Torra Gives Spain Ultimatum. His Position Is Weak

Quim Torra enters the parliament of Catalonia to be sworn in as the region's president, May 14
Quim Torra enters the parliament of Catalonia to be sworn in as the region’s president, May 14 (Miguel González de la Fuente)

Catalan president Quim Torra has given the Spanish government of Pedro Sánchez an ultimatum: allow the Catalans to exert their right to self-determination (which Spain doesn’t recognize) by November or lose the support of Catalan nationalist parties in Congress.

Sánchez needs the Catalans for his majority, but Torra’s position is weaker. Read more

The Pettiness of Catalonia’s Unionists

A yellow ribbon is wrapped around a statue in Brussels, Belgium during a Catalan demonstration for independence, December 7, 2017
A yellow ribbon is wrapped around a statue in Brussels, Belgium during a Catalan demonstration for independence, December 7, 2017 (Wikimedia Commons)

Catalan unionists, including the leaders of the region’s largest anti-independence party, Citizens, have taken to the streets to remove yellow ribbons that agitate for the release of separatist leaders.

Some eighty people descended on La Bisbal, a small town close to the French border, last night to remove yellow ribbons from buildings, wearing white industrial suits and masks.

The mayor, Lluís Sais, condemned the action, saying, “When someone has nothing to hide, and has no shame, they do not cover their faces.”

Citizens party leaders Albert Rivera and Inés Arrimadas nevertheless joined in the protest on Wednesday, removing yellow ribbons in Alella, half an hour’s drive north of Barcelona. Read more

Catalan and Spanish Leaders Take Steps to Normalize Relations

Catalan president Quim Torra is welcomed by Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez in Madrid, July 9
Catalan president Quim Torra is welcomed by Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez in Madrid, July 9 (La Moncloa)

Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez and Catalan president Quim Torra have met for the first time.

The fact that a simple meeting is considered a step forward says something about how poorly Sánchez’ conservative predecessor, Mariano Rajoy, managed relations between the Spanish state and its richest — and rebellious — region.

Beyond the symbolism of the meeting, the two leaders made substantive progress. Read more

Sánchez Shouldn’t Be Afraid of Federalizing Spain

Spanish Socialist Party leader Pedro Sánchez listens during a meeting in Madrid, April 12, 2016
Spanish Socialist Party leader Pedro Sánchez listens during a meeting in Madrid, April 12, 2016 (PSOE)

There is hope here in Catalonia that the new Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, will be more conciliatory than the last. But he mustn’t make the same mistake as his predecessor, I argue in an op-ed for the Netherlands’ NRC newspaper. Read more

Who Is Catalonia’s New President and What Happens Next?

Quim Torra enters the parliament of Catalonia to be sworn in as the region's president, May 14
Quim Torra enters the parliament of Catalonia to be sworn in as the region’s president, May 14 (Miguel González de la Fuente)

Quim Torra has been elected president of Catalonia with 66 to 65 votes in the regional legislature.

Torra was supported by his own party, Together for Catalonia, and its ally, the Republican Left. Both seek Catalan independence.

The smallest separatist party, the Popular Unity Candidacy, abstained to make it possible for Torra to take office, but it considered his predecessor, Carles Puigdemont, the only legitimate candidate.

Puigdemont, who led Together for Catalonia to victory in December’s election, was removed from power by Spain in the wake of the October 1 independence referendum that had been ruled illegal by the Constitutional Court. Read more

Deal Slips Away in Catalonia as Both Sides Dig In

Cable car in Barcelona, Spain
Cable car in Barcelona, Spain (PxHere)

In my first contribution to World Politics Review, I write that a deal is slipping away in Catalonia as the region’s separatists remain deadlocked with the central government of Spain.

Both sides are waiting for the other to make the first move: Spain for the Catalans to form a pliable regional government; the separatists for Spain to drop charges against the leaders of their independence movement. Neither is likely to happen. And so six months after the referendum, and four months after regional elections in Catalonia, there is still no breakthrough.

The solution, I’ve argued before, is more self-government. Most Catalans don’t feel they have enough control over their own affairs. But most don’t really want to break away either. It’s only if they are forced to choose between the status quo and secession that the population splits down the middle.

Unfortunately, more autonomy is out of the question for the current Spanish government. Mariano Rajoy, the prime minister, won’t even negotiate with the Catalans.

The longer this impasse lasts, I warn, the more the extremes will benefit.

The liberal Citizens, who take a harder line against the independence movement, are stealing voters from Rajoy. Radical separatists in Catalonia are growing at the expense of pragmatists. Rajoy may come to regret not talking with reasonable separatist leaders when he had the chance. Read more

South Tyroleans Bide Their Time

View of Bolzano, the capital of South Tyrol, Italy, July 30, 2007
View of Bolzano, the capital of South Tyrol, Italy, July 30, 2007 (Flickr/gigi62)

An Austrian proposal to extend dual citizenship to German-speaking inhabitants of South Tyrol has heightened already tense relations with Italy over the region.

However, secession — in the wake of failed independence bids in Catalonia and Scotland — remains unlikely. Read more