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Sánchez Shifts Infrastructure Spending, Scholarships to Catalonia

The separatists have fifty more demands.

Pedro Sánchez
Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez arrives in Salzburg, Austria for a meeting with other European socialist party leaders, September 19, 2018 (PES)

Pedro Sánchez has taken another step toward normalizing relations with the separatist-controlled government of Catalonia.

The socialist has agreed to:

  1. Expand Barcelona’s El Prat Airport, and add high-speed rail connections with the regional airports of Girona and Reus, to the tune of €1.7 billion.
  2. Invest €200 million in Catalan infrastructure to bring the state’s spending in the region in line with its contribution to the national treasury.
  3. Hand control of university scholarships to Catalan authorities in time for the 2022-23 academic year.

Sánchez earlier this year pardoned nine Catalan separatist leaders who were imprisoned for organizing an unsanctioned independence referendum in 2017.

More autonomy

I still believe more self-government is the (only) way to keep Catalonia in Spain. Don’t force Catalans to choose between secession and the status quo.

Support for independence has seldom topped 50 percent, but a two-thirds majority of Catalans are dissatisfied with the autonomy they have.

Sánchez convinced Catalan separatists in Congress to vote for him in 2019 by proposing to honor the region’s autonomy statute from 2006. Previous conservative governments did not fully implement the agreement.

He has also suggested going beyond the statute to give Catalonia more control over health care, infrastructure, law enforcement and social security; areas where Catalan and Spanish competencies currently overlap.

What’s next?

The Catalans have fifty more demands they believe ought to be met under existing law. They relate to everything from maritime rescue to aspects of labor law.

That doesn’t even include their political demands, such as recognition of Catalan self-determination and a legal referendum on independence.

The areas in which I think compromise is most likely are:

  • Allowing Catalonia to experiment with a basic income and stricter rent controls. It already is, but the Spanish government has raised legal objections.
  • Devolving operation of Barcelona’s suburban Rodalies rail network to Catalonia. It is owned by the Catalan government but run by Spain.
  • Forcing Netflix and other streaming services to invest some of their Spanish revenues in Catalan-language productions. This adds to an existing proposal and would mirror laws in Australia and France.

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