Salvador Illa: “I feel that we gain support day by day to govern Catalonia”

Salvador Illa (La Roca del Vallès, 1966) receives EL PERIÓDICO in a happy moment. He has just received all power in the PSC in the extraordinary congress of the party, and has closed a global agreement for the renewal of several key institutions for Catalan self-government. In this interview, the first that he grants to a written medium after proclaiming himself first secretary, he explains his plans for the Catalan socialists to return to power again after the next elections.

We return to sanitary restrictions. As a former Minister of Health, what can you say to those who have been vaccinated and now see with confusion that cases and hospital admissions are increasing?

There is no doubt that the way out is the way of vaccination. It is true that there is an increase in cases due to the omicron variant, more contagious, but apparently with much lower fatality rates. But if we did not have the vaccination rates that we have, there would be death figures and a much higher hospital burden.

So are you in favor of going back to outdoor masks?

I am in favor of everything that the health authorities agree on, I am not going to introduce any nuance.

You leave the PSC congress with all the power in the party. What did you prioritize when making the executive?

A precision: all the power of the party is held by the militants. I tried to combine experience with new values, maintain parity, combine ages, make it territorially representative … Finally, underline the collective nature of our project. I spoke with the heads of the 16 party federations and listened to their opinions, with the aim of leading the party to govern Catalonia.

They want to govern, but after the last elections it became clear that an electoral victory is not enough for the PSC today to govern. Do you have a specific strategy to reach the Generalitat?

Yeah right. Have the confidence of the majority of the citizens of Catalonia in sufficient terms to form a government. And I think this is going to come. If things continue to go as they have done now, if we have a Government like Aragonès with a very high level of internal fragility that does not face the problems … I feel that we gain support day by day to govern Catalonia. A political project that is designed for 100% of the citizenry suits us. Now we have a project aimed, at best, at 52%. They already forget to serve at 48%. I want to emphasize what unites us, which is a lot: a democratic society, a market economy complemented by a welfare state … If I have to choose a political objective that I consider fundamental for Catalonia for the year 2022, no I doubt it: dialogue between Catalans.

Do you have the impression that if the identity blocks that survive in Catalan politics are not broken, the PSC has few options of returning to the Government?

Some did not predict any future for the PSC, others a residual future, and here we are. What you have to do is work. Where is 52%?

In the Government?

No, in the Government there is, to be exact, 41.37% of the votes. The CUP has already been unmarked, it says that Aragonès does not overcome the question of trust. Let’s see if we understand each other: a Government must be 100% of the Catalans. To self-label yourself as the Government of 52% … But it is also that that has already been broken, it has not lasted even six months.

Why did you want the motto ‘un sol poble’ to be one of the central ideas of the PSC congress?

The person who first mentioned it in the congress was Raimon Obiols, who made an intervention that must be read, if not studied. The PSC was a decisive political actor so that in Catalonia there was only one educational line. I see that on one side and on the other there are efforts to break this. You do not have to dedicate many adjectives to disqualify the expressions of Pablo Casado. But it is also despicable that, from a diametrically opposite position, the focus is placed on the Canet de Mar educational center or a five-year-old student is singled out, or that the defense of Catalan is wanted to be siblinically confused with attacks on Castilian.

There are people who equate speaking Catalan with being a pro-independence to divide

Is the PSC’s position on immersion still the same as it was several decades ago, when that debate began?

What is the credibility of a person who encourages the failure to comply with a judicial decision that asks for three more hours of Spanish a week and takes their children to a school where this is already done without a court decision?

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He is talking about the ‘conseller’ d’Educació.

And from others. There are ex-deputies who ask to return to the segregated lines. What are we talking about? To divide? They won’t find us there. We are in favor of Catalan being a vehicular language. It also seems to us that the model must be updated according to the new social reality of Catalonia: depending on the sociolinguistic reality of each territory, the educational authorities have to establish the exact percentage of Catalan, Spanish and English. In some areas where the social use of Catalan is more prevalent, it is probably advisable to reinforce the teaching of Spanish, and vice versa. Language must be used as a meeting point, and not as an element of confrontation. Speaking Catalan does not have to be equated with being a pro-independence and speaking Spanish with being a constitutionalist. Catalan is my mother tongue and I am not pro-independence, and there are people who insist on making this identification to divide.

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