Supporters of independence did not lay down their arms, and the problem of separatism in the Pyrenees was by no means solved.
Spain and one of its autonomous communities – Catalonia is again in suspense. Madrid and Barcelona are anxiously and impatiently awaiting the announcement by the Supreme Court of the Kingdom of the sentence of 12 accused of organizing a referendum on the independence of Catalonia, which was held exactly two years ago, on October 1, 2017. The announcement of the sentence is expected any day until October 16. Catalonia, suggesting a guilty verdict, is preparing for acts of civil disobedience. The central authorities in response threaten to apply the 155th article of the constitution and introduce direct rule from Madrid in Catalonia.
The Spanish press notes that in the history of the kingdom there has not been a single lawsuit on which the international prestige of Spain would depend to such an extent, and, by and large, the very existence of the kingdom on the Iberian Peninsula in its current form. For centuries, the Catalan problem has been a detonator of political instability in Spain, and in connection with the trial of the referendum organizers, it has become even more acute. It was the referendum on the independence of Catalonia, 90% of whose members supported the separation of the region from the kingdom, that became the root cause of the chronic two-year political crisis in Spain. Its outward manifestation is a series of extraordinary general elections, the frequent change of government and the inability of parties that won parliamentary seats following the last election in April to come to an agreement and form a coalition government.
The trial of the illegal referendum, in terms of the Spanish constitution and central authorities, began in February of this year. It lasted until June 13, after which seven judges of the Supreme Court, as they say, retired to pronounce a sentence. The country is awaiting the outcome of the closed debate of members of the highest judicial authority in Spain. The local press is full of all kinds of guesses and assumptions. This is understandable – the judicial verdict, which should be issued in the coming days, will have, without exaggeration, historical significance.
Among the 12 persons in the dock are former leaders of the autonomous government of Catalonia. Nine of them are in pre-trial detention, three are conditionally at large. The most important face of the referendum – the former head of the Catalan government, Carles Puigdemon – on the run. He sits in Belgium and is not going to return to Spain, since he will be immediately arrested at home. In his absence on the dock, the main figure among the accused was the former Catalan deputy prime minister and leader of the Left Republicans of Catalonia Oriol unkeras. He, as well as other well-known Catalan politicians – Josep Rul, Josep Turul and Raul Romeva are accused, in particular, of organizing a “rebellion”, provoking violence and unrest, and wasting public funds. The prosecutor’s office asks them to be sentenced to imprisonment for a term of 15 to 25 years.
If someone believes that the expected conviction will cool the passions in Catalonia, he is deeply mistaken. On the second anniversary of the referendum, on October 1, a mass rally was held in Barcelona with the participation of the current leaders of the autonomous community, including the current head of the Catalan government, Kim Torru. At the rally, a manifesto was distributed on behalf of the Catalan authorities, which called on the people of the autonomy to give a “massive response in the form of non-violent struggle and civil disobedience” to the conviction of the referendum organizers by the Supreme Court.
What exactly should be this “mass response”, the document does not specify. It only speaks of “the legality of civil and institutional disobedience as an instrument for protecting those civil, political and social rights that may be infringed”.
“We consider any court decision that is not justifiable to be unjust”, – the manifesto says.
The document calls the referendum held on October 1, 2017 “the largest act of sovereignty in the modern history of Catalonia and Europe in recent years”. A guilty verdict will be “the grossest violation of our fundamental rights”, – the manifesto says, which qualifies as “false” charges of incitement and rebellion brought forward by the prosecutor.
Another statement read out by the head of the Catalan cabinet of ministers, Kim Torra and Vice Premier Pere Aragones, within the walls of the Catalan government, said the need to “revive the spirit of the referendum on October 1, 2017 “to address “future challenges”. The current leaders of Catalonia have committed themselves to “advance without reservation to the Catalan Republic”, that is, to secession of Catalonia from the Kingdom of Spain.
As can be seen from the texts of these statements, the supporters of the independence of Catalonia did not lay down their arms, and the problem of separatism in the Pyrenees was by no means solved. The sentencing of the referendum organizers will be the starting point of a new aggravation of the domestic political situation in Spain. Fully aware of this, the Acting Prime Minister of Spain Pedro Sanchez called on the Catalan authorities to “not play with fire”. On the air of the Spanish radio company SER, he said that in case of aggravation of the situation, the government of the country without hesitation would apply the 155th article of the constitution, that is, it would introduce direct rule from Madrid to Catalonia.
Article 155 of the Spanish constitution – as a kind of amulet for the integrity of the country. She suggests that if some autonomous community “does not fulfill the obligations imposed by the constitution or other laws, or acts in a way that seriously damages the interests of Spain, the government … can take the necessary measures to force the latter to fulfill these obligations or to protect those interests”. Moreover, the central government, according to article 155, “can give instructions to all the authorities of the autonomous communities”. Simply put, it can command directly.
The issue of relations between Madrid and Barcelona is one of the key issues that determine the agenda in anticipation of the extraordinary general elections scheduled for November 10 in Spain. This was confirmed by the Spanish prime minister in an interview with radio SER. He fears that the public mood that will develop in Catalonia after the announcement of the verdict to the referendum organizers will dominate in the election atmosphere. It can be assumed that the Catalans will either sabotage the upcoming extraordinary national elections, or vote against the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOI), whose leader is Sanchez.
And all because Sanchez stopped this dialogue in February this year with Catalan politicians who had high hopes for him in the sense that, unlike the People’s Party (NP), which was previously in power, he would take steps to meet the aspirations of the Catalans about independence. The fact is that it was the Catalan parties represented in the parliament that helped the ISRP “topple” the government of Mariano Rajoy (from the NP), which severely suppressed the 2017 referendum itself and the mass demonstrations that followed in Barcelona. The Catalans hoped that Sanchez owed them. But the most important Spanish socialist, who apparently promised something to the Catalans, counting on their parliamentary support, simply used them. He was no less an ardent supporter of the unity of Spain than his opponents from the People’s Party. Speaking of breaking the dialogue with the Catalans, Sanchez pointed to a constitution that does not imply any independence for any autonomous community in Spain.
So, there is a prelude to a new round of aggravation of the Catalan problem, which will erupt in a new color after the announcement of convictions to the organizers of the referendum on the independence of Catalonia in 2017. It is clear that modern Spain will not solve this problem. She will leave her to future generations of subjects of the Spanish crown, who will never let go of Catalonia. Because otherwise, many other autonomous communities, of which all of Spain consists, will be pulled out of Catalonia. And this is already dangerous not only for the integrity of Spain, but also for many other countries of the European Union, where separatist sentiments, like a volcano, sometimes sleep, sometimes rage and erupt. And the consequences of such “eruptions” can only be guessed at.