Conversation: In Spain, Catalonia Compromises

MIN READOct 14, 2014 | 20:26 GMT

Ben Sheen: Hello, my name is Ben Sheen and I am a member of Stratfor's editorial team and I am joined today via Skype by Senior Europe Analyst Adriano Bosoni. 

Adriano Bosoni: Hello, Ben.

Ben: And today we will be talking a little bit about the latest developments in Catalonia's bid for independence. So, Adriano, today we saw a public statement by the regional President Artur Mas talking about the Nov. 9 referendum for independence that was due to be held for Catalonia. However, his statement was not quite what people were expecting. What exactly did he say, Adriano?

Adriano: What we saw today was the Catalan government doing the most it could do in the current circumstances. Catalan President Artur Mas had promised that he would hold a referendum on independence but at the same time he promised that he would not do anything illegal. So he was under conflicting pressure from within his own party, from other parties who support independence, to hold the referendum, to postpone the referendum. He was under very conflicting forces and he decided to hold a survey, which is not going to be binding but at the same time will allow him to honor his promise of letting the Catalans at least have a say in their future.

Ben: Now this puts him in an interesting position because he has to be loyal to his people but he is also beholden to Madrid and to the constitutional court. What does this mean for Mas, for the regional government itself and, indeed, the independence movement?

Adriano: Well, I see this heading to early elections because the current situation is not sustainable in the long run. The Catalan government understands that there could not be a referendum under the current circumstances with the government in Madrid taking it to the constitutional court and the constitutional court declaring it illegal. So, what the Catalan government is trying to do is to get at least some degree of popular legitimacy by holding a consultation that will — and this is what the Catalans hope — that will show that there is massive support for independence and then use that as a platform to call for early elections with a clear and concrete independence item in the campaign. But, that having been said, independence would still be illegal from Madrid's point of view. So, this issue will not go away, this issue is far from over and will keep shaping Spanish politics for years to come.

Ben: Clearly Spain has made its position clear here, in the aftermath of this decision do you think that we will likely see protests or any violence on the streets itself? And, indeed, what response are we likely to see any response from the regional government in Catalonia?

Adriano: Yes, we will see protests, we will see people taking to the streets to express their anger at the situation but I do not expect particular cases of violence. There could be some isolated episodes, there could be some people becoming violent here and there but overall nobody in the pro-independence camp is interested in violence because violence could taint the pro-independence campaign and could give a negative image of the pro-independence camp, which not what even the most open supporters of independence want. They do not want the process to be tainted by violence so I don't expect significant levels of violence. 

Ben: And for Artur Mas himself, do you think that he could actually hold onto power in the wake of this decision?

Adriano: It is going to be extremely difficult for him to hold on to power. The coalition of sorts that was keeping the government together has been broken. Mas' Convergence and Union party was relying on external support in the parliament from the Republican Left. The Republican Left will probably withdraw its support for Mas' party and, as I said before, I think this is heading to early elections. It may not happen next week or next month but at some point Catalonia will have to move on from this political deadlock through elections, which will only be the next step in a very long process. 

Ben: So, certainly it does not sound like Catalonia will achieve its independence any time soon. Now this is clearly an issue that we have been tracking for years here at Stratfor and unfortunately that is all that we have time to talk about today. But I would encourage you to look at some of the analyses we have here onsite where we look into some of the deeper issues surrounding the not only the Catalan independence movement but Spain itself and its geographical constraints. That is onsite now. Thank you very much.

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