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Home » Content » The Elcano Institute proposes giving in and reciprocity from both sides as a way out of the Catalan conflict
In the latest report of the ‘think tank’ on the ‘procés’ it refers to the possibility of reaching consociational agreements and power sharing

Iñaki Pardo Torregrosa

10/12/2019 00:10 Updated 10/10/2019 17:44

Picture-The State-Generalidad bilateral commission, meeting seven years later in an image of August last year. It never met with the PP governments (Xavier Cervera)

The Elcano Royal Institute, in the update of its report on Catalonia, makes a gray and rough radiography of the consequences of the procés. There is a territorial crisis that will be “deep and lasting”, the document predicts. But Ignacio Molina, coordinator of the project on the Catalan conflict in the think tank, also sees space for “optimism” when it comes to finding exits to the mess, an arduous task.

“What in recent years has been seen as a serious territorial crisis may, in case of being redirected with large agreements, become an international model. Catalonia and all of Spain have the potential and responsibility to become successful referents of broad self-government, concord between complex national feelings and unity in diversity, thus helping to channel similar identity conflicts”, as can be read in the last paragraph of the report, after making several proposals to try to channel the situation.

In the conclusions of the report some solutions are proposed that start from this reading of the situation, a cyst-like conflict that has polarized society. Therefore, the “distribution of power” and “consociational agreements”, based on models compared to other countries,are cited as a way out. Consociation is a formula of government that is used in societies polarized and marked by identity conflicts, such as Northern Ireland or Lebanon. Broadly speaking, the power is distributed among the different groups in such a way that the tension is reduced.


Molina explains in this regard that it is a “remote” and “medium or long term” option and in no case he draws parallels with the systems of Northern Irish or Lebanese consociation, where a public or other position is held depending on the group or community to which she belongs. The think tank researcher argues that a solution satisfactory for both sides in the short term is “unfeasible”. He emphasizes that more transfers of the State to Catalonia would not be accepted in the rest of Spain, nor would as well by the pro-independence side. Along these lines, he excludes a scenario of intervention of self-government with a permanent 155 or permanent unilateralism – extremes proposed by several actors in the conflict. It is from that point that he advocates to look for exits, knowing that it will be very difficult in the coming years.

The consociational agreements would go in a line of “reciprocity” and shared “transfers” “reasonable” in both administrations, “regardless of what each of the actors involved in the conflict wants”. “That the autonomies gain more weight in the State and that a majority cannot impose the cut of autonomous powers in Congress, nor can a scenario that violate Spanish laws be imposed in the Parliament”, Molina says. “You cannot govern Spain from the central administration by going against the pro-independence side, nor can the pro-independence side go against Spain and the constitutionalists in Catalonia. Spain is plural, but so is Catalonia. We must accept pluralism on both sides”, the researcher argues. Thus, he details that these formulas would serve to prevent us from going to situations of more confused and “dangerous” identity conflicts, in which there are differentiated schools, etc. He hopes that the coming generations will have less interest in the conflict as has happened in other societies.

The cost of the procés

He emphasizes that until now the Catalan system was “the best possible, despite its failures”, in a society with cultural duality and affirms that the society model was never questioned until the procés began as of 2012. “There was a tacit pact; while that agreement to respect the Constitutional pact was accepted nobody did set their eyes on certain issues”, he says. That is why he understands that the procés will have “costs” and that “you cannot go back as if nothing had happened” and he believes that “those costs were not calculated by the Generalidad”. “Until now we had not seen several groups speaking in Spanish in the Catalan Parliament”, he says as an example.

In fact, the report emphasizes that the non-Catalan constitutionalist groups, PP and Ciutadans, have gained the most weight in the Parliament, to the detriment of more “transversal” forces, such as the PSC. For this reason, he believes that after what he considers “a challenge” of the pro-independence side, one cannot return to the previous phase without suffering consequences, because a political subject has been woken up which before had barely intervened in the great Catalan consensus.

Regarding the State, the researcher believes that the Senate could be a real chamber of territorial representation, that autonomies could have more weight in state institutions such as the Constitutional Court and turning it into a Federal Court, that could have more transparency and reforms in the system of autonomous financing, or that in some way the Estatut eroded by the Constitutional Court in 2010 could be recovered. The report concludes that “the governments of Spain have also made mistakes, derived from the difficulty of accepting the consequences of not having a homogeneous nation-state”.

Looking at the future

“A new territorial pact that rearranges a large part of the independence movement is not impossible. The margin for new transfers of competences is very limited, since the Generalidad already enjoys very wide powers, but the capacity of the Autonomous Communities to influence State institutions could be improved (for example, with the reform of the Senate or the Constitutional Court) and some symbolic issues, such as the use of Spanish languages ​​other than Spanish. It is also possible to provide more resources and transparency to the financing, without harm to maintaining or even increasing inter-territorial redistribution funds”, as the report published this week states.

 “Any solution of new fitting (which in no case will be definitive due to the instability inherent in plural democracies) must start from the acceptance of the principles of the Rule of Law and of Catalonia’s own internal plurality, also re-arranging the many Catalans (and a large majority of Spaniards) opposed to the self-government institutions being at the service of a national construction that has as its ultimate objective the break-up”, the report adds in another paragraph. “Federal loyalty, consociational agreements and distribution of power within Catalonia would also be key elements in a possible solution”, says the agency.

The think tank believes that the conditions for this could be met in the medium term if the pro-independence side gives up secession, given “the extraordinary difficulty in achieving its objectives”. Although it warns that “the rest of Spain (institutions, political forces and society) also needs time to digest the trauma caused by the events of autumn 2017”. “At the moment the rejection of any constitutional negotiation that is understood as appeasement appears to be strong and it is preferred to endorse to the pro-independence side the costs of a procés that, in the manner of Brexit, was sold to the Catalans as exempt from economic and social damages”, the report explains.

Therefore, the proposed solutions do not work in the short term and in an earlier report, dated April, the betting was for an Orteguian getting along well as a temporary solution to the conflict.



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