Catalan parties file another bill to guarantee an early self-determination debate in Madrid
Three parties, which between them represent 63% of the Catalan Parliament, registered a second bill, identical to the motion approved two weeks ago, in order to ensure that the Spanish Parliament will discuss it before the summer. January’s motion and this latest bill both ask the Spanish Parliament to transfer the powers to organise referendums to the Catalan Government. The parties are using their MPs in Spain’s Lower Chamber to file their own bill and put it earlier in the plenary’s planning. As Spanish Parliament groups they are entitled to register a certain number of bills to be debated within the next two or three months. Otherwise, there was a risk that the Catalan Parliament’s motion would have to wait 9 months to be debated.
Barcelona (ACN).- On Monday afternoon three parties, which between them represent 63% of the Catalan Parliament, registered a second bill asking the Spanish Parliament to transfer the powers to organise referendums to the Catalan Government. The bill is identical to the motion approved two weeks ago by the Catalan Chamber in order to ensure that the Spanish Parliament will discuss this initiative before the summer. The Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU) – which runs the Catalan Government, the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC) and the Catalan Green Socialist and Communist Coalition (ICV-EUiA) are using their MPs in Spain’s Lower Chamber to file their own bill and put it earlier in the plenary’s planning. As groups within the Spanish Parliament they are entitled to register a certain number of bills to be debated within the next two or three months. Otherwise, there is a risk that the Catalan Parliament’s motion would have to wait 9 months to be debated, in September or October, since only one motion sent by the Autonomous Community parliaments is debated each month and the Catalan one will go at the end of the queue. However, such a delay would not be understood by a large majority in Catalan society, which has already been facing several refusals by the Spanish establishment to debate Catalonia’s self-determination over the last year and a half.
Despite having filed a second bill, the CiU, ERC and ICV-EUiA want “to prioritise” the Catalan Parliament’s motion, which was approved with 87 'yes' votes, 43 'no' votes and 3 abstentions. However, these 3 Catalan parties will use their 22 MPs in the Spanish Parliament “as a safety net” to speed up the debate if it is scheduled after the summer break by the Chamber’s Bureau (dominated by the PP) which runs the Spanish Government and is totally against Catalonia’s self-determination. The CiU has 16 MPs in Madrid and is the third largest group in the 350-seat Chamber, which is totally dominated by the governing People’s Party (PP) with an absolute majority with 186 MPs and the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) with 110 seats. The ERC has 3 MPs and the ICV-EUiA 3 more.
Prioritising the Catalan Parliament’s bill
The Catalan MPs said they would give up debating their own bill if the Bureau schedules the Catalan Parliament’s motion before the summer break. However, in order to do so, one of the previously-filed bills from an Autonomous Community parliament would have to be withdrawn before being debated. In the past this has happened, but it is not the most likely scenario. The Spanish Parliament debates one of those bills per month and five of them are already in the queue. On the 21st January accepted the Catalan bill. Since no plenary sessions are held in July and August, Catalonia’s bill would be debated in September or October.
However, this path is too slow for the evolution of Catalonia’s politics. A majority of Catalan parties agreed in December to hold a self-determination vote on the 9th November 2014. With this date they were responding to the urgency expressed by a wide majority of Catalans and at the same time giving 11 months for the Spanish authorities to react. However, almost two months have already passed and the Spanish authorities are not making any move and it seems their intention is to win time and slow down the process. Catalonia’s self-determination has been at the forefront of the political agenda since September 2012 but a year and a half later, the Spanish Government still has the same stance, repeating that it is “impossible”, it is “illegal”, it “does not fit into the Constitution” and refusing to reform it accordingly or even to hold a debate on the issue.
Therefore, Catalan parties refuse to wait 9 months to debate an issue that is so pressing for a wide majority of Catalans, and they have implemented this Plan B. In addition, it is very likely that the Spanish Parliament will totally reject the bill and would not engage in any negotiation, as it has not done so up to now. There have already been previous parliamentary initiatives in Madrid related to Catalonia’s self-determination, but they have always been defeated by the PP’s absolute majority and the votes from the PSOE with almost no debate. Thus, since Catalan parties expect a “no” as an answer and no concessions or negotiation on the matter, they refuse to wait such a long time after having given the Spanish establishment many opportunities in the past to respond.