“Proposem que se suspenguin els efectes de la declaració d’independència unes setmanes per començar una etapa de diàleg (We propose suspending the effects of the declaration of independence for a few weeks in order to begin a dialogue).” –Catalan President Carles Puigdemont
Following the October 1 Catalan referendum that saw nearly 90 percent vote in favor of a split from Spain, amid violence inflicted upon voters by the Guardia Civil and the Spanish national police, and lauded by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, Catalan President Carles Puigdemont addressed the regional Parliament to announce a declaration of independence had been signed, but immediately followed it up by saying it will be suspended for the purpose of engaging in a dialogue.
Earlier this week, Puigdemont said,“Proposem que se suspenguin els efectes de la declaració d’independència unes setmanes per començar una etapa de diàleg (We propose suspending the effects of the declaration of independence for a few weeks in order to begin a dialogue).” From the outset, it would appear the regional leader has surrendered and given up on the process he has been advocating for decades. In response, Rajoy was firm in his rejection of any type of mediation, stating, “No hay mediación posible entre la ley democrática y la desobediencia (There is no possible mediation between democracy and disobedience” – from his perspective, the referendum refers to disobedience and the national police beating civilians with batons is democracy.
Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría took a jab at Puigdemont, characterizing his statement as “el discurso de una persona que no sabe dónde está, a dónde va ni con quién quiere ir. (the speech of a person who does not know where he is, where he is going and whom he wants to go with).”
There has also been talk of implementing Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, an unprecedented move.
According to a recent piece by Patricia Martin for the newspaper El Periódico, she described Article 155 as “para que el Gobierno tuviera precisamente un mecanismo para controlar a las Comunidades Autónomas y pudiera forzarlas ‘cumplir sus obligaciones’ o ‘proteger el interés general’ (for the government to have a mechanism to control autonomous communities and force them to ‘fulfill their obligations’ or ‘protect the general interest’).”
It is a scary thought for the Catalan people, to first face severe police brutality (with resulting praises for their actions by those in charge), followed by the possible takeover by the central government. While the Philippines is accustomed to an all-powerful central government, for countries with some form of federal system in place, the threat of losing one’s autonomy is frightening.
Jaume Pi offered another description of the move in a piece for the newspaper La Vanguardia, “El 155 no supone una suspensión, ni mucho menos una supresión, de la autonomía (155 does not imply suspension, let alone suppression, of autonomy).” He goes on to say, “Sin embargo, resulta obvio que ésta quedaría muy limitada al quedar controlada total o parcialmente por la administración del Estado (However, this would result in very limited control or partial control by the state).”
It is unclear what exactly could come from a dialogue, with a Spanish government that described the images of people being dragged by their hair or being savagely beaten with batons as “las ordenes de la justicia (the orders of justice) and “profesionalidad (professional).” Not to mention, with the deputy prime minister’s dismissal of Puigdemont’s speech, her tone was arrogant and illustrated her position as believing the violence they ordered was effective.
However, for the Catalans, by simply declaring independence, there are still several steps to be taken before being recognized as a full-fledged state – and Puigdemont knows this. Just before the speech, France’s European Affairs Minister Nathalie Loiseau said on French news channel CNews, “Une déclaration d’indépendance de la Catalogne ne serait pas reconnue (A declaration of independence from Catalonia would not be recognized).”
French President Emmanuel Macron, as reported by The Financial Times, expressed his position, saying, the EU should not take part in mediation between Spain and Catalonia.
There is a necessity to receive international recognition as a sovereign state and with the European Union (EU) acting very much like an “old boys’ club,” where membership is limited to a few long-standing elites, particularly with the entire organization ignoring the violence witnessed by the entire world, it will be a difficult process.
Nigel Farage lambasted the EU over the issue during an address to the European Parliament, saying, “There is absolutely no mention made of the dramatic events that have taken place inside a European Union member-state that is allegedly a modern democracy.”
“I have called the EU undemocratic, I’ve called it anti-democratic, but I have never ever, in my fiercest criticisms, did I think we would see the police of a member-state of the union injuring 900 people in an attempt to stop them from going out to vote,” he stated. “And what do we get from [President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker], not a dicky bird (to say nothing).”
“It is quite extraordinary to realize that this union is preparing to turn a blind eye,” Farage added.
Adam Taylor penned a piece for The Washington Post discussing independence movements over the last couple decades, noting, “There has been no easy path to independence in recent years.”
“Countries such as South Sudan and Kosovo had major international backers, notably the United States, in their bid for independence – something Catalonia does not have,” he wrote. “Even then, their paths to independence have been rocky.”
Taylor listed various independence movements as of late, besides South Sudan and Kosovo having US backing, there were also movements, such as the split between Serbia and Montenegro and the Czech Republic and Slovakia, which required a mutual break.
“It isn’t just Catalans who should study this recent history,” he added. “Spanish leaders in Madrid should pay attention, too.”
Despite Rajoy and Macron closing the door on possible mediation, there have been others to offer their services.
Martin penned another piece listing other players willing to work between the two parties.
One of them is Podemos, a left-wing political party and the second highest in membership in Spain, behind the ruling Partido Popular. Party leader Pablo Iglesias phoned Rajoy with the proposal, but was rejected by the prime minister.
Lehendakari (President) of the Basque government Iñigo Urkullu also offered to act as an intermediary. He told Spanish TV network RTVE, “La estabilidad del Estado español está en riesgo y, en consecuencia, también la de la Unión (The stability of the Spanish state is at risk and, consequently, so is the European Union).”
He also called the situation “un problema de proporciones históricas (a problem of historical proportion)” and even had the opportunity to convey the urgency to Juncker through a letter, in effort to possible promote European mediation.
Additionally, the Basque Country is another autonomous Spanish region that also desires its independence.
The Swiss government, a neutral body, has also offered themselves up for possible mediation. According to Reuters, a spokesperson for the government said, in an email, “Facilitation can only be provided if both parties request it.”
They noted, “Switzerland is in contact with both parties, but the conditions for facilitation are not in place at this stage.”
Given the tone coming from Rajoy and Puigdemont, it is clear where the difficulty originates from.
Even FC Barcelona offered to work as an intermediary. As part of an independent commission, the football club said their aim is “to find a way out of the current political situation.”
Their commission includes membership from labor unions Comisiones Obreras (CCOO) and Unión General de Trabajadores (UGT), the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce, the United Nations Association in Spain, universities in Barcelona, among others.
It is clear there is no other option for the Spain central government than the status quo. John Stossel wrote about the issue for Libertarian publication Reason Magazine, saying, “Governments never want to give up power.”
“The powerful prefer one big central government,” he added.
Stossel also noted, “I’m wary of any government that hates the idea of people escaping its influence;” essentially, governments against the idea of varying opinion, which is why Farage referred to the Spanish government as “allegedly a modern democracy.”
Rajoy has made Madrid’s position obvious, they will not budge. Puigdemont has let the world know the Catalan government is willing to put aside its ambitions in order to work things out tactfully. The more the Spanish central government, along with their friends in the EU, refuses to engage in diplomacy, the bigger the conflict will get. Foreign governments like Switzerland are already seeing the need for a solution; while, amid the chaos on the day of the referendum, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel and Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon both publically expressed how appalled they were with the situation with the national police and the Guardia Civil throughout Catalonia. The longer the impasse goes on the more the world observes the type of “democracy” the Spanish government presents itself to be./WDJ