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 “Catalan and Spanish Leaders Take Steps to Normalize Relations”

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 “Sánchez Shouldn’t Be Afraid of Federalizing Spain”

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

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 still hasn’t been a breakthrough. Read more “Deal Slips Away in Catalonia as Both Sides Dig In”

South Tyroleans Bide Their Time

Bolzano, the capital of South Tyrol, Italy, July 30, 2007
Bolzano, the capital of South Tyrol, Italy, July 30, 2007 (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 “South Tyroleans Bide Their Time”

Tabarnia: A Separatist Parody That Gets Too Much Attention

The flag of Barcelona, Spain, September 17, 2013
The flag of Barcelona, Spain, September 17, 2013 (Fredrik Rubensson)

Relatively low support for independence on Catalonia’s Mediterranean coast has caused some to wonder: why not split the cities of Barcelona and Tarragona from the rest of the region?

Spanish media like 20 minutos, El Confidencial, El Mundo, El País, Libertad Digital and La Razón — eager to belittle Catalan nationalism — have given the tongue-in-cheek proposal, dubbed Tabarnia, disproportionate attention.

So have Catalan unionists, including Inés Arrimadas, leader of the regional Citizens party, and Albert Rivera, her national party chief.

It is not entirely without merit. Rural Catalonia is more separatist than cosmopolitan Barcelona and its suburbs.

But a closer analysis of the most recent election results by the pro-independence outlet El Nacional reveals that the region is more evenly split than the unionists would care to admit. Read more “Tabarnia: A Separatist Parody That Gets Too Much Attention”

Corsica Is Not the Next Catalonia

Facade of the Church of Saint John the Baptist in Bastia, Corsica
Facade of the Church of Saint John the Baptist in Bastia, Corsica (Wikimedia Commons)

Earlier this month, a nationalist coalition called Pè a Corsica (For Corsica) won control of the island’s regional assembly with 56.5 percent of the votes.

Pè a Corsica‘s success may certainly entail more bargaining power for the island vis-à-vis a staunchly centralist French government and it represents yet another European region seeking to forge its own path away from a dominant nation state.

But it is unlikely to lead to a Catalonia-style rebellion. Read more “Corsica Is Not the Next Catalonia”

A Third Way for Catalonia

View of Barcelona, Spain
View of Barcelona, Spain (Unsplash/Ferran Fusalba)

Catalonia is split down the middle.

In regional elections on Thursday, parties that want to break away from Spain got 47 percent support against 44 percent for those that oppose independence. (The balance going to a party that refuses to take sides.)

These figures are line with the latest government survey, which found almost 49 percent of Catalans in favor of independence and 44 percent opposed.

Clearly neither side has a convincing mandate and with turnout at 82 percent — the highest in living memory — it’s also clear that more voting, whether in the form of a referendum or another election, will not break the deadlock.

There is another way out. Read more “A Third Way for Catalonia”

People’s Party Should Leave Catalan Media Alone

Night falls on Barcelona's Plaça de Catalunya, Spain, September 11, 2017
Night falls on Barcelona’s Plaça de Catalunya, Spain, September 11, 2017 (Sergio Marchi)

Spain’s conservative People’s Party is overreaching in its attempts to silence pro-independence voices in the Catalan media.

  • The party has reported a Catalan radio journalist, Mònica Terribas, to the Electoral Commission for the province of Barcelona for using the terms “imprisoned ministers” and “president-in-exile” in a broadcast.
  • The same commission earlier banned Catalan public television from using those phrases to refer to separatist leaders who have been taken into custody or fled to Belgium.
  • It also accepted a request from the People’s Party to stop the Barcelona city council from coloring buildings and fountains in yellow to indicate support for the restoration of home rule.
  • Xavier García Albiol, the Catalan People’s Party leader, has proposed to shut down the region’s public television station, TV3, and relaunch it with “normal and plural” journalists, by which he means journalists who oppose secession.
  • Esteban González Pons, a conservative Spanish member of the European Parliament, tells El País there may be a role for NATO in countering Russian “fake news” about the Catalan crisis. Read more “People’s Party Should Leave Catalan Media Alone”

Independence Sentiment Aroused in French Catalonia

Perpignan France
View of Perpignan, France, formerly the capital of Languedoc-Roussilon (Adobe Stock/Gerald Villena)

Catalonia’s independence referendum has aroused separatist sentiment north of the border, where a Catalan-speaking minority has long been content to live under French rule.

Northern Catalonia, or Roussillon, has been French since 1659.

Despite the presence of a small but vocal group of Catalan nationalists and a political party, the Unitat Catalana (UC), most of the region’s inhabitants have no desire to break away.

But recent events — not just those in Spain — have given French Catalans reason to question the status quo. Read more “Independence Sentiment Aroused in French Catalonia”