Joan Tapia, President Editorial Committee of El Periódico
June 26 2021
Subject: “Starting over”
Sánchez acknowledges that the pardons do not resolve the conflict but asks ERC and JxCat to defend the constitutional pact. / JOSÉ LUIS ROCA / VIDEO: ACN / CONGRESS
The condemned politicians are already on the street. But pardons continue to dominate the debate and on Wednesday, in a tough speech in Congress, Pablo Casado demanded the resignation of Pedro Sánchez, accusing him of “disarming the State.”
Why have they been granted? Once the nine Catalan leaders were condemned by the Supreme Court and the sentence carried out, the conflict was still alive. And the thesis that simple continuity would solve it, or reduce it, crashed against the result of the Catalan elections in February. The PSC was the main force, but the three pro-independence parties -ERC, Junts and CUP- repeated an absolute majority and had 52% of the votes, a percentage not to be magnified due to the very high abstention.
It was clear that mere continuity would perpetuate the confrontation between the new Catalan government and that of Spain. Also the division of Catalonia into two practically equal halves. The independence movement had had 52%, but the polls – including those of the Generalitat – indicate that the majority of Catalans, by a narrow margin, do not want to leave Spain.
Not changing the scene was not going to solve anything and would bring about the paralysis of Catalan and even Spanish politics. It could be the ideal moment for a relevant gesture that would open a new stage, especially when ERC, the first pro-independence party, affirms that, without renouncing its objective, it rejected unilateralism – the great sin of 2017 – and wants to negotiate.
The pardons are thus born from the conviction that at some point – the Justice having already spoken – it would be advisable to “turn the page” (Salvador Illa’s campaign) and “start over”, cas PEdro Sánchez said at the Liceu on Monday.
The writer Javier Cercas, very opposed to independence, has defended them saying that they are a bet on the hope that a notorious gesture of conciliation can unblock the long conflict. There is no guarantee, but he notes that the Catalan climate has already changed with the announcement of the pardons. Hope should not be truncated by rejection or fear of moving things.
The pardons have, however, the opposition of the entire Spanish right and are viewed with great suspicion by the most radical pro-independence sectors. But the protests to the contrary have mobilized little for those who – skeptics or even opposed – do not believe that pardons, which maintain the disqualification and are conditioned not to break the law again, could be a catastrophe. And Sánchez does not act only to “self-indulge” as both the Cercle d’Economia, a relevant entity of businessmen and professionals, as well as the Foment, the Catalan employers’ association, and even the president of CEOE, Antonio Garamendi: have expressed their support: “welcome if they serve to normalize things “.
Entrepreneurs know that the chronic conflict with Catalonia, “roughly” a fifth of GDP and of the Spanish population, is not the best for recovery. The Catalan bishops have also signed up to yes, dragging the Episcopal Conference that has asked “to abandon the immovable attitudes towards pardons.”
The leader of the PP does not understand that his frontal and radical opposition is not shared by relevant social sectors and has even criticized that those who (businessmen and bishops) are not in parliament “interfere”, forgetting that on other occasions the PP has exhibited the support of associations of victims of terrorism or of the bishops themselves. The PP thus risks becoming isolated with Vox and being misunderstood by the more solvent international press.
The ‘Financial Times’, the most influential daily in Brussels and in many capitals, has come out in favor of pardons and negotiation. Saying that Casado was the victim of “a trap” in Barcelona only indicates not knowing how to read reality.
The pardons are a brave and risky gesture in search of a very complicated unlocking that will require two major imperatives to be taken into account: maximum flexibility and respect for the rule of law. All laws can be changed, but always without breaking the law. But “starting over” is easier to enunciate than to achieve. The meeting on Tuesday, the feast of San Pedro, between Pedro Sánchez and Pere Aragonès, will be the first test. It should give some clues.