The good news is that Catalan and Spanish politicians are talking again. Official dialogue between the regional and central governments resumed this week after a year-and-a-half delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez has pardoned the nine Catalan separatists who were imprisoned for organizing an unsanctioned independence referendum in 2017.
The pardons fall short of an amnesty. Former regional vice president Oriol Junqueras and the other politicians who were convicted to between nine and thirteen years in prison for “sedition” against the Spanish state and misuse of government funds are still barred from holding public office.
“Sedition” remains a crime. (Although Sánchez’ government is looking into revising the arcane statute.) A vote on Catalan independence would still be illegal. It’s why I argued a month ago a pardon was the least Sánchez could do.
Less than a year ago, Mark Rutte and Pedro Sánchez were on opposite ends of the debate about the EU’s coronavirus recovery fund. Sánchez and other Southern European leaders called for grants financed by EU-issued bonds. Rutte and his allies preferred loans. The two sides eventually split the difference.
Now the two prime ministers, one center-right, the other center-left, have made common cause for a version of European “strategic autonomy” that is more liberal than Emmanuel Macron’s.
I’ve been a fan of Yascha Mounk’s Persuasion, which was founded to resist the illiberal turn in American media. The newsletter deliberately publishes analysis and commentary from across the political spectrum to make it readers think. I’ve disagreed with several pieces, and that’s the point.
I doubt Pedro Sánchez reads this blog, but I’m glad he’s taken my advice.
Almost three months ago, I urged the Spanish prime minister to remember who his friends were. The social democrat was trying to do a spending deal with center-right parties. The far-left Podemos (We Can) and Basque and Catalan parties that voted him into office were starting to feel overlooked.
It is with those parties Sánchez has now reached an agreement on next year’s budget, which includes major tax increases to finance deficit spending and investments in health and unemployment insurance.
The liberal-nationalist Ciudadanos (Citizens), despite moving back to the center following a disappointing election result, balked at joining a deal with Catalonia’s Republican Left, a separatist party. The Citizens oppose Catalan nationalism.
The conservative People’s Party and far-right Vox (Voice) were never going to give Sánchez a win.
Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez needs to make good on his promise to open dialogue with the Catalan regional government.
Talks about more autonomy were put on hold when the COVID-19 pandemic reached Spain in March. Now that it looks like the country will have to live with coronavirus for many more months, Sánchez cannot delay indefinitely.
Catalonia is due to hold elections before the end of the year. If the Republican Left, the more moderate of the separatist parties, doesn’t have anything to show for bringing Sánchez, a fellow social democrat, to power in Madrid, hardliners could win in Barcelona and make a negotiated solution even more elusive. Read more “Sánchez Can’t Put Off Catalans Indefinitely”
With support from the pro-independence Catalan left weakening, Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez is reaching out to the center-right.
The liberal-nationalist Citizens are shifting back to the center under their new leader, Inés Arrimadas, after a disastrous lurch to the right in the last election. They have largely supported Sánchez’ emergency measures to cope with the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed at least 28,000 Spaniards. The party has pledged to vote for three out of four proposed recovery programs, except the one for social policy.
Even the conservative People’s Party, which only a few months ago called Sánchez a “traitor” for doing a deal with Basque and Catalan separatists and then accused him of lying about the true death toll of the pandemic, has suggested it could support some of the policies, which include tax hikes and loans to small businesses.
With tourism, normally one-sixth of the economy, drying up, unemployment is projected to reach 19 percent. (It would be worse without the furloughing system ERTE.) The central bank expects the economy will contract between 9 and 15 percent this year before growing 7-9 percent in 2021. Read more “Sánchez Walks Fine Line Between Left and Right”