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Catalonia cannot achieve unilateral independence, but she can destabilise Spain.

Juan José López Burniol, 25 May 2024

Image: Xavi Jurio

With the permission of our marching and omnipresent Minister of Culture, I take the title of this article from bullfighting jargon – which divides the bullfight into three tercios: de varas, de banderillas and de muleta – to stress that, after the recent Catalan elections, only one tercio – one stage – has ended, but the bullfight continues, which has reached – so it seems – the last tercio.

The third that has just ended is the one known as the procés, which began in 2012 and ended, a week ago, with the loss of its previous parliamentary majority by the explicitly nationalist forces, which does not prevent there being many crypto nationalists in other parties. In any case, what is certain is that the project designed to achieve Catalonia’s independence unilaterally, i.e. without the support of the rest of Spaniards, has failed thanks to the – belated – application of article 155 of the Constitution and the action of the judiciary, which is not responsible for a deliberate judicialisation of politics, but has suffered the consequences of an imposed politicisation of justice.

Directly responsible for this failure were all the pro-independence leaders who, with the enthusiastic support of many media outlets, generated false expectations among citizens due to the fraudulent discrepancy between what they said and what they did. Where were the structures of the State? Everything, except the enthusiasm of many citizens, was a mirage.

Now, with the end of the procés, the so-called Catalan problem has not been resolved, not by a long shot, but the Spanish problem of the territorial structure of the State, which, from now on, will not be posed in the crude terms of an impossible unilateralism, but in the more sophisticated terms of a confederalisation of Spain.

It will no longer be a question of ‘taking Catalonia out of Spain’, but of ‘taking Spain out of Catalonia’, which is consistent with the fact that Catalonia does not have the strength to achieve unilateral independence, but it has more than enough to destabilise the whole of Spain. That is why she can successfully push to reduce her ties to Spain to little more than a formal link without a hint of real significance. This new procés would be impossible without the resolute collaboration of the entire Spanish left, which sees Spain and its state as instruments of domination historically placed at the service of an oligarchy ‘that for centuries has been seated on the state’ and has turned ‘its homeland’ into ‘its estate’.

Catalonia cannot achieve unilateral independence, but she can destabilise Spain.

This last third, this new process, will take place in three phases: 1) Exaltation of plurinationality: Catalonia, Navarre, the Basque Country, and Galicia are ‘true nations’, while Spain is not; it is only a state, a legal artifice with no national identity of its own. 2) Establishment of bilateral relations: these four nations will be separately linked to the State through bilateral relations negotiated with it on a one-to-one basis, and which will necessarily include a unique fiscal regime and an autonomous judiciary. 3) Confederal mutation of the State: once bilateralism is accepted, the autonomous State will mutate its nature to become a confederation, thanks to innovative and creative rulings by a Constitutional Court that will largely agree with this approach.

The consequences of this second procés, if consummated, will be twofold: 1) Spain will cease to be what it is today in essence: an area of primary and immediate solidarity, in which all Spaniards are equal. 2) How will the remaining thirteen autonomous communities be left: will they have to become by force as many confederate states, or will they remain in limbo and stateless?

I conclude: if the majority of the citizens of the ‘true nations’ lack affectio societatis for Spain, they will have no sense of belonging and, without this, solidarity is impossible. In that case, we will have to accept it and remember that it is not a good idea to walk with someone who does not want to go with you.



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