who are the most veterans of the new Parliament?

Barcelona A new legislative term begins in Parliament and the parliamentary groups are already holding their first welcome meetings. The heads of the ranks of the parties take advantage of the days before the constitution plenum to remind newbies (already clueless) that they must provide all the documentation in time and form so as not to have problems on the day when they formally become new deputies. But there are those who, after half a dozen legislatures, already have their hands broken in procedures that can overwhelm those who have just arrived. They are the most veteran deputies in the chamber: Ramon Espadaler (United), Josep Rull (Joint), David Pérez (PSC) and Antoni Castellà (Demòcrates).

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Of all of them, the one who landed first in Parliament was Espadaler, in 1992. It would be the first of more than twenty years of parliamentary work, interrupted only by the time he was minister for the Environment (2001-2003) and for the Interior ( 2012-2015) and the legislature following the 1-O referendum (2017-2021), when he had withdrawn from politics, until this historic Union leader returned from the hand of the PSC. Of all the laws that have passed through his hands, he has a special memory for the environmental legislation that he worked on first as a deputy and then as a branch councillor. “I had never considered doing the work of deputy. But legislating is a beautiful job. It’s the transaction and coming to an agreement,” he explains to the ARA. Espadaler entered the Parliament for CiU with Carles Campuzano, now a member of the Left, and with whom this legislature will be reunited as a political rival.

Within the PSC-Units group, the ex-councillor competes in terms of seniority with David Pérez, who came to Parliament in 1999 at the proposal of the PSC de l’Hospitalet, and since then has only been out for one term. He experienced firsthand the harshest opposition to Jordi Pujol and the quarrels with CiU during the tripartite: “I was there when Pasqual Maragall told CiU that he had a problem with the 3%. A newspaper took me in a photograph with mouth open in surprise,” he recounts. Of all this path, he remembers with special emotion the day he glossed over the career of Esteban Casado, deputy of the first legislature and also of l’Hospitalet, on the occasion of his death. One of the first issues he took on as a deputy was the electoral law, which has been on the list of pending issues for as many years as he was a deputy.

Laws and negotiations

Elected deputy in eight legislatures, Castellà returned to the chamber in 2023 following the disqualification of the president of Junts, Laura Borràs, because she was next on the list. The former Union leader ran as part of the Esquerra candidacy in 2018 with Democrats, but in the following elections the party became part of Junts. What is the negotiation you remember most proudly? “That of the first university law”, says the former Secretary of Universities and Research, without having to think about it. It was in the last legislature of Pujol, that he was invested with the votes of the PP in exchange for an exclusivity agreement by which his Government could only agree on laws with the people. With “a lot of dialogue”, Castellà convinced Alberto Fernández Díaz to accept that CiU agreed that law with Esquerra and PSC so that it would last beyond that mandate. One of his mentors in the Chamber was Josep Rull, who at that time had already served a term – he entered Parliament in 1997, aged 29 – and has continued there for seven more, even from prison, while awaiting sentencing for his participation in the independence referendum.

Rull, who is very “excited” about returning to parliamentary work, believes that the chamber that was there when he made his debut there was very different from the one now: “It was a time when there was no applause in Parliament. Everything that was done there had a lot of significance, for the Government to lose a motion was already a shame”, explains the now number 3 of Junts. There was no press room, all the deputies were dressed (in the case of the men, in suits and ties) and “99.9%” of the interventions were in Catalan (by everyone, he says, except for one deputy from PP). The former councilor also remembers with particular emotion the processing of the consultation law to celebrate 9-N, of which he was the speaker and which was debated the day after the birth of his second child. “We tried that the cesarean did not coincide,” explains Rull, who arrived at the debate in Parliament directly from the hospital after a sleepless night.

Behind him, in the ranking of more veterans, there is also Santi Rodríguez, who began his parliamentary adventure in 2003 and will now begin his seventh term as a deputy of the PP. Pere Aragonès, who entered Parliament as a deputy in 2006 – the same as Carles Puigdemont -, but has already announced that he will withdraw from the front line once there is a new Government, would have appeared on the Left side. Now the most veteran of the republicans is Marta Vilalta, who, despite her youth (she will turn 40 in December), has accumulated eight years of parliamentary experience in three legislatures.

What do they recommend?

What advice would the most veterans give to the new deputies? Pérez evokes some words of the recently passed Joan Rigol when he was president of the Parliament: “He told us that, above all, we should think of the interests of the country and the people before others.” Castellà emphasizes the same: “It’s just that we’re both from the old school”, he comments on the coincidence, and adds that it’s necessary to “listen more than talk” and learn both from colleagues and Parliament workers. Rull recommends that they be aware of the historical weight of the institution of which they will become part. “Macià and Companys were there. It remained closed for forty years and the people of Catalonia recovered it”, he underlines. Espadaler urges to always listen, “even from the discrepancy”.

2024-05-24 12:13:46
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