Why the independent Republic of Catalonia will be a reality before the weekend!
The Catalan independence process faces another key moment as the second deadline that the Spanish government gave Carles Puigdemont to retract last Tuesday’s declaration of Catalan independence expires at 10 am this morning (Thursday October 19th). Given the amount of support for independence amongst his support base and amonst the pro-independence bloc in the Catalan parliament, it’s virtually impossible for Puigdemont to consider taking any steps back. It’s also worth pointing out that in all the TV footage we see of him speaking with other politicians or leaving meetings he always looks extremely calm and relaxed and determined to finish the job he set out to do.
Anything but a full retraction will push the Spanish government to start the process leading to the eventual invocation of Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution. This process begins by the government drawing up a list of proposed measures that they will then send to Senate to be debated and voted on, which will take anything from a week to ten days.
I’ve heard that there are two possible sets of measures being considered. The first is the softer option, which will involve the Spanish government taking over the Catalan police and key departments, such as the Treasury and education, and then calling autonomous elections for some time around Christmas. However, going on previous behaviour, a tougher set of measures seems likely with the Spanish government completely taking over the Generalitat and running the Catalan government from Madrid.
Whatever the proposed measures are, it is inevitable that they will trigger an almost immediate response from Puigdemont, who will probably call a parliamentary session to either make a statement or take a vote on a formal declaration of the start of the independent Republic of Catalonia. The fact that a formal declaration is inevitable became clear, when in a meeting last night Puigdemont’s party PDCat, who are much softer on the issue of independence than Esquerra Republicana or the CUP, gave their full support to whatever statement Puigdemont chose to make.
What will happen next?
This is a very interesting question because if Puigdemont formalises the declaration of independence before the weekend i.e. later on today or tomorrow, the Spanish government, in theory at least, willl be powerless to act because Senate won’t be able to approve Article 155 for a week at least.
I don’t want to underestimate the Spanish government because apparently there are over extra 6,000 Spanish National Police and Civil Guard deployed in Catalonia, who have been relatively inactive since the referendum on October 1st and are probably looking forward to some action. Furthermore, the Spanish government have various financial measures in place that could be used to make life difficult for the Catalan government. In fact, in an interview the other night Vice-President, Treasury Minister and leader of Esquerra Republicana, Oriol Junqueras claimed that effectively Article 155 had been in force for some time as the Spanish government was doing everything it could to make government impossible in Catalonia.
However, the fact that Article 155 can’t be triggered legally until later in the month should give Puigdemont and his government some breathing space and a chance to put well-laid plans in action. Having lived here for 30 years and in that time come to admire, the Catalans a great deal, I simply cannot believe they haven’t thought about exactly what’s going to happen.
The underlying philosophy of the Catalans is a concept known as “Seny”, a form of ancestral Catalan wisdom or sensibleness. Seny involves well-pondered perception of situations, level-headedness, awareness, integrity, and right action. In fact, a National Geographic anthropologist defined seny as “a kind of refined good sense and self-realization” so you’re not telling me that they haven’t got this planned to the finest detail.
As I said in a previous article, I imagine that the citizenry will be mobilised to defend key government offices and departments, including the Palau de la Generalitat, where President Puigdemont is apparently already in residence, having sent his Romanian wife and their children to stay with her parents in Romania. Following Tuesday night’s massive candlelit vigil in Barcelona, pro-independence supporters have already been forewarned of flash demonstrations planned for tomorrow (Friday), which could be used to mobilise people to specific locations. On Saturday, another mass demonstrations is planned in Barcelona, which should give another show of strength and peaceful civism to the world at large.
Furthermore, given the recent judicial process against the Catalan chief of police, Josep Lluís Trapero, the citizenry is unlikely to receive anything more than strictly “keeping order” policing from the Mossos d’Esquadra. The Spanish government has made it clear that they are antagonistic to the Catalan police so just as happened on October 1st, they will be unwilling to participate in acts of violence against their own people.
In fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Major Trapero gives the order for his men to be loyal to the Generalitat rather than the Spanish government. This could well provoke the Spanish National Police and Civil Guard into action. However, as I mentioned before there are only 6,000 Spanish police in Catalonia compared with around 18,000 Mossos d’Esquadra. It will be interesting to see how this aspect plays out.
Finally, the issue of international sympathy is going to become increasingly important. Slovenia has already said that it will recognise Catalonia as soon as the declaration is formalised and I imagine the Baltic states will follow suit quite quickly. Similarly, regional parliaments, such as the Scottish and Flemish Assemblies are likely to pledge support, and political parties will be tabling motions in their respective parliaments around the world.
The Catalan independence process is also really going to put the European Union between a rock and a hard place. If it allows Catalonia to secede, Spain is likely to need a bail out, which will put heavy pressure on some of the richer European economies, particularly Germany. If it allows Spain repress Catalonia, the EU’s hypocrisy and lack of democratic values will come increasingly evident and probably cause an increase in Euroscepticism across an already sceptical Europe.
They might not do it publicly but privately EU politicians are bound to put pressure on Rajoy to allow an agreed and binding referendum in Catalonia. It really is the only way to break the deadlock. However, bear in mind that once independence is declared there might be no going back so they would be well-advised to act quickly.