Gerber van der Graaf

20 de novembre de 2023
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Catalan parties support Spanish government

Early elections
Last May 28, municipal elections took place in Spain, as well as regional elections in 13 of the 17 autonomous regions. The socialist PSOE party lost so much to the right-wing Partido Popular (PP) that President Pedro Sánchez called for snap elections in order to avoid the downward trend and still win them. These took place last July 23.

In these elections, the PP was chosen as the largest party. However, with 137 of the 350 seats, she did not have enough seats to form a government, even if the PP received the support of the ultra-right Vox party (33 seats). PSOE (121 seats) could win a majority if she would secure the support of the small parties, including the Catalan independence parties ERC (7 seats) and Junts per Catalunya (JxCat, Together for Catalonia with 7 seats). Forming a government lies mainly in the hands of the Catalan president in exile, Puigdemont, and his party JxCat. Although Puigdemont no longer has a formal position within this party, the strategy for negotiations was set out by the party management with the deposed president in Waterloo.

Tolerance support ERC
Sánchez’s outgoing government already had the support of ERC. It was then agreed that talks would take place to resolve the political conflict. In total, only three such discussions took place during the last three and a half year government period, with the only concrete result being that the law for sedition was replaced by the law on ‘serious public unrest’. However, the penalties were not reduced and afterwards it appears that the new law punishes protestors more severely than before. In addition, the Catalan independence party turned 180 degrees by promising to adhere to the Spanish constitution.

Official status of Catalan language in EU
Before negotiations between JxCat and the PSOE about government support would take place, an agreement had to be reached on the chairmanship of Congress. In exchange for the PSOE being given the presidency, JxCat forced the Catalan language, along with Basque and Galician, to be spoken in Congress and to be given official status in the European Union. As a guarantee for this, Puigdemont had the document in which the Minister of Foreign Affairs (FA) had placed the request on the agenda of the Council of European Ministers. (Spain is currently President of the EU). However, some EU member states are afraid that other minority languages within their national borders would want to be given the same status. They therefore asked Spain for legal guarantees that this could not happen. However, the Spanish Ministry of FA did sent the required documents to the EU member states only two days before the council meeting was to take place. Moreover, the Ministry of FA sent them in Spanish, which made processing even more difficult for the Member States. Ultimately, the issue was dealt with at the European Council in less than five minutes and the application was not put to the vote (again) due to the lack of support. This appears to mean that the official EU status of the Spanish minority languages has been put on hold.

Government support JxCat and Puigdemont
The negotiations between JxCat and the PSOE about tolerating support for the Spanish government seem to be proceeding differently than at ERC. The treaty has the character of a peace agreement rather than a government agreement. The document mainly points out the insurmountable contradictions between the parties and says that these must be bridged through negotiations. Puigdemont’s party is demanding advance guarantees that will be checked by a team of international mediators. These are often ex-politicians or (former) diplomats and from different countries. Their identities, with the exception of the spokesperson, and the meetings are generally kept secret. If one of the parties does not adhere to the agreements, it will have consequences. JxCat has indicated in the debate over Sánchez’s appointment as president that it will reconsider government support after each negotiation.

The main points in the treaty concern the recognition of Catalonia as a nation and thus the right to self-determination. JxCat aims to ensure that Catalonia will hold a referendum on its independence with the consent of Spain. They also want to negotiate that the autonomous region can collect its own taxes and then pay them to Spain depending on the government services or infrastructures provided, the same as is done already in Navarra and the Basque Country. Another important point is that amnesty is granted to all those involved, both politicians and citizens, who are persecuted as a result of the failed attempt at Catalan independence. However, the Spanish police and Guardia Civil who cracked down on the population during the referendum and subsequent protests will also be granted amnesty. Convicted terrorists are excluded from amnesty. Puigdemont demanded that the amnesty law must be passed by Congress before he would give his tolerating support to the Sánchez government. This demand was also not met due to the legal deadline for the appointment of a government (which would expire on November 24). In addition to amnesty, the lawsuits will be investigated to determine whether there is any political persecution, the so-called lawfare.

Resistance to amnesty
It is normal that the opposition (PP, Vox) and its supporters are against the agreement between JxCat and the PSOE. Less understandable is the fanaticism with which this happens. Puigdemont is regarded in ultra-right circles as a fugitive from justice and an enemy of the state. The protests in recent days, especially in front of the PSOE office in Madrid, attracted international attention. This time it was not only heard that Puigdemont will have to go to prison (or worse), but Sánchez will also have to pay the price. The PP sent an urgent letter to EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders to stop the law and has requested a plenary debate in the European Parliament on the rule of law in Spain.

In addition to the political opposition, EU officials in Brussels of Spanish origin have also expressed their dissatisfaction with the amnesty law, despite the fact that the civil service is obliged to remain politically neutral.

In addition to the political opposition, the judiciary is also fiercely opposed to the amnesty law and the announced investigation into lawfare. She finds it unacceptable that the neutrality of the judiciary is being questioned by politicians. The Supreme Legal Council, the administrative body of the judicial power, therefore signed a petition rejecting the amnesty law (the text of which was still unknown at the time). According to the writing, the amnesty law would violate the separation of powers and mean the end of the rule of law. A judge close to the PSOE stayed away as, to his opinion, the Supreme Court’s interference in politics would be unconstitutional. The Audiencia Nacional, the court that deals with terrorism, the courts in Cordoba, Seville, Salamanca and Malaga, the conservative union of judges (APM) and the investigating judges in Barcelona are also protesting against the amnesty law. In less veiled terms, the Supreme Court also issued a statement against the proposed law. The Court of Catalonia expressed its agreement with the Supreme Court.

The Union of Public Prosecutors is demanding the resignation of the Chief Public Prosecutor, García Ortiz, as he prefers to stay politically neutral and does not want to speak out on the amnesty law.

Puigdemont suspected of terrorism
Judge García-Castellón of the Audiencia Nacional has been investigating the Tsunami Democràtic protest movement for three years. This organized a blockade on the border with France and a protest meeting at Barcelona airport in protest against the convictions of politicians and civilian leaders by the Supreme Court in 2018 due to the referendum. During the negotiations between PSOE and JxCat, García-Castellón charges Puigdemont, the chairwoman of ERC, Marta Rovira (who is in exile in Switzerland) and nine others charges with terrorism as they were allegedly involved in Tsunami. During the protest in front of the Terminal 1 of the airport, one person reportedly died as a result. It concerns a French tourist who checked in at Terminal 2 (at the other side of the airport) and died of a heart attack. The French consulate, the medical service that tried to resuscitate the tourist and the Catalan police report that the tourist’s death is not related to the Democratic Tsunami protest. According to Puigdemont’s lawyer, Boye, the judge trivializes the charge of terrorism and, therefore, violates the European treaty 2017/541. The allegations against Puigdemont and the time of publication strongly suggest that the judge of the Audiencia Nacional tries to boycott the agreement between PSOE and JxCat.

Military personnel
Spain would not be itself if the army did not interfere in politics. About fifty former soldiers are calling for a coup to remove Sánchez from office (in Catalan) and demanding re-election because of the ‘lack of justice, equality and democracy’ in the Spanish state.

Skepticism among Catalans
The agreement has also been received with mixed feelings from the Catalan side. The civil organization Assemblea Nacional Catalana is even against any agreement with a Spanish government. There is little confidence that Sánchez will keep his agreements and many feel betrayed by the Catalan political parties. Some argue that with government support for Spain, the political process of Catalan independence is over. Time will tell how the negotiations will proceed during the coming government period and how the Spanish State will respond. One thing is for certain: Catalan independence is back on the political agenda.

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