Rajoy’s Offer to Talk May Be Too Little, Too Late for Catalans

After years of ignoring Catalan demands, Spain’s conservative prime minister is finally willing to sit down and talk.

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy answers questions from reporters in Madrid, August 7, 2015
Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy answers questions from reporters in Madrid, August 7, 2015 (La Moncloa)

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy is finally willing to talk and hear Catalonia’s demands, but it may be too little, too late for the independence movement in the region.

Spanish media report that Rajoy has reached out to Catalonia’s president, Carles Puigdemont, to discuss his terms.

The two leaders have met only once, in April of last year. On that occasion, Puigdemont handed Rajoy a list of 46 Catalan demands, ranging from power-sharing to tax policy. Rajoy is reportedly ready to discuss all but one of those points: Catalonia’s desire to hold a binding independence referendum.

Rajoy told a congress of his conservative People’s Party in Madrid earlier this month that he could not allow a referendum that is forbidden under the Spanish Constitution.

No majority

The region has been denied a referendum time and again, despite overwhelming support for one among the Catalans.

But few polls have found a majority in favor of breaking away.

Given the choice, more Catalans would prefer to become an autonomous community or federal state within Spain than an independent country.

Radicalized

One reason support for independence has nevertheless risen in recent years is that Rajoy has refused to discuss, much less consider, a further devolution of powers to Barcelona.

The region has complained for years that it pays more into the central government in taxes than it gets in return.

It also feels other Spaniards do not respect its sense of nationhood.

Rajoy’s intransigence has radicalized Puigdemont’s Catalan Democratic Party, formerly called Democratic Convergence. Generally pro-business, it has teamed up with the hardcore separatists of the Republican Left and the anticapitalist Popular Unity Candidacy to form a regional government that has begun the process of seceding from Spain.

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