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30 d’abr. 2018

The three phases of democratic conflicts, and the Spain-Catalonia clash

Translated by M. Strubell into English from "Les tres fases dels conflictes democràtics i el xoc Espanya-Catalunya".

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The three phases of democratic conflicts, and the Spain-Catalonia clash

Josep Pinyol

We are in the confrontation phase between the Kingdom of Spain and Catalonia, the first of all conflicts. In it the two sides exacerbate the visceral antagonism with ideological and emotional approaches. In democratic countries this first period is followed by a second one in which the parties specify their positions and detail their demands to expand their respective followers and create a perspective for a negotiation. The third part consists of the negotiations, the agreements and their application. A good example of these phases took place decades ago in several countries, when nuclear power stations were to be built: first of all, protests broke out against plans to build them; then arguments were provided with data on energy needs, hazards, storage of radioactive waste, etc.; in the third part decisions were made: in some countries electricity companies won, in others the antinuclear movements.The current conflict between Catalonia and the Kingdom of Spain began with the 2010 ruling of the Constitutional Court against the [2006] Statute [of Autonomy]. Since the first major demonstration in June of that year, there has been an escalation that has reached the highest level of confrontation: on the one hand, the holding of the referendum on self-determination on October 1 [2017] and the proclamation of the Catalan Republic on the 27th of the same month. And on the Spanish side, the de facto suspension of Catalonia's home rule and the imprisonment and exile of the Government of the Generalitat and the Parliament Bureau under charges of violent rebellion, for which they face 30 year gaol sentences. With this climb, a very active and resilient social majority for independence has been consolidated, and the Catalan-Spanish conflict has attained a European dimension.The Kingdom of Spain did not expect the firmness and breadth of the Republican movement. First they thought it would be a soufflé that would deflate on it own. Later they thought that with the savage repression and the takeover of the regional institutions the majority of Catalans would plead for a return to home rule. They never calculated that the Catalan conflict would infuse the  public opinion and the media of European states and that their democratic reputation would fall to such depths. They are now beginning to realize that prolonging the confrontation will weaken the support of the other European Union States, who fear a prolonged crisis in the Eurozone's fourth largest economy.
The confrontation phase will last for months and years because the Partido Popular and its Brunete media have stigmatized the independence social majority to such an extent that things have got out of hand. Now it's Ciudadanos who are picking up the benefits of catalanophobia. And at the same time a judicial machinery has been put in place that cannot be stopped. In Northern Ireland the passage to the negotiating phase did not prove possible until Margaret Thatcher and John Major lost power. It may well be impossible to consider a de-escalation of the conflict until Rajoy and Rivera have disappeared from Spanish political life.In this full confrontation, the movement for the Republic should take the initiative and make proposals for a democratic resolution of the conflict. Gerry Adams did it in the Ulster conflict, when Mrs. Thatcher was still in power, as did Nelson Mandela while he was still being kept in gaol by the apartheid regime. The proposals need to have two objectives, one as regards the Rajoy Government and the other as regards the European states. This week, Aitor Esteban, the Basque Nationalist party spokesman in [the Spanish Congress], justified their vote in favour of the 2018 budget by Prime Minister Rajoy's commitment to lift the application of article 155 when the Government of the Generalitat is formed and that a new «phase of dialogue» will then be opened. The negotiation proposal must aim to counteract what Rajoy understands by "dialogue" before European governments and public opinion: negotiations on the regional funding system, the Senate session for regional presidents, some investments in Catalonia, etc., etc.

In contrast to  this conception, clear proposals need to be defined on our part to put an end to the confrontation phase. In addition to the freedom of political prisoners and those in exile and a bilateral dialogue and negotiation (not multilateral with the other regional authorities), international mediation needs to be insisted upon. We cannot be constrained by an internal Spanish framework because in this context the Catalan part is a helpless minority against a majority that has shown extreme hostility. Our reference cannot be the negotiations that led to the failed 2006 Statute, but those that led to the Good Friday Agreements in Northern Ireland, or those involving the South Africa's ANC, headed by Nelson Mandela.These proposals for high level dialogue and negotiation should be part of the programme for the investiture of the President of the Generalitat, or the nucleus for a new election manifesto. They need to be drafted with rigour and to be accompanied by a solid narrative. Even so, they will be rejected by the Spanish side, as being opposed to constitutional democracy and to dialogue. But their objective needs to be to offer European powers a perspective of both the determination of the social majority for independence and of the paths it envisions for the conflict to be resolved.



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