Catalan-Spanish Talks Accomplish Little

Pedro Sánchez Christian Kern António Costa
Spanish, Austrian and Portuguese social democratic party leaders Pedro Sánchez, Christian Kern and António Costa attend a meeting in Lisbon, December 2, 2017 (PES)

The good news is that Catalan and Spanish politicians are talking again. Official dialogue between the regional and central governments was resumed this week after a year-and-a-half delay due to COVID-19.

But that’s the only good news. A meeting on Wednesday ended without agreement. A solution to the longrunning dispute between Spain and its wealthiest region is still out of reach. Read more “Catalan-Spanish Talks Accomplish Little”

Sánchez Shifts Infrastructure Spending, Scholarships to Catalonia

Barcelona Spain
Aerial view of Barcelona, Spain (Unsplash/Benjamín Gremler)

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. Read more “Sánchez Shifts Infrastructure Spending, Scholarships to Catalonia”

What Sánchez Should Do Next for Catalonia

António Costa Pedro Sánchez
Prime Minister António Costa of Portugal greets his Spanish counterpart, Pedro Sánchez, in Lisbon, July 2, 2018 (Governo da República Portuguesa/Clara Azevedo)

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.

Here’s what he should do next. Read more “What Sánchez Should Do Next for Catalonia”

Dutch and Spanish Leaders Share Vision for EU

Mark Rutte Pedro Sánchez Charles Michel
Prime Ministers Mark Rutte of the Netherlands and Pedro Sánchez of Spain speak with European Council president Charles Michel in Brussels, July 20, 2020 (European Council)

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.

In a joint “non-paper“, the Dutch and Spanish leaders endorse strategic economy as a means to an end — growth and security — but not an end in itself. They caution it mustn’t become an excuse for isolation and protectionism. Read more “Dutch and Spanish Leaders Share Vision for EU”

Hit Piece Calls Center-Left Sánchez Spain’s Donald Trump

Pedro Sánchez
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez speaks at a congress of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party in Huesca, October 1, 2019 (PSOE/Eva Ercolanese)

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.

This is the first time I’m disappointed by one.

Mounk has published a hit piece that makes Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, a mainstream social democrat, out to be the greatest threat to Spanish democracy since Francisco Franco! Read more “Hit Piece Calls Center-Left Sánchez Spain’s Donald Trump”

Sánchez Does Budget Deal with Left-Wing, Separatist Allies

Pedro Sánchez
Prime Ministers António Costa of Portugal, Pedro Sánchez of Spain and Stefan Löfven of Sweden attend a meeting of European socialist party leaders in Brussels, October 15 (PES)

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.

Podemos, the Republican Left, the centrist Basque Nationalist Party and the left-wing EH Bildu give Sánchez a majority of 179 out of 350 seats in Congress. Read more “Sánchez Does Budget Deal with Left-Wing, Separatist Allies”

Sánchez Needs to Remember Who His Friends Are

Frans Timmermans Nicola Zingaretti Pedro Sánchez
Dutch, Italian and Spanish socialist party leaders Frans Timmermans, Nicola Zingaretti and Pedro Sánchez meet in Brussels, March 21, 2019 (PES)

It is time for Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to accept that little more will come of his overtures to Spain’s conservative opposition.

Sánchez, a social democrat who rules in coalition with the far-left Podemos (We Can), came to power with the support of Basque, Catalan and other regional parties.

But since the outbreak of coronavirus disease, he has tried to build broader support for his recovery programs.

I argued in July that Sánchez was walking a fine line. Make too many compromises with the right and Podemos and the Catalan Republican Left could feel betrayed.

That point is approaching fast. Read more “Sánchez Needs to Remember Who His Friends Are”

Sánchez Can’t Put Off Catalans Indefinitely

Pedro Sánchez
Pedro Sánchez speaks at a conference of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, January 30, 2016 (PSOE)

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”

Sánchez Walks Fine Line Between Left and Right

Pedro Sánchez
Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party leader Pedro Sánchez answers questions from reporters in Madrid, January 22, 2016 (PSOE)

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”

Sánchez Close to Forming Coalition Government in Spain

Pablo Iglesias Pedro Sánchez
Spanish party leaders Pablo Iglesias and Pedro Sánchez speak in Madrid, February 5, 2016 (PSOE)

Spain’s Pedro Sánchez is closing in on a deal with Catalan separatists to remain in power.

The caretaker prime minister has the support of the far left to form a new government, but he also needs the backing of regional parties, who hold the balance of power in Congress.

Sánchez’ Socialist Party does not have a majority of its own. Read more “Sánchez Close to Forming Coalition Government in Spain”