December 12. 2023. 12:04

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Catalan PM demands self-determination ‘reconciliatory referendum’

The central government in Madrid must commit to a self-determination referendum for Catalonia and approve an amnesty law for those involved in the 2017 secessionist attempt, said regional Prime Minister Pere Aragonès on Tuesday.

In a speech at the seat of Catalonia’s regional government (Generalitat), Aragonès took it for granted that the government of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez (PSOE/S&D) pass an amnesty law and, as a second step, asked that Madrid “commit” to agreeing the conditions for a referendum on self-determination, Euractiv’s partner EFE reported.

“In the next four years, we must find a formula to resolve the sovereignty conflict with the (central) State. For me, this is the condition that independence has to be put on the table. The future Prime Minister (Sánchez) must commit that we will find a way for the Catalans to vote (in a referendum)”, Aragonès said.

Last weekend, around 50,000 right-wing and far-right supporters demonstrated in Madrid against the possible approval of an amnesty law, one of the top conditions demanded by Catalan separatists to reinstate Sánchez.

Faced with the right’s “iron fist” narrative, which demands that all those responsible for the 2017 events be brought to justice, Sánchez and the leader of the left-wing platform Sumar, Yolanda Díaz, probably his future number two, prefer the path of dialogue.

Pardons, a first step towards reconciliation

In a bid to defuse the tension, Sánchez granted in June 2021 pardons to nine top separatist politicians responsible for the secessionist attempt, one of the most prominent milestones of a political phenomenon that Catalan separatist forces, both right-wing and left-wing, refer to as “procés”, which began in 2012.

But apart from those nine, there could be around 5,000 people involved in the organisation of the illegal referendum held on 1 October 2017 in Catalonia, who are still immersed in judicial proceedings, RNE reported.

One of the top masterminds, former Catalan Regional President Carles Puigdemont, the current leader of centre-right separatist party Junts Per Catalunya (JxCat, Together for Catalonia), is since 2017 on the run from Spanish justice in Belgium, pending Spain’s likely issuance of an EU arrest warrant.

However, the paradox is that it is precisely Puigdemont, with JxCat’s seven seats in the Spanish Parliament, who holds the key to Sánchez’s return to government.

Seeking harmony and coexistence

For this reason, as several analysts have stressed, it is possible that in the “negotiating package” with Madrid, Puigdemont has also demanded to be pardoned for the 2017 events when the Catalan Parliament declared Catalonia’s independence from the rest of Spain, a measure which was almost immediately suspended.

To explain the move, Sánchez commented in 2021 that his decision was “the best for Catalonia and Spain and the most in line with the spirit of concord and coexistence of the Constitution”.

Speaking in the regional Parliament on Tuesday, Aragonès, of the left-wing separatist Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (Republican Left of Catalonia, ERC/The Greens/EFA), demanded that Sánchez commit to allowing a referendum to be held.

“We need a firm commitment that during the next legislature, a way for the Catalan people to decide their future will be found and agreed. We need the next government to open this door and for Sánchez to take note of it”, Aragonès said.

“Catalonia is and will be decisive. We hold the key to the governability of the (Spanish) State, and we must use it”, he added.

(Fernando Heller |

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