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 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 are fiercely opposed to Catalan independence.
The conservative People’s Party and far-right Vox (Voice) were never going to give Sánchez a win.
Allegations of Russian interference have swirled around the Catalan independence movement for the last three years.
I cautioned against exaggerating Russia’s role in 2017, when two million Catalans voted in a referendum that had been deemed illegal by the Spanish state to break away.
I still believe what I did then: that Russia is a convenient scapegoat for Spaniards who don’t want to understand why nearly one in two Catalans prefer their own republic.
“Easier to blame foreign manipulation than examine the root causes of Catalan separatism and the events which led to the current crisis,” I wrote — from the 2010 Constitutional Court ruling that overturned parts of Catalonia’s autonomy statute to former prime minister Mariano Rajoy’s years-long refusal to negotiate a revision of the charter to current prime minister Pedro Sánchez slow-walking his promise to do just that. Read more “Allegations of Russian Meddling Resurface in Catalonia”
Spain’s left-wing government has proposed raising public spending by 10 percent next year to cope with the effects of coronavirus. If approved — the ruling parties do not have a stable majority in Congress — it would be the biggest budget in Spanish history.
Health spending would rise 150 percent, or €3.1 billion. In addition, €2.4 billion would be set aside to prop up primary care and buy vaccines. Another €700 million, drawn from the EU’s €750 billion coronavirus recovery fund, would go to elderly care.
Spain qualifies for around €70 billion in EU grants and €70 billion in loans. It is not expected to make use of the loans, given that it can still borrow affordably on its own.
Successive Spanish governments have treated Catalan separatism as a legal, rather than a political, problem. This has done nothing to weaken support for independence. It has radicalized Catalans.
The dismissal of Catalan president Quim Torra is the latest episode in a decade-long legal drama. Spain’s Supreme Court removed him from office on Monday for hanging a “partisan” banner from the balcony of his government’s medieval palace in the center of Barcelona during the 2019 election.
The banner didn’t express support for a political party, but rather called for the release of the nine separatists who were imprisoned for leading a failed breakaway from Spain in 2017.
Torra’s removal triggers early elections, which polls predict the separatists will win.
I have a story in The National Interest about the independence crisis in Catalonia.
The arguments will sound familiar to those of you who have been reading my analyses and opinions. I blame the Spanish government for refusing to listen to Catalans when all they asked for was more autonomy. I think it was a mistake to deny them a legal independence referendum when the majority of Catalans were still opposed to breaking away.
Politico reports that Spain has proposed to include Gibraltar in the EU’s passport-free Schengen Area to facilitate cross-border travel.
The arrangement would be similar to Liechtenstein’s, which is not in the EU but a member of Schengen. Andorra is negotiating a similar status. Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City are in neither the EU nor Schengen but maintain open borders.
The proposal is backed by Gibraltar’s chief minister, Fabian Picardo.
96 percent of his citizens voted to remain in the EU in the 2016 referendum, but they were overruled by majorities in England and Wales.
Although Britain formally left the EU at the end of 2019, the bloc’s rules and regulations still apply until the end of 2020.
Gibraltar, like Britain, was never in the Schengen Area, but it was in the EU single market, allowing it to trade freely with the EU’s 27 other member states. Before the pandemic, commuters were typically waved through by Spanish border police. Read more “Spain Proposes Schengen Membership for Gibraltar”
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”