said that the pro-independence movement should serve “to respond to the problems of the people” and not “to give more air to constitutionalism.”

ERC spokesperson Rufián said that the decision of the Bureau “sets a very dangerous precedent in democracy” and lamented that PSOE “once again aligned” with PP and Vox “against dialogue and a political solution to the conflict with Catalonia. They know they’re playing it safe,” he said about the pseudo-socialists.

The acting spokesperson, Meritxell Budó, used irony to criticize the decision of the bureau. “PSOE never fails,” she said, calling for a “change of attitude” to show that they have the will to “resolve the political conflict” between Catalonia and the state.

Jordi Cuixart, president of Omnium, an entity that had promoted the amnesty law, received the news without surprise, as he assured on Twitter, the Congress “remains blind to a majority claim in Catalonia.”

What the Victory of the Spanish Trumpist, Ayuso (PP), in the Madrid Elections Means for Catalonia

The victory of the right-wing/far-right in the Madrid elections on Tuesday will push the Spanish government led by PSOE to show their true neoliberal and imperialist nature against the Catalan pro-independence movement in an attempt to win the next Spanish election in 2023, or a snap election before then. There are two immediate consequences for the pro-independence movement:

– Pardons for the Catalan Political Prisoners

The Spanish Supreme Court is expected to deliver its non-binding report on pardons to the Spanish government in the next few weeks. The government will have to make a final decision. Whether the Sánchez administration will be able to withstand the pressure from the Madrid right-wing and far-right still remains to be seen, but everything indicates that they will disregard it and keep the political prisoners in jail, a blow to part of the pro-independence movement, who supported his administration expecting some results in the resolution of the Catalan conflict. Sánchez would only be willing to grant the pardons if he could continue getting votes during the legislature and secure the support of pro-independence forces and other minor parties in the 2023 elections, which is unlikely.

Table for Dialogue

The so-called “Table for Dialogue” between the Catalan and Spanish governments to solve the Catalan issue has never existed. The results of the elections in Madrid are just a confirmation that it will never exist, at least not in the foreseeable future, since the Sánchez administration is expected to embrace right-wing policies in an attempt to win the 2023 election. This, however, is likely to open many people’s eyes in Catalonia, since many still believe an agreed solution is possible.

PM Pedro Sánchez (PSOE) and the conservative Pablo Casado (PP) have never really sought a solution for the Catalan conflict, and the position of Unidas Podemos, the only influential party in Spain supporting dialogue, has been weakened to the point that its leader, Pablo Iglesias, quit politics after the poor results of the left-wing in the Madrid elections.

Iglesias, former second deputy prime minister of the Spanish government, was one of the leaders more aware of the conflict. He positioned himself in favor of dialogue, visited the political prisoners, and kept sporadic communications with exiled former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont.

With the masks off after the Madrid elections, Catalans can see that they have wasted much of the last three years in pursuit of something that was really just an intentional fantasy of a few: an agreed solution to the current conflict.

ERC-Junts Summits at Lledoners Prison Don’t Serve to End the Deadlock Over the Formation of a New Government in Catalonia

On Tuesday and Saturday, ERC and Junts held summits at Lledoners prison in an attempt to end the deadlock over the formation of a new pro-independence government in Catalonia. The negotiations were led by the leaders of ERC and Junts, Oriol Junqueras and Jordi Sànchez respectively. Other negotiators, including Pere Aragonès (ERC), Josep Maria Jové (ERC), Elsa Artadi (Junts), and Josep Rius (Junts) also participated.

The summits, which lasted several hours each, saw progress in the structure of the future government and a commitment by both parties to avoid snap elections, though it didn’t serve to close any deal. The talks also saw strong disagreements on the coordination in Spain’s Congress and the strategic plan for independence, especially the role of the Council for the Republic, and the collegiate leadership of the pro-independence movement, which will have the task of creating a new roadmap for the implementation of the Catalan Republic.

ERC proposed the creation of three new ministries: Climate Action, Feminism and Universities and Research, and with a curator for the management of Next Generation funds. Both parties, who are seeking an equal distribution of ministries, issued a joint statement after the first meeting, in which they committed to continue working “to create a pro-independence government that responds to the electoral mandate of 52%.” However, ERC gave an ultimatum during the second meeting and opened the door to forming a minority government if a deal is not sealed soon. They have until May 26th to prevent snap elections.

Persecution of the Catalan Pro-Independence Movement over the 2017 Self-Determination Referendum Goes On

Earlier this week, a court in Barcelona confirmed the indictment of 29 Catalan government officials and businesspeople for their role in the preparations for the 2017 independence referendum. They are accused of disobedience, misuse of public funds, abuse of office, and document falsification.

The same court also decided to close the inquiries into 19 other people and rejected the request to try three more people: the Director of the Catalan Data Protection Authority, Maria Àngels Barbarà; the former Director-General of Dissemination of the Catalan Government, Ignasi Genovès and the Director of Services of the Department of the Presidency, Teresa Prohias.

The persecuted include:

– Albert Royo: Secretary-General of the Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia (Diplocat).

– Aleix Villatoro: Secretary-General at the International Actions, Institutional Relations, and Transparency Ministry.

– Antoni Molons: Secretary of Broadcasting and Citizen Assistance at the Catalan Presidency Department.

– Joaquim Nin: Secretary-General at the Catalan Presidency Department.

– Josep Ginesta: Secretary-General at the Catalan Work, Social Affairs, and Family Ministry.

– Saül Gordillo: Director of Catalunya Ràdio.

– Amadeu Altafaj: Director of the Catalan Government’s Delegation to the European Union.

– Núria Llorach: Vice-President of the Catalan Audiovisual Media Corporation (CCMA).

List of all persecuted and accusations:

– Marta Garsaball Pujol: misuse of public funds, disobedience, document falsification, and abuse of office.

– Aleix Villatoro Oliver: misuse of public funds, disobedience, and abuse of office.

– Rosa Vidal Planella: misuse of public funds, disobedience, and document falsification.

– Joaquim Nin Borredà: misuse of public funds, disobedience, and abuse of office.

Amadeu Altafaj Tardio: misuse of public funds and abuse of office.

Albert Royo Mariné: misuse of public funds and document falsification.

Manuel Manonelles Tarragó: misuse of public funds, disobedience, and abuse of office.

Ignasi Genovés Avellana: misuse of public funds, disobedience, and abuse of office.

Teresa Prohías Ricart: misuse of public funds, disobedience, and abuse of office.

Antoni Molons Garcia: misuse of public funds and abuse of office.

Francesc Sutrías Grau: misuse of public funds and disobedience.

Pablo Raventós: misuse of public funds and disobedience.

Francesc Fabregas Bonet: misuse of public funds and disobedience.

Jaume Clotet Planas: misuse of public funds.

Josep Ginesta Vicente: misuse of public funds.

David Palanques Bonavia: misuse of public funds.

David Franco Sánchez: misuse of public funds.

Natalia Garriga Ibáñez: misuse of public funds.

Rosa M. Rodríguez Curto: misuse of public funds.

Josué Sallent: misuse of public funds.

Xavier Puig Farré: misuse of public funds.

Vicent Sanchís Llacer: disobedience.

Saül Gordillo Benárdez: disobedience.

Núria Llorach Boladeras: disobedience.

Frederic Udina Abelló: disobedience.

Martí Patxot: disobedience.

Mercedes Martínez: disobedience.

Joan Manel Gómez Sanz: disobedience.

Josep Masolivé Puig: disobedience.

The Catalan Council for the Republic Makes the New Digital Identity System Available for the Next Government of Catalonia

The new digital identity system launched by the Council for the Republic last week aims to be a tool for the next Catalan government to disconnect from the Spanish state. This is considered a state structure out of the reach of Spain where the new Catalan state should start to be built. Over 15,000 people have already joined the initiative.

The new ID has an identifying QR code that allows people to “join and access the services of companies from all over the Catalan Countries.” NGO’s, companies, unions and associations are currently negotiating their integration in the system that also aims to create “social cohesion, collective awareness and sovereign spaces that empower citizens.”

The success of the new identification system will be determined by the number of people and organizations that join and operate this new structure, which could replace the Spanish National ID in the future if there is ever a new attempt to create the Catalan republic.

The new ID will cost six euros for the digital format with a QR code and twelve for the physical card, which is made of bamboo, a biodegradable material.

Council for the Republic

The Catalan Council for the Republic is an institution that aims to “promote political, social, cultural and economic activities aimed at the establishment of an independent state in Catalonia in the form of a republic.” It currently has around 96,000 members and is growing every day. The only requirement to join the Council is to be at least 16 years old, to prove your identity, and to make a contribution of a minimum of 10 euros.

Scandal: Over 50,000 Missing Vaccines Were Given to the Spanish Army

The Minister of Health, Carolina Darias, has admitted that over 50,000 missing vaccine doses from Pfizer and AstraZeneca were given to the Army: 36,100 AstraZeneca jabs and 19,500 Pfizer jabs. She had declined to give explanations publicly as to the exact number of doses, their destination, or why these vaccines did not appear in the official records for weeks.

The vaccination protocols are clear and the military personnel who have received the vaccine do not match the target population requirements: the use of the different Covid-19 vaccines is set by age groups, and the order in the vaccination schedule is based on priority groups.

The first to receive vaccines in the Spanish state were elderly people living in nursing homes along with medical and care home personnel. Only 3,340 military personnel matched those requirements out of over 50,000 doses given to them, so the Ministry of Defense and the Spanish government broke their own protocols at a time when the vaccination in nursing homes and those over 80 had not been completed yet.

It should be remembered that the Pfizer vaccine is specified as being exclusively for administration to health workers, the elderly people in nursing homes, those over 70 age and people with a high degree of dependency.

This controversy over the vaccine distribution is the second Covid scandal to puncture the Spanish Army and the Health Ministry.

Spain’s former chief of defense, Miguel Ángel Villarroya, was vaccinated against Covid-19 before it was his turn. Villarroya resigned. Nevertheless, the Minister of Defense, Robles appointed him as a member of the Royal and Military Order of Saint Hermenegild, of the Air Force, and assigned him to Washington.

The Council of Europe Denounces the “Retaliation and Intimidation” by Spain against Jordi Cuixart, a Catalan pro-Independence Human Rights Defender

The Council of Europe denounces the continued suffering of the Catalan political prisoner and President of Òmnium Cultural, Jordi Cuixart. This was stated in a report written by the General Rapporteur of Human Rights Defenders of the Council of Europe, Alexandra Louis, after Jordi Cuixart’s situation was analyzed by the Committee of Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Body, where his treatment was equated with that of other human rights defenders imprisoned in countries of dubious democratic quality such as Turkey and Azerbaijan.

The report states that “the trial against Cuixart was political in nature, and he should not have been tried by the Supreme Court, which has jurisdiction to try elected officials and not activists of civil society like him.” The rapporteur also pointed out that Cuixart is the president of “an association that promotes civil and cultural rights in Catalonia that was founded in 1961 under the Franco dictatorship.”

Louis also affirms that she will “continue to pay close attention to the work of the institutions of the Council of Europe.”

“I will also oversee the work of other international organizations on this issue and alert the committee and the Assembly to new cases of violations of the rights of human rights defenders and all new initiatives aimed at protecting them,” she stated.

Reprisals and intimidation

The rapporteur says that examples such as Cuixart’s show that “human rights defenders are still suffering reprisals and intimidation, and that their situation has not improved, but has even worsened in certain European member states,” comparing it with the situation in Turkey.

Arbitrary Judiciary

In 2018, the GRECO group (Group of State against Corruption of the Council of Europe) stated that Spain has a problem of judicial independence, and the human rights advisers of this body have also questioned the proportionality of the Judgment in Democracy.

International call for Cuixart’s release

Prestigious institutions and entities have called for the release of Jordi Cuixart. The list includes: Amnesty International, the World Organization Against Torture, Front Line Defenders, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, the Association of European Democratic Lawyers, the International Commission of Jurists, and the International PEN, among others. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention also questioned the allegations against Cuixart and his imprisonment, while calling for his release and for the Spanish government to open an investigation into his imprisonment. Still within the framework of the United Nations, the High Commissioner for Human Rights and three Special Rapporteurs, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, and the Special Rapporteur on Minorities.

In addition, there have been many political, social, and cultural figures from around the world who have expressed support for Jordi Cuixart and called for his release. The manifesto made public at the beginning of the year stands out around fifty internationally known figures ask for amnesty for all those against whom the Spanish state retaliated. It was signed by Dilma Rousseff, Gerry Adams, Yoko Ono, Ai Wei Wei and five Nobel laureates: Shirin Ebadi, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Jody Williams, Mairead Corrigan, and Elfriede Jelinek.

PSOE Allies with Vox, PP and C’s to Refuse an Amnesty Debate and Against Repealing the Crime of Sedition and the Gag Law

On Tuesday, Spain’s Congress Bureau, with a majority of PSOE, PP and Vox, dismissed bringing to debate an amnesty bill law filed by Catalan pro-independence parties last week, which seeks the removal of any kind of criminal and administrative responsibility for all acts of political intent related to the democratic struggle for self-determination of Catalonia since January 1, 2013, which would grant a pardon to over 3,000 victims of reprisals. The motion will not even be debated in the lower house.

The lawyers of Congress, politicized and with a conservative majority, already asked that the Bill not be admitted for processing on Monday, arguing that the proposal was partially unconstitutional because it did not propose an amnesty but a general pardon.

The dismissal of the bill did not come as a surprise to the pro-independence camp. The Spanish government led by PSOE has refused to keep dialogue with Catalonia on multiple occasions during the current legislature.

“PSOE don’t miss an opportunity to align themselves with PP and Vox by blocking this amnesty law,” Catalan government spokesperson Mertixell Borràs lamented on Tuesday.

The president of Unidas Podemos parliamentary group, Jaume Asens, told Catalunya Ràdio that it was “serious” that the Bureau wanted to “stand as a kind of censor which carries out prior control and usurps the functions of the Constitutional Court.”

The Spanish government says it is considering other alternatives, which have been rejected or deliberately postponed, such as granting presidential pardons to the nine politicians and high-profile activists political prisoners or a reform of the crime of sedition for which they were convicted. However, these proposals would only benefit the top leaders of the pro-independence movement, leaving over 3,000 lower-profile cases unresolved.

The civil society organization Òmnium Cultural has prepared a signature drive for April 10 in an attempt to send the bill back to the lower house.

Repeal of crime of sedition and gag law

On Tuesday, the Spanish Congress also rejected a bill proposed by the Catalan pro-independence party CUP to repeal the crime of sedition and the gag law. PSOE who had “defended” a reform of the crime of sedition and promised to repeal the gag law during the last presidential campaign, allied with conservatives and far-right PP, Vox and C’s to overturn CUP’s proposal and show how false their promises to its electorate had been.

Pro-independence parties reproached PSOE for the old promise to repeal the gag law and the fact that two and a half years after coming to power it has not been repealed yet, but “applied more than the former right-wing government of PP.”

Pro-independence activists also described it as “shameful” that the PSOE has not pursued the reform of the crime of sedition promised by the Minister of Justice, Juan Carlos Campo.

Unidas Podemos showed support for the initiative, along with ERC, Junts and the BNG. The proposal of the anti-capitalists overlaps with the proposal of the PNV that was processed last fall calling only for a reform of the gag law, which was approved by PP in 2015.