In a surprisingly statesman-like manner, Carles Puigdemont performed a balancing act in respecting the referendum result, safeguarding his support from the independence movement, and avoiding total escalation with Spain.
A few days ago, a week ago, the unilateral and seditious declaration of independence in Catalonia seemed to be on the cards, almost inevitable in fact. But the King’s speech last Tuesday and the demonstrations in Barcelona and other cities involving both Spaniards and Catalans have changed the dynamic of the process.
The main problem from today onwards is not that Catalonia obtains independence, because there is zero possibility of that happening. It’s rather the weakening of Spain and Europe. Prime Minister Rajoy has the law on his side, but he is politically weak. He needs to look for back up outside, from Europe. But effective support, not notional.
Acting as an “agent provocateur”, Catalonia’s government intends to hold a wholly biased and unrepresentative independence referendum in early October. It knows the outturn will hardly attain half of the potential voters, as only a minority of the population favours an outright split from Spain.
In Madrid, much of the media and most commentators, -not to mention the big national parties — tend to be bewildered, if not outraged, by the secessionist drive. When in Catalonia (or at least speaking to independentistas), I find that the opposite is true: disenchantment with and disdain for the Spanish state is almost a given and the word “independence” tossed around as if it were a football.
I hate this endless temptation for bracketing time into what we call “years.” Time is time and, by definition, there are no interruptions. The problems which beset us in 2016 are still here, whether it’s terrorism or open warfare or Spain’s ingovernability. Thinking it’s going to be very different in 2017 is deceiving ourselves.
Parties staunchly supporting independence have won the elections to the regional Parliament only in terms of seats, not votes.
BARCELONA | By Joan Tapia | Last month, I warned about the serious political problem in Spain, which was (and is) focused on the Catalonian crisis and the rise of the new political party Podemos. Both could disrupt the political system and kill off imperfect bipartisanship. Meanwhile, the economy was starting to show some signs of improvement. In November, the perception that the economy is improving while politics are worsening has increased and multiplied. It is difficult to argue with the fact that the economy is going better than last year.
WASHINGTON | By Pablo Pardo | Since the inception of constitutions in modern nation-states, none have undergone such turbulence as those drawn up in Europe. The raison d’être of the European Union is to avoid further turbulence in the future. It is no coincidence that the violent conflicts that have broken out in Europe since World War Two have been outside the EU, in former Yugoslavia, Ukraine, Russia, and Georgia.
MADRID | By JP Marín Arrese | Markets are beginning to feel deeply concerned about the mounting uncertainty the separatist movement in Catalonia has created. Observers do not yet discount a unilateral independence declaration, and are becoming increasingly alarmed at the open challenge to Madrid’s authority. Events could yet spiral out of control and into the unknown.