Both parties at the negotiation table are fully aware the bilateral talks will lead nowhere. Madrid cannot concede self-rule to Catalonia. Its independentist counterpart won’t accept anything short of that. Thus, discussions will become bogged in shallow waters, unable to provide the slightest chance to float. Yet, they will neither collapse nor sink, as long as the pragmatic ERC Party holds the line.
Much will depend on how ERC fares in the forthcoming regional elections. They bet their practical approach towards independence will prevail. They have supported Pedro Sánchez in securing premiership in exchange for vague talks on the future standing of Catalonia. They are all too aware that any drive to force independence seems doomed at present but will inevitably materialise in future as time plays in their favour. ERC’s strategy could prove wrong, as strong feelings could lead extreme separatists to win the polls.
In the meantime, PM Sánchez desperately needs ERC support for rubberstamping the budget. He needs to buy time and seems ready to make a whole range of concessions for keeping the talks alive.
Money is always a useful way to preserve full co-operation. But it is not enough. He also needs to find a way out for imprisoned separatist leaders serving long prison sentences following their fake “coup d’état”. He’s found the best solution by proposing an amendment to the criminal law aimed at downsizing the penalties for sedition crimes. A much better option than awarding a pardon for the rebels’ immediate release from jail. The law amendment will take a long time in Parliament before it gets clearance, thus securing support from ERC for the budget approval. Step by step, Sánchez seems closer to achieve his goal.