The President of Catalonia moves to Parliament the decision to whether declare independence or not
Confusion continues to reign in the Catalonia-Spain conflict. After keeping the citizens in suspense all morning, Catalan President Carles Puigdemont announced Wednesday that he would delegate to the regional parliament the decision to declare independence or not in the face of Madrid's imminent use of Article 155, which will suspend the Catalan government and the autonomous powers of the separatist region to force the convocation of regional elections. Parliament is expected to announce its decision on Friday.
(Barcelona). There are no options left for dialogue between Spain and Catalonia. Whose fault is it?
It’s not clear because the two protagonists of this secessionist soap opera - that threatens to leave a deep social mark in Catalan and Spanish society - have been simply playing Ping-Pong from Madrid to Barcelona; from Barcelona to Madrid. In a loop, on a daily basis, since last October 1, when Catalonia held a controversial referendum for independence that the Constitutional Court declared illegal and therefore, the Spanish state considers it so.
On Thursday, Catalan President Carles Puigdemont was invited to attend a session of the Senate in Madrid to present his government's allegations to stop the application of Article 155 of the Constitution, which will suspend the autonomy rights of Catalonia in retaliation for the separatist challenge.
But Puigdemont, being pressured by his pro-independence partners in the Catalan government, decided not to go to the Senate, without giving further explanations, although implying that it would be of no use.
In a letter sent by bureaufax to the Senate, he said that his government had submitted a petition to the Constitutional Court alleging that the way Mariano Rajoy’s government (PP) proposes to apply the 155 is unconstitutional.
Article 155 to be voted on today in the Senate involves the suspension of the government and the Catalan Parliament, as well as the intervention of the Catalan Treasury, the "Mossos" (Regional Police) and the public media (Tv3), three pillars of Catalan autonomy, which managed to recover after Franco's death in the late 1970s.
The aim of article 155, according to the Spanish government, is to get the Catalan government back to the legal framework and to convene regional elections. They have assured that the measure would last six months, but could be extended until the democratic situation goes back to “normal”.
Some political analysts - critical of the Popular Party - have warned that this an extreme measure and that it hides an attempt of re-centralization by the State. Catalonia, the Basque Country, and Navarre have political and fiscal autonomy highlighted by historical reasons, coinciding with the fact that they are autonomous communities where the conservative PP doesn’t have an important electoral weight.
During this week, the government of the PP, with the support of the PSOE, announced nevertheless that if Puigdemont removed the threat of a possible unilateral declaration of independence and called for autonomic elections, article 155 would not apply.
Several members of his political coalition yesterday pressed Puigdemont to convene regional elections and avoid the disaster of 155, which would have consequences for all Catalans, pro-independence or not. The economy has also been warning that a unilateral declaration of independence would be disastrous for Catalonia: since the referendum, on 1 October, more than a thousand companies have moved their headquarters outside Catalonia, and tourist reserves have plumped. All this will turn out in job losses during the coming months.
The rumor that Puigdemont would finally convene regional elections began circulating on Thursday at noon. They were rumors based on an internal source of the government quoted by the newspaper La Vanguardia: Discarded DUI, autonomic elections in December.
The stock market rose and there were first resignations in the pro-independence ranks.
President Puigdemont announced a presidential statement at 1.30 pm to explain to the public his decision. In front of the Palace of the Generalitat - the Catalan government, in Barcelona - university students with independence flags began to arrive, disillusioned at the imminent decision of the president.
"President, no es faci enrere!" (President, don’t back down!), they shouted. They spent all day there since Puigdemont finally showed up at 17h - three and a half hours after the scheduled time. He appeared with a serious and exhausted face, after almost a month without sleep. And instead of convening elections, as everyone expected, he said that the "government of Mariano Rajoy had not given him enough guarantees that he would not apply article 155 if he called elections, so he left the decision to whether declare independence or not to the Catalan Parliament.
Today, then, the Catalan Parliament will vote on what to do against article 155, which already appears as an imminent reality. Suspicious of a declaration of independence, Catalan economy secretary Santi Vila presented his resignation last night. Vila has insisted in recent months that the declaration of independence was not the way out of the crisis. No matter how hard Article 155 could be.
The Barcelona press - La Vanguardia, El Periódico, diari ARA - has launched very harsh editorials against the Catalan president. They accuse him of sacrificing the autonomy of Catalonia for an independence that doesn’t have enough popular support and that will have a hard impact on the economy, leaving aside that it won’t have international recognition. The referendum of October 1st held in absolute irregular conditions (with a universal census, between cyber attacks on the system and police charges ordered by Madrid) obtained 42% of the population, and the "yes" won by 90%. Those who voted “no”, faced with elections that Madrid considers illegal and therefore non-binding, weren’t really motivated to go and vote.
It is clear that if the Spanish government had agreed on holding a legal referendum on independence - something that the Catalan government has been asking for since 2012 - the situation wouldn’t have reached this point. Surveys indicated that most likely the “no” would win. But Madrid clings to the Constitution to repeat that a self-determination referendum is illegal. It has the backing of Europe, who’s fearful that, after Brexit, new nationalisms will explode and challenge the territorial hegemony of the European Union.
France, Italy, and Germany have their own autonomous regions with desires for more regional power.
Should Brussels rethink the territorial constitution of Europe to adapt itself to the aspirations of the regions and to diminish the power of the states?
Maybe it should, but it won’t be a quick process. States and their power apparatus move with the speed of an elephant.