November 9, 2023
November 9, 2023
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez reached an agreement on Thursday with Catalan separatist Carles Puigdemont on the formation of a Spanish government. The agreement is highly controversial because it includes an amnesty for Catalan politicians who organized an independence referendum in 2017.
After weeks of negotiations, the Spanish socialist party PSOE and the right-wing Catalan party Junts have reached an agreement. This not only includes the extension of Pedro Sánchez’s premiership but also a government program. The most important point is that the proponents of Catalan independence who are prosecuted by the Spanish courts are granted amnesty. The best known among them is Carles Puigdemont, the former Catalan prime minister who has been in exile in Belgium since 2017.
- Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez concludes a coalition agreement with the Catalan Junts of Carles Puigdemont.
- In exchange for amnesty for supporters of Catalan independence, support is given to the new Spanish government.
- The right, the extreme right and the right-wing magistrates are fiercely opposed to the amnesty.
- European Commissioner Didier Reynders also asked questions about the amnesty, while the European Commission has always maintained in the past that the Catalan issue was a purely Spanish affair.
“Unknown territory is being entered,” Puigdemont said during a press conference in Brussels. According to him, the amnesty corrects the political persecution of the past. Moreover, according to Puigdemont, new political persecutions in Spain will become impossible due to the measure. However, he stated that the agreement also puts an end to the independence process that was started in 2017. New negotiations must now take place. Puigdemont also warned that the agreement is conditional and can therefore be terminated.
“This agreement is not only an investiture agreement, but also a coalition agreement,” said Santos Cerdán, the number three in the PSOE who negotiated the agreement. If Sánchez can also persuade the Basque PNV to support his coalition with the radical left Sumar in parliament, the social democrat can govern again. According to Cerdán, the agreement also paves the way for a political solution on the Catalan issue.
According to the right, Sánchez is bowing down to stay in power.
Sánchez has been ruling since 2018 with the support of Catalan and Basque separatists. Moreover, the prime minister was able to limit the damage in the July 23 elections and the right-wing PP and the far-right Vox did not win a majority in parliament.
According to the right, Sánchez is bowing down to stay in power. The tension in Spain is therefore increasing. The PSOE headquarters have been repeatedly attacked by far-right militants in the past week. And Vox has called for another demonstration on Thursday against what it calls a ‘coup’.
The right-wing PP is calling for a major demonstration against the agreement on November 18 in Madrid.
The expensive words are not spared. Isabel Díaz Ayuso, who heads the Madrid region for the right-wing PP, spoke of a ‘dictatorship’. Ayuso further says that the door is now being opened for a legal referendum on Catalan independence. The leader of the PP, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, also spoke of a ‘black day’ for Spain. The PP calls on its members to demonstrate again in various places on Sunday. There is to be a major right-wing demonstration in Madrid on Saturday, November 18.
Resistance from magistrates
The Spanish right has always been virulently opposed to any aspiration for independence from the regions. This line has been maintained since the referendum held in Catalonia in 2017, which showed a majority in favor of Catalan independence. It was because of that referendum that Puigdemont finally left Spain.
The conservative magistracy has also always opposed the drive for independence. Not only has the Supreme Court, where a magistrate of PP signature is in charge of the case, persistently prosecuted Puigdemont. The accusations against the former prime minister were also repeatedly changed in order to obtain an expulsion to Spain. This week, Puigdemont was suddenly accused of terrorism, with the intention of blocking his path to amnesty.
The European Commission has expressed serious concerns about the proposed amnesty legislation.
European Commissioner for Justice
The conservative magistrates’ association also called the amnesty a violation of the rule of law. It is striking that the Belgian European Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders (MR), has already asked the Spanish government for an explanation about the amnesty legislation. According to Reynders, ‘serious concerns have been expressed about the proposed amnesty legislation’ and ‘there is a major public debate’. “The Commission has been contacted by many citizens,” Reynders said in a letter to Spanish Minister Félix Bolaños.
Reynders’ letter is striking because the European Commission always refused to intervene and called the Catalan issue an ‘internal Spanish issue’. The fact that the Commission is now interfering in the discussion is not considered a contradiction in Brussels.
The criticism does not only come from the Spanish right-wing and the European Commission, some PSOE barons are also having a hard time with the agreement. Ultimately, it will soon become clear whether Sánchez can keep his troops together despite the great external pressure. If that fails, new Spanish elections will become inevitable.