Catalan Budget Crisis Is Tied to Independence

Plaça de Catalunya Barcelona Spain
Plaça de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain, June 23, 2014 (Pixabay/Elena Repina)

One of my laments about Spain’s inability to resolve the Catalan independence crisis is that it complicates all other political issues in the region.

Catalonia’s pro-independence Republican Left has much in common with the Socialists and other left-wing parties, which want to remain in Spain. The formerly center-right Together for Catalonia now calls itself a big tent, but its economic and fiscal policies are still similar to those of the unionist Citizens and People’s Party. Yet separatists and unionists refuse deals, giving two far-left parties in parliament the balance of power. One is reasonable, the other is not.

The reasonable one, Catalonia in Common (which includes the Catalan branch of Podemos), supports Catalan self-determination but not independence, which is why it can’t join a government that wants to exit Spain.

The even more left-wing Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) is also the most strident separatist party: it would secede from Spain tomorrow if it could. It has reliably backed governments of the Republicans and Together for Catalonia, but it has been fickle in its support for their policies. Read more “Catalan Budget Crisis Is Tied to Independence”

Repeal of Spanish Labor Reforms Is Unwise

Madrid Spain
Skyline of Madrid, Spain (Unsplash/Alex Azabache)

Spain’s ruling left-wing parties have agreed to reverse the labor market liberalizations of the previous conservative government, which made it easier for firms to hire and fire workers.

The decision is hard to justify even by the standards set by proponents of repeal. The reforms did not create more precarious jobs, they did not cause higher structural unemployment and they barely made a dent in wages. Read more “Repeal of Spanish Labor Reforms Is Unwise”

Spain Tries to Solve Yesterday’s Housing Crisis

Barcelona Spain
Buildings in Barcelona, Spain, December 10, 2017 (Unsplash/Marco Da Silva)

Spain’s ruling left-wing parties have agreed various measures to make housing more affordable, including a rent cap and higher property taxes.

The proposals are unlikely to be effected in areas ruled by conservatives, and they are right to block them. The pandemic has already made housing more affordable in Spain. The country doesn’t need the government to step in. Read more “Spain Tries to Solve Yesterday’s Housing Crisis”

Europe’s High Energy Prices, Explained

Eemshaven Netherlands power plant
Power plant in the Eemshaven of the Netherlands, April 17, 2020 (Unsplash/Untitled Photo)

Electricity prices are hitting records across Europe. In Portugal and Spain, wholesale energy prices have tripled from half a year ago to €178 per megawatt-hour. Italy is not far behind at €176. Dutch households without a fixed-price contract could end up paying €500 more this year. In the UK, prices peaked at €247 per megawatt-hour earlier this week.

The main culprit is the high price of natural gas, up 440 percent from a year ago. But Europe is facing something of a perfect storm involving accidents, depleted reserves and a higher carbon price.

Here are all the reasons prices are up — and what governments are doing about it. Read more “Europe’s High Energy Prices, Explained”

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 Walks Back Promises to Catalans

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, 2020 (PES)

Spain’s ruling Socialist Party is walking back its promises to Catalans. It has delayed, for the second time, a reform of the sedition law under which Catalonia’s separatist leaders were imprisoned. And it has poured cold water on hopes that it might allow a Catalan referendum on independence.

Disappointing Catalans is not without risk. The Socialists need the support of Catalonia’s largest separatist party, the Republican Left, for their majority in Congress. Longer term, it makes Catalan secession more, not less, likely.

Catalans already know to expect little from the conservative People’s Party, which opposed Catalan home rule. If moderate Catalan nationalists become disillusioned in Spain’s other major party as well, some may decide their only recourse is to break away. Read more “Sánchez Walks Back Promises to Catalans”

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”

Pardons Are the Least Sánchez Can Do for Catalans

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

When he needed their support a year and a half ago to become prime minister a second time, Spain’s Pedro Sánchez offered Catalan parties a good deal: more autonomy, a resumption of official dialogue between the central and regional government, and possibly a pardon for the separatist leaders who were imprisoned for organizing an unsanctioned independence referendum in 2017.

No additional competencies have yet been transferred from Madrid to Barcelona. Official talks, to hash out a new division of powers, have been on hold. A legal independence referendum is still unlikely. But Spanish media report Sánchez is mulling pardons.

It’s the least he can do. Read more “Pardons Are the Least Sánchez Can Do for Catalans”

Separatist Parties Agree to Form New Government in Catalonia

Plaça de Sant Jaume Barcelona Spain
Early morning in Plaça de Sant Jaume, Barcelona, seat of the Catalan regional government (iStock)

Catalonia’s leading pro-independence parties have reached an agreement to install Pere Aragonès as regional president.

Aragonès has been acting president since September, when Quim Torra of the center-right Together for Catalonia (Junts) was forced to step down. Aragonès’ Republican Left won the election in February.

The agreement comes after three months of negotiations during which the Republicans raised the possibility of forming a minority government if Junts would not move closer to their position.

The sticking point was how to continue the independence process. The Republicans want to give talks about self-determination with Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez a chance. They often vote with the social democrat in the national Congress. Junts does not expect Sánchez will meet the separatists’ demands, which include a recognized referendum on independence from Spain and an amnesty for the organizers of the 2017 referendum, which had been forbidden by the Spanish Constitution Court. They were convicted in 2019 to between nine and thirteen years in prison. Read more “Separatist Parties Agree to Form New Government in Catalonia”