The negotiations between the Catalan and Spanish governments aimed at resolving the ongoing conflict will start on September 16 or 17. The Spanish government has refused to allow discussion of amnesty and independence as part of the talks. This position on amnesty and self-determination undermines the negotiations since amnesty is the only possible solution for over 3,300 Catalans who are enduring judicial proceedings for exercising fundamental rights, and because self-determination is the only possible way to meet the demands of 80% of Catalans who want an independence referendum.
The Catalan delegation led by President Pere Aragonès, though skeptical, insisted that their proposal will be amnesty and self-determination. The President also warned Spain’s PM Pedro Sánchez of the possibility of his party, the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), withdrawing their support in Congress if there is no progress or if he doesn’t attend the negotiations – he hasn’t confirmed his attendance yet. This move could force snap elections in Spain.
Division on the Catalan side
There is an existing division on the Catalan side on how to tackle the negotiations. On the one hand, ERC desires to give the negotiations a chance to “earn international legitimacy,” especially if as a result of the Spanish vetoes, unilateral steps are taken in later stages. On the other hand, the socialist pro-independence party, the Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP), and Together for Catalonia (Junts) believe the negotiations have already failed due to the unwillingness of the Spanish government to resolve the ongoing conflict, as shown by the refusal of the Spanish government to discuss amnesty and self-determination.
While they are willing to sit at the negotiating table due to their agreements with ERC, they also demand that the Catalan delegation quit the negotiations if there is no progress in the upcoming months. “There is no need to wait for two years if the Spanish government doesn’t show willingness to resolve the ongoing conflict.” CUP also calls on the movement to prepare for unilateral action when the negotiations fail in order to prevent “the mistakes of 2017.”
Division between civil society organizations
Civil society organizations have also shown different views of the negotiations. While the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) believes that the Spanish government has no intention of negotiating in good faith, and is simply participating as a publicity stunt as a propaganda effort, Òmnium believes that forcing Spain to dialogue is already a success that must be explored, without excluding unilateralism for later stages if the negotiations fail. In addition, its President Jordi Cuixart believes that the Catalan pro-independence movement should show unity during the negotiations and support preparations for unilateral actions.
To some extent, all Catalan pro-independence parties and organizations are aware that the negotiations are doomed to fail and that unilateralism will have to be resumed sooner or later. As always, the citizens of Catalonia will have the power to accelerate or delay the process. If there is no progress in the negotiations, demonstrations in the upcoming months will determine whether civil society is strong to exert enough pressure on the Catalan government in order to resume unilateralism.
The Catalan pro-independence movement will only have a chance to succeed if civil society is stronger than the political parties and leads the process itself. If strong enough, parties will be forced to follow them.