Spain and the Catalan Parliament need to build bridges before events spiral further

Chika Mori and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The political crisis in Spain needs to be solved amicably between the government of Spain and the Catalan parliament. Militancy, on either side, will only pave the way for more tensions. Hence, it is essential that political elites on both sides of the divide think about the spiraling crisis that will favor neither side.

After all, a unitary Spain with special powers for the Basques and Catalonians, for example, will serve the central state while giving even greater autonomy. Similarly, in the opposite direction, an independent Catalan needs to work closely with Spain in all essential areas. Therefore, irrespective of the final decision that is worked out between political elites in Madrid and Barcelona respectively – neither can escape the geopolitical and cultural legacy.

In other words, both sides need to understand that historical ties, inter-marriage, shared values represented by the Catholic faith, and a plethora of other realities, means that the bonds are indeed great. It goes without saying the collapse of the former Yugoslavia based on foreign intrigues led to enormous bloodshed. However, in the opposite direction, the Czechs and Slovaks ended Czechoslovakia amicably, the result being continued friendship based on the shared legacy of past history – and the understanding that the split was justifiable and agreed by all parties.

According to the Catalan parliament, then the declaration of independence from Spain is only a matter of time – irrespective of the central government. Yet, today the Constitutional Court of Spain stated the suspension of the Catalan parliament, with regards to the session that took place on Monday. Hence, throwing further spanners in the works aimed at preventing the Catalan parliament in declaring unilateral independence.

Reuters reports, “The speaker of the Catalan parliament, Carme Forcadell, accused the Madrid government of using the courts to deal with political problems and said the regional assembly would not be censored. But she said parliamentary leaders had not yet decided whether to defy the central court and go ahead with the session.”

It could well be that the Constitutional Court order will stem the declaration of independence by the parliament of Catalan – even if only in the short-term. Yet, this reality should lead to further talks about the negative dynamics that both sides face. Of course, with the Catalan side being in the weaker position based on Spain pressurizing the European Union (EU) to enforce draconian economic and political enactments based on isolating Catalan. If this happened, then the economic angle could further sharpen divisions between Catalonians who are divided by the call for independence.

Images on Sunday of the Spanish police intercepting individuals from voting on the Catalonia referendum – by the use of force – definitely bodes ill. Carles Puigdemont, the Catalan leader, may rightly condemn such actions but he equally needs to understand the passion of Spain. In a similar sense, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy must acknowledge that many Catalans desire independence. Therefore, both sides need to hold genuine emergency talks – and the EU angle must come into play because the livelihood of many people who reside in Catalonia could be threatened.

If genuine talks are held between both parties at the eleventh hour – and EU leaders are invited – then it is possible that a compromise can be made. Even if this is to stem the current crisis by Catalan agreeing to not declare unilateral independence – on condition that Spain acknowledges a future referendum based on Catalan independence within a framework of 5 to 10 years. Hence, if both sides pull back from the brink by agreeing to accept a genuine compromise, then the onus is on Spain and the EU in showing the need for Catalonia to stay within Spain. If, however, the political elites in Spain and the EU can’t persuade the majority of Catalans to stay within Spain after a future referendum, then the wishes of Catalonians must be acknowledged. This refers to the split of the former Czechoslovakia and with Spain and the EU agreeing to a smooth transition based on the agreed compromise.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-spain-politics-catalonia/spanish-court-suspends-catalan-parliament-session-throwing-independence-call-in-doubt-idUSKBN1CA0Q8

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