At the press conference after the last meeting of the council of ministers prior to the summer holidays on Friday, Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez affirmed that “his administration won’t open more legal paths to tackle the Catalan crisis, but rather will look for dialogue.” He also called on the main opposition party, the PP, to be loyal to him on this issue, as he was with the Rajoy administration last year.
Despite offering dialogue, Sánchez said that he will not discard the possibility of invoking Article 155 (an article to suspend Catalonia’s autonomy, fire the whole government, implement a direct rule over the Parliament, and call for an early election) if pro-independence forces “violate” the Spanish Constitution “again,” which is a great contradiction given that an offer of dialogue should never be accompanied by threats.
Sánchez also said that this is a “time for change,” but did not specify any project for Catalonia. In this regard, he admitted that the Catalan crisis would not be solved “in a month, six months, or even in a year or two.
Despite the high social support for an agreed referendum: 80% of the Catalans, Sánchez emphasized that the solution to the Catalan crisis will strictly come by a “vote;” nevertheless, he insisted that this vote will have to respect the current Spanish Constitution. He said that the Spanish government will make a proposal which represents 80% of Catalans, but didn’t specify which one. In the last few weeks, however, numerous representatives of the PSOE have been pointing out that the proposal will consist in a reform of the Catalan Autonomous charter. I hope to convince [the Catalan government] during the medium term,” he said.
Sánchez also said that it is time of “building consensus.” He pointed out: “Dialogue and consensus are what I have offered to all the autonomous presidents. This is the spirit that has also been present in the celebration of eighteen multilateral meetings in eighteen months,” he said.
“We hope that there will be fruits throughout the semester, until the end of December, and that it will continue. There are instruments that can be used to find consensus. We have the strong will to continue to have dialogue that will improve the territorial cohesion of our country,” said the Spanish PM.
Those are quite ironic words considering that he supported the implementation of Article 155 under the Rajoy administration, which didn’t have even 30% of the support of the people.
Sánchez also said that he does not want to “open any more judicial channels,” although he has defended the implementation of article 155 of the Constitution. He even stressed that he had a “pedagogical” touch. Considering that there are political prisoners facing up to 30 years in prison for crimes that justice from other countries such as Germany believes to be nonexistent, this could be clearly considered an insult to Catalan society.
If, as he apparently affirms, PM Sánchez is really seeking sincere dialogue and a solution for the Catalan crisis, he should immediately release the political prisoners. How can a conflict be solved when most of the political leaders from one of the sides are jailed?
Despite that most Catalans, including many pro-Spain supporters, are calling for their immediate release, PM Sánchez appears to be willing to keep them as hostages. Probably in order to win social support from the Spanish far-right, even if it means that the international community will end up comparing his administration with authoritarian regimes such as the Erdogan’s one in Turkey.
Sánchez’s “dialogue” has been clearly reduced to threats and impositions in a nice tone. Apparently, he has forgotten who made him President: pro-independence parties. Unless his rhetoric changes and accepts the negotiation of a self-determination referendum as well as the release of Catalan political prisoners, pro-independence parties will likely bring him down, as well as take unilateral steps for the implementation of the Catalan Republic this autumn. Thus, Sánchez has two options: to negotiate a self-determination referendum or aggravate the crisis by pushing the Catalan government to unilateralism. Which decision Sánchez will make is still uncertain, but he is running out of time.