Once the first coalition government in Spain has been formed since the Second Republic, the period of 15 days for the constitution of the “Bilateral Roundtable for Dialogue, Negotiation and Agreement for the Resolution of the Political Conflict” has begun in relation to the future of Catalonia. The long-awaited moment of sitting and talking has finally arrived and it is certainly appropriate to clarify from the beginning what can be expected and what not of the brand new bilateral table.
The agreement signed between the PSOE and Esquerra provides that the Bureau “will establish specific deadlines for its meetings and to present its conclusions.” After checking the fiasco to which the followers of the “we are in a hurry” (“tenim pressa”) took the independence process, the worst thing that the Catalan part of the Mesa could do is to get carried away again by the precipitation when it comes to forging agreements with the Government. One of the most judicious independence leaders, Andreu Mas-Colell, has suggested in an article in this newspaper that “one has to think about eight years” to channel the problem.
The worst thing the Catalan side of the Mesa could do is rush when it forges agreements with the Government
The Catalan conflict is not the first territorial conflict in the world that is addressed through political negotiation, and that is why a look at other cases on the European continent can be instructive. The most recent conflict is that of the self-proclaimed popular republics of Donetsk and Lugansk with Ukraine. In September 2014 and February 2015, two agreements were signed in Minsk that laid the foundations for the resolution of the conflict. After a long period of fruitless negotiations, the new president of Ukraine, Volodímir Zelenski, and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, have been working since last December on a definitive exit to the conflict within the framework of the so-called Normandy Quartet, which brings together to Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany.
On the western border of Ukraine is the self-proclaimed Moldavian Pridnestrovian Republic, better known as Transnistria, a region that unilaterally separated from Moldova soon 30 years ago. In this case, negotiations to resolve the conflict began in 2006 and received a new impetus in 2011. Since then they have been developed in the 5 + 2 format, named for the participation of Transnistria, Moldova, Russia, Ukraine and the OSCE, with United States and the European Union in the role of observers. Without a doubt, the longest negotiating process is the one that affects the future of Cyprus, a country divided since the unilateral secession of its northern part in 1974. In this case, the first conversations date back to 1974 and have been repeated in different waves. and with different formats.
Andreu Mas-Colell has suggested that “one has to think about eight years before” to channel the problem
If this brief glance recommends patience to the negotiators of the Spanish bilateral Bureau, it also instructs us on the objectives pursued. In none of the cases mentioned, the objective of the negotiation is to strengthen the independence of territories that have unilaterally opted for secession. In the case of Donetsk and Lugansk, everything provided for in the Minsk II agreements is a reform of the Constitution of Ukraine with decentralization as a key element, allowing the creation of autonomous regions in a mostly Russian-speaking Donbass. In Transnistria, the OSCE explains without ambiguity that the objective of the negotiations is to elaborate the parameters of a global agreement “based on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova within its internationally recognized borders, with a special statute for Transnistria within Moldova. ” Finally, the aim of all negotiations on Cyprus has always been the reunification of the country, usually in the form of some kind of federation between the “Turkish” north and the “Greek” south. Along these lines, the aforementioned Mas-Colell has had no qualms about doubting that the “final milestone” of the upcoming negotiation is a referendum on independence.
Finally, a reflection is also needed on the possibility that the bilateral Bureau will fail. Cyprus’s precedent is noteworthy. To enter into force, the 2004 Annan Plan for the reunification of the country had to be ratified by the Turkish and Greek communities in separate consultations. The Turks voted in favor, but the Greeks did it massively against it, so the Plan failed against the will of the negotiators. Within four, eight or years, when the time comes to vote, the Catalans will have the duty to decide if they sign an agreement that will not consist in establishing the Catalan Republic or if they prolong the conflict without remedy.
Albert Branchadell is a professor in the Faculty of Translation and Interpretation at the UAB.