The Catalan Executive expects the Spanish establishment to make an offer regarding Catalonia’s self-government
In the last few days, there has been an attempt to build bridges between Catalonia and Spain, despite the visible increase of tension between the two governments. In public the Catalan and Spanish Executives are heading for a collision but at the same time discreet manoeuvres explore alternative ways out. This Tuesday, the ‘number 2’ of the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU) – which runs the Catalan Government – Josep Antoni Duran I Lleida acknowledged that he met with the Spanish Prime Minister and leader of the People’s Party (PP) Mariano Rajoy on the 16th October. Besides, the Catalan President, Artur Mas, met on Friday with the Secretary General of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) to talk about a constitutional change. Today, the Spokesperson of the Catalan Government, Francesc Homs, stated that Catalonia is waiting for an offer from the Spanish establishment. Although “there is no deadline” for this offer, the self-determination process will not be waiting for it, although if it arrives it will be studied.
Barcelona (ACN).- In the last few days, there is an attempt to build negotiation bridges between Catalonia and Spain, despite the visible increase of tension between the two governments. The Catalan and Spanish Executives are publicly heading for a collision but at the same time discreet manoeuvres are being made to explore alternative ways out. This Tuesday, the ‘number 2’ of the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU) – which runs the Catalan Government – Josep Antoni Duran I Lleida acknowledged that he met with the Spanish Prime Minister and leader of the People’s Party (PP) Mariano Rajoy on the 16th October to talk about Catalonia’s self-determination process. Besides, the Catalan President and CiU’s leader, Artur Mas, met on Friday for more than 2 hours with the Secretary General of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) to talk about change of the Spanish Constitution. However, this Tuesday, the Spokesperson of the Catalan Government and Mas’ right-hand man, Francesc Homs, stated that now Catalonia is waiting for an offer from the Spanish establishment regarding how to better relationship between Catalonia and Spain in order to avoid secession. “It is time for the PP and PSOE to talk” and “make a proposal”, he said, since Catalonia has already made its proposal on many occasions. In addition, Homs clarified that the Spanish offer does not have to arrive before Christmas, which is the deadline that Catalan parties have given themselves to approve the legal process for a self-determination vote as well as the exact question and date. In fact, on the same day, the Catalan Parliament is planning to bring to the plenary session starting on 20th November the motion that will set the legal way to organise a self-determination vote. In this vein, Homs emphasised that Catalonia’s self-determination “process will follow the course already drawn” and cannot wait for the Spanish establishment to make a move, since Catalonia has been waiting for decades. However, he added that, if an offer from Madrid arrives, it will be studied.
A new period in the Catalan self-determination process is starting. The Spanish Government and the People’s Party seem to be changing their strategy or adding another flank to it in their attempt to stop Catalonia’s self-determination process. First they denied the process, which was quickly transformed into publicly downplaying it. For many months, the Spanish Government, the PP and also the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) publicly stated that the support for Catalonia’s independence was a mirage and “a soufflé”, which would significantly decrease after a few months. In addition, they were saying it was led by the Catalan Government and public media, ignoring the grass-root nature of the movement.
In early 2013, after the Catalan elections (held in November 2012), the PSOE started to realise something deep was going on in Catalonia, mostly thanks to the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), which is federated to it and that, even though it is opposed to Catalonia’s independence, supports Catalonia’s right to self-determination. The PSOE started to talk about changing the Spanish Constitution and giving more powers to Catalonia, but totally rejected allowing a self-determination vote ever to happen.
Meanwhile, the PP and the Spanish Government started to implement a dual strategy: publicly they were denying the importance of Catalonia’s self-determination process and were repeating that the Constitution did not allow any self-determination process to happen, while at the same time they were building a tough frontal opposition to it with a set of recentralising measures aiming to reduce Catalonia’s self-government. The Education Reform going against Catalonia’s school model and an economic asphyxia of the Catalan Government’s finances – with partial transfers of funds – are some examples of this tough approach.
Publicly, the tension between both governments is increasing
In August, a window for dialogue seemed to appear, when it was leaked that Rajoy and Mas had held a secret meeting to discuss the situation. However, the tension increased again after the massive demonstration that took place on Catalonia’s National Day, when 1.6 million Catalans formed a 400 kilometre-long human chain demanding independence from Spain. Then, part of the PP’s and Spanish Government’s strategy changed, as the Madrid establishment publicly acknowledged that something very deep was going on in Catalonia and that it would not go away easily. The soft manners changed and the PP and the Spanish Government revealed their tough opposition, starting an intimidation campaign threatening Catalans with their expulsion from the European Union if they declared independence and increasing the tension with the Catalan Government. In fact, a tension scenario benefits both the Spanish and the Catalan Executives on the short-term.
However, in many circles, particularly among the business ones, many voices started to press politicians to find an agreed way out of the current situation. In the last few weeks, many people in influential positions, particularly among large-size companies, have started to be convinced that Catalonia’s independence could actually happen and now they are working very seriously to try to avoid it. In this context, the PSOE leader, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, met with Rajoy to talk about Catalonia; something they do not do for any other issue. While PP and PSOE are in a really tense relationship, both leaders consider it essential to share a common stance to defend the unity of Spain and oppose Catalonia’s self-determination process.
The PSOE leader met with Mas
Following the meeting with Rajoy, Rubalcaba met with Mas last Friday. The PSOE and CiU leaders talked for more than two hours about Catalan-Spanish relations. Both Mas and Rubalcaba concurred that the meeting’s climate had been very positive. Rubalcaba explained the PSOE’s proposal to change the Spanish Constitution to Mas. He proposed that Catalans could vote on this Constitutional change instead of voting on Catalonia’s independence. The PSOE proposes a federal Spain, with greater and better defined powers for the Autonomous Communities. However, it would not grant Catalonia a specific Economic Agreement as the Basque Country has, neither would it recognise Catalonia as a nation.
In the current state of the situation, the majority of Catalans is not likely to accept a small power bargaining, since this has been the story of the last 35 years of democracy in Spain. A sincere recognition of Catalonia’s nationhood, a strong respect for Catalan language, an effective compliance with Catalonia’s self-government and a fair fiscal redistribution seem to be four red lines for a wide majority of Catalan citizens in order to restore their trust in a collective project with Spain.
CiU's 'number 2' met with Rajoy
A few days earlier than Rubalcaba meet with Mas, CiU’s ‘number two’ met with the Spanish Prime Minister, as Duran i Lleida recognised this Tuesday. It was a secret meeting held in the Spanish Parliament to discuss Catalonia’s self-determination process. It took place in the afternoon, after Duran had publicly asked Rajoy in the morning to put Catalonia’s self-determination issue on his agenda and make Catalans a proposal. In fact, in mid-September Duran publicly acknowledged he does not want independence and started to campaign for a 'third way' between independence and the current status quo. Duran would act as the spokesperson of conservative Catalan nationalists who want Catalonia's national identity and language to be fully respected but, at the same time, they want to remain within Spain, mostly for business reasons.
In an emphatic speech before the Spanish Parliament on the 16th October, Duran stated that constitutional considerations will not stop the Catalan self-determination process and that the Spanish Government needs to listen to Catalans – who are also its citizens – and give a political response to their demands. Duran’s argument is that otherwise Rajoy risks facing a unilateral declaration of independence in the coming months.
The Spanish establishment seems to start seriously considering that Catalonia's independence could take place and that the Spanish Government's stand-still and tough opposition strategy is it not working. Therefore, it is quite likely that the PP and PSOE will make a political move in the coming weeks or months, probably offering Catalonia greater powers.