Relations between Catalonia and Spain can be repaired after cuts in the Statute, say politicians

Catalan President José Montilla and Spanish minister Manuel Chaves meet to demonstrate their will to cooperate in the development of the original Statute


August 5, 2010 12:17 AM

There is “nothing irreparable” in the damaged relationship between Spain and Catalonia, said the Spanish minister for Territorial Affairs, Manuel Chaves, during a meeting with the Catalan President José Montilla. Chaves referred to the concerns of Catalan citizens and politicians after the Spanish Constitutional Court decided to cut several articles of the Statute, the law that establishes the devolved system of governance in Catalonia. President Montilla said that the Spanish minister knows about Catalan anger all too well and should try to win back their respect.

Catalan President José Montilla hopes that the Spanish government will agree to re-negotiate the articles of the Statute that were cut by the Constitutional Court.
The central government should steer itself towards a new “complicity” with Catalonia, in order to develop the Statute as citizens “voted for it,” said Montilla after his meeting with Chaves.

Minister Chaves confirmed the Spanish government’s intention to develop the Statue and to solve the problems created as a consequence of the sentence by the Constitutional Court.

“I am aware that the problems are not legal or administrative. They are political problems,” he said. “I think I am not exaggerating if I talk about a possible open wound in Catalan society,” he added, while encouraging “an atmosphere of reciprocal and mutual understanding.”

The meeting between Montilla and Chaves took two hours and finished with no formal agreement. In fact, Wednesday's event was seen as a purely symbolic opportunity to demonstrate both governments’ will to find a legal and political alternative to the articles cut by the Constitutional Court. Both politicians announced a new meeting in September in which they aim to establish how to recover those articles in concrete terms.

Issues relating to the Statute are likely to dominate the forthcoming electoral campaign in Catalonia. Parliamentary elections will take place in October and while the government and the two main political parties in Catalonia –the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) and the Catalan Centre-Right Nationalist Party (CiU)- are suggesting that a new agreement with Spain is possible, support for Catalan independence is also growing. Some political movements, such as the one promoted by the ex-president of the Football Club Barcelona Joan Laporta, seek a “unitarian” candidate whose goal is to fight for the declaration of Catalan independence.

The background

In a controversial move, in June the Spanish Constitutional Court decided to cut 14 articles of the Catalan Statute of Autonomy. It reinterpreted 27 of them. The ruling affected symbolic articles in particular, such as those referring to the definition of Catalonia as a nation, its language and its judicial system.

The Statute, a law passed by both the Catalan and Spanish parliaments and voted in a democratic referendum in 2006, established a new devolved system of governance for Catalonia, granting the region new powers.

The sentence by the Constitutional Court was received with anger in the country. Citizens argued that it was undemocratic that a Court over-ruled the will of the people. As a consequence, on 10 June in Barcelona more than one million Catalans demonstrated against the ruling –many of them also asking for independence from Spain- in one the biggest protests ever seen in the city.