Spain’s socialist party (PSOE) has struck a deal with Catalan separatist party Junts per Catalunya that could pave the way for acting prime minister Pedro Sánchez to form a coalition government as early as next week.
Speaking in Brussels, the PSOE’s organisational secretary Santos Cerdán said the deal was a “historical opportunity to resolve a conflict that can only be resolved through politics.”
Cerdán assured his party was “very happy” with the deal despite the difficult nature of negotiations, which have taken place in Belgium where Junts’ exiled leader Carles Puigdemont resides.
Puigdemont, speaking from the same spot in Brussels where he first addressed the public following his exile in 2017, said that his party and PSOE shared the objective of “contributing to the resolution of the historic conflict between Catalonia and Spain,” adding that Junts was entering an “unprecedented new phase” which the party would “explore and exploit.”
In the pact, the parties say that despite their “profound differences,” Junts will offer seven of its votes to back a Sánchez-led government in exchange for a controversial amnesty for Catalan politicians and activists who participated in a failed attempt at secession from Spain in 2017.
July’s inconclusive general election left no clear road to government for neither the right- nor left-wing coalition, but with Junts’ seven votes Sánchez can muster sufficient support to pass the 176-seat majority benchmark in an investiture vote.
The deal has drawn fierce criticism from opposition parties, who accuse Sánchez of undermining the rule of law by absolving crimes including embezzlement and maladministration for political gains.
The leaders of both the centre-right Partido Popular (PP) and the far-right Vox party have announced they will make statements to the press later on Thursday afternoon.
Dolors Montserrat, spokesperson for the PP in the European Parliament, said on social media platform X that the move marked the “beginning of the end of rule of law” in Spain, and vowed her party would continue to denounce the agreement in the European Union.
But Spain’s acting deputy prime minister and Sánchez’s coalition partner Yolanda Díaz said on social media platform X that after difficult months, “serenity and coexistence” had won over hate.
Violent protests have taken place in Spanish cities over the past few days, with smaller demonstrations also seen in the Belgian capital where the deal was announced.
According to the deal unveiled Thursday, Junts maintains the legitimacy of the referendum on Catalonia’s independence from Spain held in October 2017 and the ensuing declaration of independence, which the socialists consider legally null.
But despite what the text describes as “mutual distrust” between both parties, they have agreed to enter a new phase of cooperation to ensure Sánchez can govern for a second term.
In an unexpected intervention, EU justice commissioner Didier Reynders addressed a letter to Spanish ministers on Wednesday requesting more information on the possible amnesty law amid “serious concerns.” The Commission had been contacted by “a large number of citizens,” the letter says.
In response, Spain’s Presidency Minister Félix Bolaños said that the amnesty bill was a proposal from the parliamentary groups, and that the current caretaker status of the government prevented it from submitting bills to the parliament.