Showdown in the Catalonia conflict

The Spanish Senate is expected today to approve measures proposed by the central government in Madrid that will deprive Catalonia of its autonomy and strip its government of its powers. Catalonia's head of government Puigdemont on Thursday rejected new elections and held to his plans for independence. Is a peaceful solution still on the cards?

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Il Sole 24 Ore (IT) /

Rajoy's uncompromising stance

Spain's head of government has remained intransigent in the Catalonia conflict, Il Sole 24 Ore writes:

“There was a small chance of dialogue between Barcelona and Madrid that could have led to elections in Catalonia. ... But Rajoy wouldn't listen to the Socialists who support his minority government. They had appealed to him not to apply Article 155 as long as Puigdemont was willing to hold new elections. But the conservative leader Rajoy left little doubt about his stance when he told Congress on Wednesday that Article 155 was the only response to Puigdemont's fight for independence. The last attempt at dialogue failed when he said that. ... We must wait and see how far Rajoy will go. And when new elections will be held in Catalonia. It's up to Madrid to decide now.”

El Periódico de Catalunya (ES) /

Set aside distrust to use last chance

El Periódico de Catalunya entreats the heads of government in Madrid and Barcelona to finally overcome their mutual distrust to prevent a further escalation:

“Puigdemont has shown that he is willing to pay the price within his own camp of announcing new elections and renouncing a unilateral declaration of independence. Yesterday distrust [between the leaders in Madrid and Barcelona] led to an opportunity [for a peaceful agreement] being wasted. But today there is still time to overcome the distrust and open up a new opportunity. The seriousness of the situation calls for statesmanship. Catalonia doesn't want either a unilateral declaration of independence or Article 155. The added time has started.”

Journal 21 (CH) /

Not yet at rock bottom

Spanish Prime Minister Rajoy and Catalonian leader Puigdemont are increasingly intransigent, Journal 21 fears:

“Neither is familiar with the word 'dialogue'. The popular comparisons with successful bids for freedom are therefore flawed. The preconditions are not the same here. In Madrid the government doesn't understand that Catalonia wants above all to be pampered 'cultural nation', as long as the money is right. So it could have long since been granted the same financial and (relative) fiscal sovereignty as the Basques. They have calmed down after years of terrorism. It is to be feared that things will have to get worse in Catalonia before they get better.”

La Vanguardia (ES) /

Watch out for the point of no return!

The Catalan president should adopt a cool-headed stance during his hearing before the Spanish Senate, editor-in-chief of La Vanguardia Màrius Carol advises:

“There's a popular saying that you have to stop slamming doors before you start learning to meditate. In other words, reflection is not possible for those in a bad mood or full of resentment and anger. Doors should always be left partially open because life changes constantly and today's angry outburst can become a lifelong problem. ... A section of the independence movement is calling on President Carles Puigdemont to send a clear message and slam the door shut for good this week in the Senate. ... This is poor advice and also the wrong approach. Among other things because it's not viable.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

Rajoy must make a grand gesture

Spain's Prime Minister Rajoy is incapable of bringing his country through the current crisis, criticises Nick Ottens of the transatlantic platform in NRC Handelsblad:

“Never go on the offensive but wait until your opponent makes a mistake - Rajoy has built his career on this strategy. No wonder he has barely taken the initiative on the Catalan question. But the stakes are very high now: nothing less than Spain's unity is at risk. ... If Rajoy wants to get the genie back into the bottle he must make a grand gesture: amend the constitution, hold a legal referendum and pay compensation for the police brutality of October 1.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Propaganda of wishful thinking

The Catalan separatists are dishonest and out of touch with the world, Le Monde believes:

“For months the Catalonian television station TV3 has been shoving simplistic and deceitful independence propaganda down people's throats. For months it's resorted to a grotesque rhetoric of victimisation that would have people believe that Catalonia is the victim of a return of the Franco dictatorship. That is not the case. The independence advocates are living in a bubble, they're selling illusions and capitalising on the complexity of the situation in Catalonia. But they don't dare organise a regional vote under the control of the Spanish electoral commission. ... They prefer to resort to the basest form of politics.”

El País (ES) /

Rajoy had no choice

The government's decision to ask the Senate to strip the Catalan regional government of its powers is justified in the view of El País:

“Faced with an exceptional act of defiance, the government, with the approval of the main opposition parties PSOE and Ciudadanos, has taken the equally exceptional step of appealing to the Senate to propose a series of measures which, in accordance with Article 155 of the constitution, will prevent the president of Catalonia from continuing to act against the public interest and guarantee that the Catalan government and parliament comply with their constitutional obligations. Both institutions have transgressed the legal boundaries: taking action against them is therefore entirely justified. ... Puigdemont and his entourage are responsible for what has occurred.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Central government breaking the laws

The government in Madrid is violating the constitutional rights of the Catalans, Der Standard complains:

“Catalonia's rebellious government, which held an independence referendum in defiance of the constitutional court, is being dismissed. The administration of the region is being handed over to technocrats from Madrid who have no authority in Catalonia. The social conflicts will intensify. The central government is taking control of education, radio and television broadcasting as well and finances and the regional police. This approach doesn't bode well because the Council of Europe is already comparing Rajoy's media policy with that of Hungary, Romania and Ukraine. ... Madrid will also be able to impose vetoes against the decisions of the Catalan parliament, meaning that Rajoy's administrators in the region won't be subject to any democratic supervision.”

De Tijd (BE) /

Madrid is creating political martyrs

The intervention of the Spanish government could trigger a violent revolt, De Tijd warns:

“Negotiations on the future of Catalonia have become impossible under these circumstances. So far the Catalans' protest has been non-violent. It was the Spanish repression of the October 1 referendum that was brutal - supported, incidentally, by the European Union. But it is unclear how long the Catalan conflict can remain non-violent. Spain is creating political martyrs and this will impede any further talks. The only way out is political negotiations. But who can enforce such negotiations? Certainly not Catalonia, Spain doesn't want to and Europe is looking away. Spanish democracy has become very fragile.”

Público (PT) /

Prime minister can't just do as he pleases

Madrid should show flexibility, historian Rui Tavares argues in Público:

“Those who believe that the Catalan question will be resolved without both sides sitting down at a table and talking to each other are fooling themselves. ... So far Rajoy has been able to count on the support of the EU member states and above all the European Council. But that support can hardly be taken for granted, above all if the acts of repression against Catalonian independence enter a new phase. National governments are also sensitive about public opinion in their own states. And sooner or later the EU institutions will remind Madrid about Spain's obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.”