Jordi Garcia-Petit, 17 January 2022
The President of Spanish Government, Pedro Sánchez, and the President of the Catalonia, Pere Aragonès, meeting before the start of the so-called “dialogue table” / EP
I will begin by clarifying that I am not referring to the dialogue table between NATO and Russia on security in Europe, which should interest us so much because it concerns us so much, but rather to something to walk around the house, to that strange negotiation between the Government of Spain and the Catalan Government, an obscure object, since nothing in it is clear.
The central government and the regional government are coalitions whose respective components have different opinions about the purpose of the table. Much less pronounced disparity in the central government than in the Catalan government, although Podemos has defended the celebration of a self-determination referendum for “all the peoples of Spain who wish it” – Pablo Iglesias came to say, before being anointed vice president -. Today, Yolanda Díaz is restrained in this regard and acknowledges that the direction of the negotiation corresponds to the PSOE, which flatly rejects a self-determination referendum.
Those of the Catalan government, ERC and Junts, are at odds in almost everything, and ostensibly in what concerns this negotiation. From the outset, no Junts advisor is part of the Catalan government delegation at the table. And all the spokespersons for Junts, from Puigdemont on down, have expressed their reluctance to dialogue –they advocate “confrontation”– and have predicted the failure of the table.
They are right in their own way, because they start from the single meaning that independentists give to the table, in which ERC and Junts basically coincide: a table to negotiate, nothing less, than the way to reach independence through the “democratic” path.
The pro-independence leaders are prisoners of their maximalist rhetoric. They speak of a conflict, which they describe as historical, between Catalonia and Spain. Once the idea of conflict is created, it is no longer necessary to think about it — conflict, since when, between whom, in what and why? –and it becomes an ideology that chains them and a weapon for confrontation. According to them, the only way out of the conflict is through the front door of independence. The setup brings it to them: they invent a non-existent conflict to justify an impossible independence.
Pere Aragonès will come to the table with two demands that he calls “inalienable”: amnesty and self-determination. None will have a path in the negotiation. If amnesty as a legal concept is debatable in our Constitution – that of those supposed “more than 3,000 victims of reprisals” would be morally and politically inadmissible -, with all certainty the right to self-determination of Catalonia is unreal, it does not exist.
In my capacity as a lawyer, specialized in public international law, I offer to debate (in writing, no with Rahola style) with whoever from the pro-independence orbit maintains the opposite.
President of Catalonia, Aragonès has a degree in law, he has sufficient knowledge of public international affairs to know that the assumption of Catalonia does not find any support in the international doctrine and practice on the independence of territories. The only rational explanation for his stubbornness is that, like the other pro-independence leaders, he lives politically on account of the story of self-determination.
Several socialist members of central Government have repeatedly pointed out that “amnesty and self-determination” will not be the object of negotiation. If the Government delegation wants to spend their speaking time talking about it, they cannot be prevented, and they will talk, because they believe that by “talking about it” a lot, both demands acquire a certain legitimacy. So, what is the table for, as the independentists conceive it?
The central Government will go to the table with the Agenda for Reunion, those negotiable points in the constitutional framework on institutional relations, financing, powers, conflict, services, etc. But those points are already being negotiated or can be negotiated in bilateral forums provided for in the Statute of Autonomy. So, what is the table for, as conceived by the Government?
In reality, the object of the table is exhausted in its very existence, that is, the constitution of a dialogue table would be the maximum concession of the central Government and the maximum achievement of the Catalan Government. The result does not count. Both parties are thus satisfied, gaining time for their respective strategies. Which continues to be a self-deception, especially of the Catalan Government, because what will be its underlying movement in the face of the central Government’s awaited refusal of its demands?
They only can wait for the reconversion of “independence” in aspiration to a “de facto confederation”, which is not de jure, a “meanwhile” eternalized, but with great competence and financial content. It is what the basque nationalist PNV is claiming for the Basque Country, it remains to be seen how far it will go. On the other hand, those from here (Catalonia) have neither the lucidity nor the waist of those from there (Basque Country).