Tuesday, May 17

Finally, the pardons. And now that?

At last the pardons arrived, with less social opposition than some had announced and encouraged. It has been a high-risk decision in which the management of political time has been decisive, confirming that the “tempos” are one of the raw materials of politics.

If I highlight the political factor of time, it is because, together with the management of expectations – and its antonym, frustration – and the government of disagreements, it will be decisive for this small gap open in a long-bogged conflict to allow the exit from the putrid waters.

One factor that can block the narrow path of dialogue are the decisions of the courts, which act with a logic and time different from those of politics, as has been seen with the “stone in the way” of the Court of Auditors. Some have self-imposed the duty to “save the State”, while a sector of the independence movement is determined to load on the backs of the Executive actions that correspond to other powers of the state. The decisions of the Strasbourg Court will also have an impact, hopefully favorably.

We should not ignore the evolution of the state of mind of the citizenry. On the horizon appears the risk that all the tensions accumulated during confinement erupt in the form of social rage, that “momentum” that the Spanish and Catalan rights are waiting for.

All these and other ingredients, such as the insomniac struggle within the independence movement, make up a complex scenario that makes it impossible to design a closed roadmap for the dialogue table. Although it would help a lot if the month of July was used to agree on an answer to these three questions: now what? Now how? Now who? Three questions that are also strongly interrelated.

The answer to now what? It involves assuming that this first phase of the dialogue should be aimed at consolidating the way out of the conflict, which is not exactly the same as the solution. Especially if this is understood as a systemic, absolute solution, in capital letters, be it a referendum or constitutional reform.

Exit and solution are different things, although in the independence proposal the amnesty as a way out and the referendum of self-determination as a solution go hand in hand.

It does not seem that this pack of independence is digestible for the Spanish government, nor for the whole of Spanish society, nor even for an important part of Catalan society.

If the pardon, which has a clear constitutional anchor, has met with so much opposition, the amnesty that lacks this fit in our constitution does not seem to see the light at the dialogue table. And the same happens with the self-determination referendum.

I think that even those who propose it know that, but at the moment they may not be able to do anything other than make their demands in these terms. And thereby gain time and margin in the process of decompressing the conflict.

To answer this dilemma is aimed the question, how now?

Despite the fact that the 3,000 “reprisals” only exist in the successful processist rhetoric with which iconic images are generated, although fictitious, the truth is that at the moment there are criminal proceedings underway for acts produced in the framework of the mobilizations promoted by the independence leaders who have now been pardoned. Without forgetting the claims of a patrimonial nature from the Court of Accounts.

Something similar happens with the self-determination referendum. After considering the referendum agreed as a past screen, having opted for DUI, repeatedly insisting on the democratic mandate of October 1, now assuming the non-viability of unilateralism requires a slow decompression process that passes by posing as an alleged alternative the self-determination referendum.

To deal with this situation, a basic rule for the success of any negotiation can be useful. Each interlocutor has to put himself in the place of the other party, understand the reason for his approaches, know his limits and know what cannot be asked of him. Be aware that if something impossible for the other party to accept is raised – so as not to generate frustration among their own – the proposal cannot be in the form of a demand.

This logic implies that the Spanish Government should accept that the amnesty and the referendum are part of the content of the meetings. And the representatives of the Catalan government should assume that they are proposals that are difficult, if not impossible, to be accepted by their interlocutors.

The order of the day will be the first rock on the road that negotiators will have to face, and in order not to stumble on the first change, the technique of agreeing disagreements works, when agreements are not possible. That would happen by assuming that negotiating good faith includes the right to be able to speak about everything that the parties raise, but does not include the obligation to agree on it.

In these circumstances, the main objective of the dialogue table should be to gain time and for this the mentality of the long-distance runner is important. A conflict that has been devilishly bogged down for many years is not resolved in two moments.

Let’s hope that the negotiating parties will apply the “ass di ferro” technique that Enrico Berlinguer, leader of the Italian Communist Party, used so well. The worst that could happen is that someone succumbs to external or internal pressures – which will be and will be very hard – and is tempted to lift their butt from the negotiating chair.

To withstand the tensions of a difficult dialogue and the tension that the supporters feed, to port and starboard, the worse the better, the management of the gesticulation will be important. You have to be prepared for it and give it the right meaning. The gestures can act as an escape valve, on the clear condition that they are governable gestures, as I think the release from prison of the pro-independence leaders has been.

All these factors are aimed at buying time to be able to advance in the logic of micro agreements, given the difficulties of reaching great solutions.

We should assume that the different systemic solutions, with absolute responses, are practically unfeasible, at least in the medium term. The referendum, even if it is recovering the last screen of its consultative character, has important problems. It proposes binary responses that divide Catalan society into closed blocks. In addition, the events that occurred since 2017 have increased social polarization and today it is even more difficult than in 2014.

An alternative that has great advantages and goes in the direction of the wind of history is the federal reform of the Constitution. But it is a proposal that, although it holds up well the written paper or the gathering, supports much less the political reality. A reform of this nature requires extensive agreements in Catalonia and Spain, which, unfortunately, do not exist and it does not seem that they can arrive in the short term.

All hypothetical global solutions must answer the question of who is to be part of these agreements. A pact of the respective governments is not enough, however legitimate they may be. I hope we have all learned that major reforms require very broad and cross-cutting agreements that, at least today, do not seem viable. And this is your main obstacle.

At this point it may seem that we are at a dead end, but we are not. There is a lot of room to advance in agreements, provided that we do not become obsessed with failed logic.

Some keys to advancing the dialogue are the rejection of unilateralism of any kind, not obsessing over systemic solutions, not betting everything on legal and institutional reforms, when in the economic field there is much room for improvement. And relate the demands of Catalan society with those raised by other autonomous communities.

There should be a clear renunciation of all parties to unilateralism, meaning not only the independentist DUI, but also the swallowing of unilaterally imposing the maintenance of the status quo through deeds.

That systemic solutions are not viable does not mean that there is no scope to work on micro solutions. Some of the regulations that the Constitutional Court considered that they do not fit in the Statute of Catalonia can be recovered through state laws. It has been explained by various constitutionalists and detailed in his book. “Survive the process”. the Lawyer of the Parliament Antoni Bayona.

The “Catalan conflict” has overshadowed another important problem: the progressive exhaustion of the autonomous state, the result of the confluence of the aluminosis of the materials with which it was built and the wear caused by the passage of time.

An exhaustion that is manifested in the dominant logic of comparative grievance, the lack of spaces for federal cooperation, and the low culture of institutional loyalty, as has become evident during the pandemic. It is also expressed in the general criticism of a model of radio development that unbalances the territory and acts as a vacuum of resources for the benefit of the Madrid Region.

The federalization of our autonomous state, which would allow progress in more self-government and co-governance, is a path that in some sections does not necessarily require major constitutional reforms and has the complicity of other CCAA in its favor.

This commitment to micro solutions, as an alternative to various blocks, may seem modest, but it seems to me that it is the only viable one and there are wide margins to make it possible. Although for it to prosper, it will take a good government of the political times and a lot of “ass di ferro” from the negotiators.