June 21, 2021
Pedro Sánchez, at his conference at the Liceu. / EFE
Although he also spoke to the Spanish public opinion, which looks suspiciously at the pardons to the leaders of the ‘procés‘, Pedro Sánchez went to the Liceu in Barcelona to address especially the hearts and minds of Catalans. Of all, but especially of those who did not militate in the cause of independence 10 years ago and who were joining this option after the decision of the Constitutional Court to cut the Statute. His words were intended mainly for the thousands of citizens who cut the bridges with Spain after the police action on 1-O. Only time will tell if the president of the government has managed to reverse that “disaffection” of Catalonia towards Spain of which former president José Montilla spoke shortly before events precipitated. For the moment, it is easier to assess the impact of his words on hearts, damaged by Rajoy’s policies and the tone and form adopted by the King’s speech on October 3, than on minds. Indeed, his intervention was full of references to the collective emotions that have prevailed in Catalonia in recent years, but it was lacking in concrete proposals about the “new country” in whose construction he invited the Catalans to participate.
Sánchez spoke for a polarized and traumatized society. For some, due to the contempt that the policies of the PP emanated, from the famous collection of signatures against the Statute. For others, due to the accumulation of illegalities that led to the declaration of independence. The repeated appeals of the Prime Minister to harmony, opposed to discord, the very title of his conference, ‘Re-union’, opposed to confrontation, the use of unusual concepts in political language, such as respect, affection, feelings, and the final wink (“Catalanes i catalans, us estimem”) symmetrical to the one that Lluís Companys used when he went to the Monumental Arena of Madrid, in 1937, to express Catalonia’s support against the Francoist offensive (“Madrileños, Catalunya loves you” ), constitute messages destined to the hearts of those Catalans who have disengaged from Spain as a common project.
It is more difficult to assess the impact that the offer to participate in a “new country project” may have, no matter how much Sánchez insisted that the pardons are only “a first step” to achieve this objective. Although his words contrast with the dominant barracks language on the Spanish right, topics such as that Spain cannot be conceived without Catalonia, nor Catalonia without Spain. Or the obvious warning that “outside the Constitution there is no room for politics.” It can be understood that the Prime Minister was sparing in promises when the dialogue table with the Generalitat had not yet met, and when the right carried out a ruthless offensive against pardons, but to conquer skeptical Catalans, who were the main recipients of his speech, Sánchez will have to make public some of the ideas that Miquel Iceta has left him in the Catalunya folder. The legal reforms necessary so that the center of the Catalan political board – the one that goes from dialoguing constitutionalism to pragmatic pro-independence – can take the initiative, leaving on both sides of this broad spectrum those who see the Constitution as either a thrown weapon or a insurmountable wall.
Meanwhile, the multiple pending legal cases, among which the actions of the Court of Auditors stand out, constitute ammunition for those who think that the pardons are only an operation designed to anticipate the criticisms of the Council of Europe and the decisions of the European Justice. The two souls of the independence movement have once again disagreed with the assessment of some measures of grace that Oriol Junqueras has wanted to present as a “triumph” while Carles Puigdemont has described them as “self-indulgence” of the State. However, Sánchez should not be deceived about divisions that always disappear in the face of an action of justice that does not cease and that constitutes another great obstacle for the proposals that he outlined at the Liceu to make their way.