This September, a process may have begun that marks the political future of Catalonia and the conflict that it maintains with the State. I am referring to the meeting of the dialogue table on the 15th and the expectations that it has generated. It is true that his work schedule is not yet known, but there are indications that allow us to suppose that the table can serve, at least, to save the castling of positions that has existed until now.
The independence movement continues to have broad social support in Catalonia. There is a very important part of Catalan society that is convinced that it is the holder of the right to self-determination and considers that Catalonia is entitled to exercise it if it has a majority in the Catalan Parliament. This is so, although it may be surprising how this idea has penetrated so deeply, downplaying the objective conditions that oppose it.
Many people in Catalonia trusted the political parties that promised to achieve independence within 18 months after the electoral result of the end of 2015. They also trusted that the objective was achievable unilaterally, as planned by the pro-independence parties. . I have always been surprised by the absence of doubts and a critical debate regarding these promises, taking into account the more than foreseeable opposition from the State and the lack of international support. An absence that dangerously placed the you process in the field of political voluntarism, ignoring the enormous political and legal obstacles that it had to overcome.
These conditions were concealed by appealing to the democratic principle as an absolute and determining value. Something as simple as supposing that a majority in the Catalan Parliament, by the mere fact of being democratically legitimized, can make any decision outside the Constitution and the Statute. The sublimation of the democratic principle made it possible to obviate that the democratic expression of a Parliament always coincides, here and everywhere, with the powers it has as a constituted power. Something that also happens with the Cortes Generales because it is evident, to give a comparative example, that they do not have the capacity to unilaterally repeal a Statute of autonomy even though they could, hypothetically speaking, have a majority that would defend that idea. If we apply the same logic used by the independence movement with respect to the democratic principle, such a possibility should be assumed as valid and this highlights the weakness of the argument.
The events of October 2017 later demonstrated the inconsistency of the unilateral path to independence. But other things happened that made it possible to hide it under the account of the “repression” exercised by the State, especially the police action of October 1 and the trial of the you process with the harsh sentences for sedition. I have always thought that the state’s reaction to you process it was disproportionate and unnecessary in view of what really happened. With a more subtle and intelligent action, the State could have exposed the intrinsic weaknesses of the you process. But Spanish politics is short of subtleties and did not value as it should the importance of the emotional factor that moves the independence movement. The State’s response to you process It has given many Catalans more arguments in favor of independence and has contributed greatly to revalidating the pro-independence majorities in the last two elections to Parliament.
But time passes and it becomes more and more difficult to maintain a story that is very gestural and not very productive. It is more than doubtful that a confrontational strategy can be a realistic option given the obstacles that exist and with a society practically divided in half with respect to independence. Too much energy has gone into it and the result has been sterile and frustrating. Energies that have left the governance of daily interests in the background, precisely at a very delicate economic and social moment. It is not surprising, therefore, that a part of the independence movement is rethinking the strategy to follow and has decided to bet on the path of dialogue. A turn that does not convince the other party, who seems to feel more comfortable with the confrontation. The independence movement is debated today more than ever in an internal conflict about how it should channel its project.
What can you expect from the dialogue table? It’s hard to say right now. It seems obvious to me that you cannot expect an agreement that allows you to exercise the right of self-determination as requested from Catalonia. The State cannot accept it for political and legal reasons that I do not think require further explanation. The amnesty of those convicted in the trial of you process It would be possible constitutionally speaking, but, if we are realistic, it does not seem that the Government can go beyond pardons. If the independence movement remains in these repeatedly verbalized demands, the dialogue will not be able to give much of itself.
Independence is a legitimate political project whose promotion and defense must be accepted in a non-militant democracy. The Catalan conflict has been produced by having denied it air to breathe, by some, and by wanting to carry it out by de facto means, by others. In a quality democracy, it is not possible to close all the doors to a will like the one that has been repeatedly and persistently expressing a very important part of Catalan society, although neither can it be attempted to impose de facto. Democracy and the rule of law are not antagonistic but complementary concepts and a solution must be found that allows a balance between the two.
The dialogue table has quite a large space to go through. The characteristics of our territorial system give it a lot of flexibility and, if all the resources are used well, solutions can be explored to give greater recognition and dimension to the national reality that Catalonia presents, increase its political and administrative power and solve chronic deficits. financing. But I don’t think that the dialogue table can stay there if it really wants to find a way out of the problem.
There is an objective reality that the table cannot ignore. In recent years, which could well begin with the disastrous ruling of the Statute, a very important part of Catalan society has lost confidence in the political and institutional model that emerged from the Transition. He believes that it is insufficient to guarantee the needs and expectations of Catalonia as a national community and that the State cannot be trusted to respect the established agreements. This perception has led to the path of independence as an alternative to a fit that is no longer considered possible.
Is it possible to mend this crisis of confidence? I must admit that I harbor many doubts in this regard, but at the same time I do not contemplate that the dialogue table will give up trying if it really wants to get to the bottom of the problem. In my opinion, it is only possible to approach this question with a formula that gives Catalans the possibility of expressing themselves about their collective political future. This has its risks, but it is necessary to take them. This formula cannot be the exercise of a right of self-determination that the Constitution does not recognize, but it is possible to imagine others that do not necessarily imply a contradiction with the Constitution but that, on the other hand, can serve as a basis for its eventual reform, or that allow, To give another example, endorse the agreements reached at the same dialogue table.
It has gone too far to miss the opportunity offered by the dialogue table. Both parties must be aware of this and enter into a negotiation that addresses the problem in all its magnitude. The State cannot ignore the wide disaffection that exists in Catalonia because its maintenance guarantees that the conflict becomes chronic to the detriment of all and continues to be a highly destabilizing political factor. On the Catalan side, a serious, deep and realistic reflection on what has happened in recent years should be opened.
No one can ask that independence be renounced as a political project, but that it be promoted and defended through strategies that take on the enormous difficulties that a project of this nature implies, taking into account the internal and international political context in which it is intended to develop. The unilateral way has already been experimented and its results are known. No factor has changed substantially so that its reproduction leads to a different result. Knowing this reality, we must look for other alternatives and it is difficult to understand that the independence movement doubts and divides itself before the opportunity offered by the dialogue table before knowing what it can give of itself.
Despite all the unknowns, the dialogue table is, today, the only way out of the existing conflict. But she does not have it easy at all because, due to the difficulties of political negotiation, two serious threats loom over her.
The first is the internal struggle between the pro-independence parties for political hegemony in Catalonia, which explains much of what has happened in recent times and not precisely for the better. It is not possible to tackle any important project of the country when it is used as a scene of dispute of partisan interests. Catalonia not only has a conflict with the State, but also an internal conflict that weighs down its politics. The dialogue table can also fail for this reason and its responsibility will have to be assumed.
The second is the judicial activism that breaks out at the most inopportune moments and that is increasingly difficult to disassociate from certain political interests. The recent arrest in Sardinia of the former president of the Generalitat “resuscitating” a Euro order that everyone considered in abeyance due to the pending pending of a preliminary ruling presented before the CJEU seems, in addition to a legal nonsense, as an event that is difficult to see as a simple coincidence with the beginning of the negotiation.