Sat, Feb 15, 2020 - Page 6 News List

Catalan party ties Spanish stability to separatist talks

Reuters, MADRID

Catalan separatist party Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) would help the Spanish government attain a stable majority in the legislature and support its budget only if the region’s independence drive is addressed in talks, a top party official told reporters on Thursday.

The leftist ERC was instrumental in facilitating Socialist Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s confirmation last month.

Its votes would be crucial for the approval or rejection of the left-wing coalition government’s budget plan, potentially defining the government’s survival in a fragmented legislature.

“What’s important is the resolution of the [Catalan] political conflict. The stability or not of the government will be a consequence on whether the first issue is being addressed correctly,” ERC national coordinator Pere Aragones said in an interview at the Catalan government’s delegation in Madrid.

“We will be extremely demanding” on the political requests to support the Spanish budget and on the details of the budget itself, he said.

Further down the road, the party would negotiate support with the Socialists on a case-by-case basis, he added.

The ERC’s support of the Spanish budget would depend on the evolution of a negotiation between the central and regional governments on Catalonia’s political situation. Talks are due to start later this month.

The talks promise to be difficult, as the ERC wants an independence referendum and amnesty for separatist leaders. Madrid has flatly rejected both.

The talks were a condition set by the ERC to abstain in Sanchez’s confirmation vote, whose dependence on Catalan separatists was highly criticized by conservatives.

The ERC’s chairman was sentenced in October last year to 13 years in jail for his role in a 2017 bid for independence and its secretary-general fled to Switzerland, leaving Aragones as the party’s most visible face.

Aragones is also deputy head of the regional government.

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