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Spain’s Socialists, separatists sign amnesty deal, paving way for new Sánchez government

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Negotiators of the Spanish Socialist Party and the Catalan separatist Junts per Catalunya signed on Thursday (9 November) an agreement on a future amnesty law for those involved in the 2017 separatist attempt in Catalonia, paving the way for acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to be reinstated for a new term in office.

The agreement, which covers the entire legislature, “comes at a key moment for the country” and “constitutes a historic opportunity to resolve a conflict (in Catalonia) that can and must only be resolved through politics”, the Socialist Party’s (PSOE) negotiator Santos Cerdán told a press conference in Brussels after the signing ceremony together with Jordi Turull from Junts per Catalunya (JxCat).

Cerdán added that the agreement between his party and JxCat for a future amnesty does not include names, and covers people related “directly or indirectly” to actions carried out by Catalan separatists in the period “between 2012 and 2023”, which separatists call procès (the pro-independence process), EFE reported.

The controversial agreement, which has provoked strong protests from the rightwing Partido Popular and the far-right party Vox, will allow Sánchez to be sworn in as the new prime minister next week, in a parliamentary debate to be held next Thursday or Friday.

Sánchez’s right-wing opponents had accused him of putting the rule of law in Spain on the line for his own political gain.

Sánchez and his Socialist Party have been trying to form a government after a July election produced no outright winner. He reached a deal to govern in coalition with the far-left Sumar last month but also needs support from several other smaller parties, including the Catalans.

In addition to the approval of an amnesty law for Catalan separatists, among them JxCat leader and former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, the pact also includes the cancellation of €15 billion of Catalonia’s debt with Spain’s central state and the transfer of competence over the suburban train network from Madrid to the regional government.

As demanded by JxCat, the amnesty law also covers cases of the so-called “lawfare”, or “strategic use of laws to harm dissidents or political rivals”, as Puigdemont has described it, cases that are not directly linked to the Catalan independence movement in recent years.

The leader of JxCat is expected to hold a press conference in Brussels at 14:00 CET on Thursday to provide more details of the agreement.

Meanwhile, El País has published the full text of the agreement.

JxCat and PSOE negotiators have managed to strike the agreement after a few days of intense discussions, with multiple exchanges of documents to polish the wording of the amnesty law and prevent its possible beneficiaries from being affected by restrictive legal interpretations by the Constitutional Court.

The amnesty law will have to be registered in the coming days in Parliament, an essential step before Sánchez’s investiture debate.

The European Commission and the Spanish government exchanged tense letters this week after EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders flagged “serious concerns” over the amnesty law and included a request for information on its personal, material, and temporal scope.

Spanish Minister of the Presidency Félix Bolaños responded on Wednesday evening, saying the amnesty law still does not exist, as it is being negotiated by the political groups and not the government.

“Should an amnesty bill be registered [in parliament], be assured that we will explain to you all the details of such a law, as well as the position of our government,” he wrote.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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