Grassroots lobby for Catalan self-determination and amnesty launched

Ex-pro-independence MPs and several entities form group to push for Catalonia-Spain conflict solution

Some of the committee members present at the press conference in Barcelona on April 1, 2022 (by Gerard Escaich Folch)
Some of the committee members present at the press conference in Barcelona on April 1, 2022 (by Gerard Escaich Folch) / Gerard Escaich Folch

Gerard Escaich Folch | Barcelona

April 1, 2022 01:11 PM

A lobby focusing on Catalan residents' support for self-determination and amnesty has been launched in Barcelona on Friday. This group, Acord Social per a l'Amnistia i l'Autodeterminació, intends to bring together several pro-independence entities from the political, cultural, and economic sectors. 

Their goal is to seek support for shelving all ongoing judicial procedures relating to the independence conflict between Catalonia and Spain, as well as self-determination as a possible solution.

The group announced its intention to search for other organizations to adhere to their cause. They expect to begin working from April 20, when they will publicly reveal their manifesto, and finish on October 1, coinciding with the fifth anniversary of the 2017 independence referendum.

"There are around 30 of us from different sectors who want more backing to promote amnesty and self-determination," Carme Forcadell, one of the committee members and former Catalan parliament speaker and jailed politician, said during the press conference the group held on Friday. 

Despite the problems "encountered" during the last four years, "there is a lot of support for amnesty and self-determination in Catalonia," she added. 

In fact, members of the committee quote several recent surveys showing that between 67% and 81% of Catalan residents are in favor of amnesty and self-determination

The group's origin is political, as president Pere Aragonès announced his intention to set up the association during his inaugural presidential speech.

"We want to debate and look for political solutions. Although this working group was formed only recently, we've been listening to and speaking with entities for months," David Fernández, former MP for the far-left pro-independence party CUP, said during the launch. 

"The origin of this group comes from a meeting with Pere Aragonès in early August 2021, with the idea to have a national pact for amnesty, but we proposed having an autonomous social initiative, from the grassroots level to the top with no political links," Fernández added. 

There is a lot of "democratic support for amnesty and self-determination, and our plan is to create a manifesto to give to entities, associations, and Catalan organizations to join us. Our objective is to make visible this big support," Carme Forcadell explained.  

The lobby will have several questions to answer, David Fernández said, such as, "When will those in exile return? When will former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and former Esquerra Republicana leader Marta Rovira’s persecution end? Will they try Tamara Carrasco again?". 

Once they "finish their work, they will deliver the manifesto to the Catalan government, parliament, and all organizations in the territory against the far-right, as it will be a useful report for all parts," the former CUP MP said. 

Independence push lagging behind

The Catalan independence movement has been lagging behind recently not only due to the Covid-19 pandemic but also because of the change of leadership in Spain and in Catalonia and due to internal disputes of pro-independence parties, which have been unable to find a joint way forward to their independence push. 

Following the last Catalan election on February 14, 2021, the government’s senior and junior coalition partners switched positions while Junts (JxCat) used to have the presidency, it is currently under Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) leadership.

Pere Aragonès, from ERC, has pushed for more dialogue between the Spanish and the Catalan executives. And in fact, both cabinets agreed that dialogue is the only way forward. 

A meeting between Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez and Aragonès in September 2021 ended with dialogue as the only point of agreement between the Catalan and Spanish governments.

While JxCat prioritizes resuming "peaceful confrontation" with Spain following the strategy of 2017 and is skeptical of the idea of engaging in dialogue with Madrid, Esquerra prioritizes talks with the Spanish government rather than taking a unilateral approach.

After years of political confrontation, a compromise between the Catalan government and the Spanish one still appears to be a long way off: Catalan officials want a self-determination referendum and an amnesty for everyone facing charges related to the ongoing independence push, but the Spanish government rejects both demands.

Still, both sides agreed to not set any deadlines for the talks—a decision at odds with the two-year grace period given to Esquerra by some of its pro-independence allies.

The significance of October 1

October 1, 2017 is a key date in Catalan politics, particularly for the independence movement, which currently holds a majority of seats in Parliament. Around 2 million people went to the polls that day and over a thousand voters were injured by the Spanish police officers who were sent to seize the ballots that day.

The organizers of the plebiscite deemed illegal by Spain were either imprisoned or moved abroad to avoid prosecution following a proclamation of independence on October 27, 2017, which led Madrid to suspend Catalonia's self-rule.

Nine of them were condemned to over a decade in prison for sedition and were pardoned three and a half years later. Six others are still living abroad.