UPDATE 27/10/17: What a difference a week makes! It’s been a mere seven days since our original post, but things have moved fast. It’s a very fluid situation in Catalonia, and yet there is little sign of a resolution being found anytime soon to the political deadlock gripping the region. Last Saturday, the Spanish Government did indeed announce special measures to restore central government control over Catalonia under Article 155 of the constitution. According to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, the measures will “rescue the region’s autonomy, rather than suspending it”. They include the dismissal of the regional government and its leader, and the calling of elections in the next six months. Before coming into effect, these measures will first have to be approved by the Spanish Senate.
After initially indicating he would not appear before senators to defend his position, Carles Puigdemont, the leader of the Catalan Government, wrote to the Senate and called on them not to authorise his dismissal. Yesterday evening, in a long-awaited and much-postponed press conference, Mr. Puigdemont confirmed rumours that he had been considered a snap election, but he had not been offered sufficient guaranties that this would prevent the application of Article 155. This has led him to rule out the possibility of early elections, leaving the issue in the hands of the Catalan Parliament.
Finally, both the Parliament of Catalonia and the Spanish Senate are set to reconvene again today. For the former, all options are on the table, including unilaterally declaring independence; while the later will vote on triggering Article 155. For the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party there is still time for Mr. Puigdemont to reverse his decision and call early elections (the party has even presented an amendment stipulating the suspension of the Article 155 special measures if this happens), but the window of opportunity is clearly closing, putting Spain hours away from a potentially historic moment.
How can both sides break through the chaos and confusion and get a handle on what is happening? Will independence be declared today? Or will it be once again postponed? Is there anything the Spanish Government can do to prevent the birth of the “Republic of Catalonia”?
ORIGINAL 20/10/2017: Where now for Catalonia? It seems the space for dialogue between Mr. Rajoy, President of the Spanish Government, and Mr. Puigdemont, President of Catalonia’s Generalitat, is rapidly vanishing. Even EU leaders agree there is no place for EU-mediated talks, as they reiterated their support for the Spanish government during a summit in Brussels.
After several missed deadlines for Catalonia’s leader to clarify whether or not it has declared unilateral independence, the Spanish government is now all set to activate Article 155 of the constitution and suspend the region’s autonomy. The process could take another week, as it will first need to be discussed and voted on in the Spanish Senate. Over 80% of senators are expected to vote in favour (including members of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party and the ‘Citizens’ party), while Podemos and the Basque Nationalist Party are likely to vote against it.
Article 155 has never been invoked before, and the Spanish authorities are very much moving into “uncharted territory“. The application of special measures is expected to be brief and limited. These could range from taking over control of finances and regional policing (Josep Lluis Trapero, chief of the autonomous police force of Catalonia, is already under investigation for sedition) to calling regional elections in Catalonia, aimed to be held in January 2018.
In response, the Catalan president has threatened to unequivocally declare independence if Madrid moves to suspend autonomy. All of this while more companies and banks are moving their offices from the region and the growth forecast for the whole of Spain, not just Catalonia, is plunging.
Will suspending Catalonia’s autonomy help resolve the crisis? Or will it escalate things? How can space be built for compromise and dialogue? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!