Spain’s Prime Minister Rajoy rejects a constitutional change to fit Catalonia better within Spain
The Spanish PM, Mariano Rajoy, considered that “to reform the Constitution in order to satisfy those who will not be satisfied”, referring to the citizens supporting Catalonia’s independence from Spain, who represent more than 50% of Catalans according to polls, would be “a great mistake”. Answering a question from the former Catalan President José Montilla, Rajoy stated before the Senate that “Spain and national sovereignty are not negotiable”. However, despite these red lines, Rajoy affirmed that his attitude towards Catalonia is “to talk” in order to find a negotiated way out. More than 80% of Catalans would like to hold a self-determination vote in Catalonia.
Madrid (ACN).- On Tuesday, before the Spanish Senate, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy totally rejected modifying the Spanish Constitution in order to find a better relationship between Catalonia and Spain. “Reforming the Constitution in order to satisfy those who will not be satisfied is a great mistake”, he said referring to the citizens supporting Catalonia’s independence from Spain, who represent more than 50% of Catalans according to polls. In addition, Rajoy emphasised that “Spain and national sovereignty are not negotiable”, closing the door to allowing an independence referendum in Catalonia, when he was asked about that by the current senator and former Catalan President José Montilla. “There are some issues” on which Rajoy “cannot give in”, particularly “Articles 1 and 2 of the Constitution”, which he also refuses to change. Article 1.2 reads that “national sovereignty is vested in the Spanish people, from whom State powers emanate”. Article 2 states that “the Constitution is based on the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation, common and undividable motherland of all Spaniards, and recognises and guarantees the right to autonomy of the nationalities and regions that form it [the Spanish nation], as well as the solidarity among them all”. However, despite these red lines, Rajoy affirmed that his attitude towards Catalonia is “to talk” in order to find a negotiated way out of the current situation. According to the polls, around 80% of Catalan citizens would like to hold a self-determination referendum in Catalonia. Furthermore, in the last Catalan elections, parties proposing a self-determination referendum got 80% of the votes, although not all of them were supporting the independence option.
The former President of the Catalan Government, José Montilla, asked Rajoy not to avoid Catalonia’s self-determination issue. The former leader of the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) – a party federated to the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) – also asked the Spanish PM “not to be influenced” by those who claim “to minimise” the problem between Catalonia and Spain or by those who “want to increase the conflict for electoral reasons”. Montilla, who is now a Senator, reminded Rajoy that the Catalonia issue will not be solved “by putting it on the compost heap” and that he must start “to walk in the correct direction”. According to the Catalan Socialist, Rajoy should adopt “the correct tone” and “attitude” because “talking without moving [one’s stance] can only increase frustration and the deterioration of the situation”. Montilla was sorry that Rajoy is not considering “a third way” between the current status quo and independence as a solution to the current conflict between Catalonia and Spain. The former Catalan President warned Rajoy about the consequences of his do-nothing policy: “you know that before the end of the year you might have the [self-determination] vote made explicit [meaning an exact question and date approved by the Catalan Parliament]”, he said. “It is not the best way to handle a negotiation, but the outcome might be a unilateral declaration of independence, which might be a failure for Catalonia and for Spain”, Montilla added.
Rajoy said he did not run for Prime Minister proposing a constitutional change
In his answer, Rajoy reminded Montilla that he ran for Spanish Prime Minister “with a programme” that had recovery from the economic crisis as its main priority. According to the leader of the People’s Party (PP), the measures adopted by the government he chairs “have gone in this direction”. Regarding Catalonia, Rajoy stated that the Spanish Government has worked on issues regarding public debt, public deficit and paying service providers. The Conservative leader also insisted on the importance of public infrastructure works related to the Mediterranean Railway Corridor, the High-Speed Train and Barcelona El Prat Airport undertaken in Catalonia in the past few years. In this vein, Rajoy stated that he did not go into the Spanish elections “with a programme that was talking about reforming the Spanish Constitution nor the rules of the game because the priority is the [economic] crisis”. The Spanish Prime Minister added that “whoever has a different opinion can use the legal ways that the Constitution sets” to change it. However, Rajoy totally refused changing the Constitution.
The Spanish Constitution was modified in 2011, but never when Catalan MPs have requested it
Taking into account that the People’s Party holds an absolute majority in the Spanish Parliament, any change to the Spanish Constitution could not happen without their support. In fact, Catalan MPs have already presented motions to modify the Spanish Constitution and they have all been rejected; so most of the legal ways to modify it have already been used without success. Furthermore, the Spanish Constitution was already modified in September 2011, through an express agreement between the PSOE and the PP in order to include a public deficit limitation. This constitutional change was approved in a fast-tracked way, without any referendum, and following the indications of the European Union and the recommendations of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Neither the PSOE nor the PP – which is being led by Rajoy since 2004 – had this change included in their electoral programme
Rajoy: “Spain and national sovereignty are not negotiable”
Regarding Catalonia’s self-determination process, Rajoy stated that his stance is to be open “to talk”, although he added that “there are issues that, as Spanish Prime Minister, [he] cannot give in […] because [according to] Article 1 of the Constitution and Article 2, Spain and national sovereignty are not negotiable”. Rajoy stated that his objective is to make “Catalonia definitely recover from the crisis and be [Spain’s] locomotive, recover its dynamism, and live together as always”. In this vein, he will “work to strengthen the ties that bond us together”, “pool strengths to be stronger”. “The debate here is article 1 and 2 of the Constitution” and “I am not for changing them”, because “I believe in national unity and I believe that sovereignty is [in the hands] of all Spaniards as a whole”.
The Spanish PM rejects modifying the Constitution to fit Catalonia better within Spain
Finally, regarding the Constitutional change that the PSC and the PSOE are proposing to fit Catalonia better within Spain, Rajoy said “it is very important” to know “what exactly is wanted to be changed” as well as “to have the maximum possible consensus and choose the right time”. “I am under the impression that proposing a reform of the Constitution in order to satisfy those who will not feel satisfied with this reform is a great mistake and I will certainly not do it”, he concluded. By saying “those who will not feel satisfied” Rajoy was referring to the Catalan citizens who would support independence from Spain, who represent around 55% of Catalans according to polls. In addition, around 80% of Catalans would like to hold a self-determination vote in Catalonia.