After negotiations that drove many in Catalonia to despair and were transferred to prison, it worked Monday: In the rebellious Spanish state, the two main pro-independence parties submitted their agreement on a new regional government that would bring an independent Catalonia closer. ..
The deal is the latest chapter in the conflict with Catalonia that has gripped Spain for years. This conflict reached a critical stage in 2017, when the Catalan regional government single-handedly organized a referendum and then proclaimed the Autonomous Republic of Catalonia. Spain intervened forcefully, and the Spanish judiciary sentenced the responsible Catalan officials to long prison terms. Since then, the conflict has reached a stalemate.
With this agreement, the independence advocates breathe a sigh of relief. The center-left coalition ERC and Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalunya), a heterogeneous coalition of nationalists, have had fruitless negotiations since the February 14 regional elections. The majority in favor of Catalan secession came out of the polls that day.
The deal just comes at the right time. An important deadline will expire in nine days. If the new regional government has not yet been formed, Catalonia must organize new elections according to the law. It now appears that the two parties are preventing this retreat, although Gonz’s supporters have yet to agree to the coalition agreement. Additionally, in order to install them, the parties need the support of the CUP, a radical left-wing party that also seeks independence. If the CUP also agrees – and it appears to be – the regional government can get started.
Jordi Sanchez apologized Monday for the delay. “It is fine for us to apologize to the community as a whole.” The Secretary-General of Juntes Pere Catalunya is serving a 9-year prison sentence for his role in the struggle for independence, but managed to present an agreement on leave from prison on Monday.
He was standing next to Sanchez Perry Aragon, the next regional president of Catalonia on behalf of the ERC. The 38-year-old, a lawyer who has emerged in the hard-line struggle for independence with thoughtfulness and pragmatism, has been interim president since last September.
Confrontation or dialogue
An agreement that would lead to Catalan independence, between two parties seeking to achieve that independence: at first glance, this does not seem an impossible task. The lengthy conversations between ERC and Junts per Catalunya had much to do with deep disagreements over how quickly and how to achieve separation from Spain.
Junts per Catalunya is from ‘civil disobedience’, the difficult confrontation with the Spanish state that led to a unilateral declaration of independence in 2017. The long prison sentences that followed are tools in this strategy to draw international attention to Catalan injustice and increase the pressure on Spain Within the European Union.
Gunts also sees an important role for Carles Puigdemont, the regional president who escaped his prison sentence after the proclamation of the Catalan Republic of Belgium, where he has been a member of the European Parliament since 2019.
The ERC, currently the largest pro-independence party, sees little to make Puigdemont, operating out of Brussels, matter. The Aragonese party also wants to maintain dialogue with Spain to achieve secession. It was these, as well as the less pressing issues, that made the talks lengthy.
An example of the Catalan situation is Aragon’s visit to the Liedroners prison, about 50 kilometers outside Barcelona, to breakthrough with imprisoned Gunts leader Sanchez. In the agreement the two eventually made on Monday, the differences of opinion weren’t resolved as much as they were off. Saving the majority for independence was the most important – they will see the rest later.
This unclear strategy makes it complicated for Spain in determining the situation. The most important thing, the Spanish government’s response to the coalition agreement on Monday, is to return to the negotiating table (which has been little used). However, a legal referendum on independence is still out of the question for the Spanish state. Thus, a new confrontation between Spain and Catalonia appears to be a matter of time.
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