No solution to the Catalonia Crisis?

Thousands of people in Barcelona protest daily against the Spanish Supreme Court ruling in which leaders of the Catalan independence movement were sentenced up to thirteen years in prison. A general strike and blockades are set for Friday. The conflict has reached an impasse, in which other European countries can be drawn into, commentators observe.

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Le Monde (FR) /

Both sides to blame for this impasse

The politicians have failed, Le Monde laments:

“This political crisis should never have ended up before the courts. This impasse is the result of both the previous Spanish Government's inability to find a compromise in dealing with the Catalan leaders' separatist aspirations and the stubbornness, pre-emptive disobedience and illegal actions of the leaders of the independence movement. The prison sentences are therefore above all a symbol of the failure of politics. ... In addition, the sentence only reinforces the Catalans' feeling that they are a special case.”

El País (ES) /

The Catalan Prime Minister is the problem

The Catalan President Quim Torra is blocking a solution and must go, says El País:

“With his fixation on the idea of separating Catalonia from Spain, he has deepened the divide among Catalans and led the independence movement into a dead-end situation. ... The verdict was not the spark that lit the flame in Catalonia, as Torra claims. Rather, it was the situation that Torra and his mentor [Carles Puigdemont] had impatiently been waiting for to use as an excuse for a confrontation with the central state. But his coalition partners are abandoning him to fight this one alone. ... The fate of this man who as president became the deputy [of Puigdemont] has been sealed.”

Der Bund (CH) /

Spain is after Puigdemont now

Following the conviction of the Catalan separatist leaders who remained in Spain, the country has reissued a European arrest warrant against the former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont. The Belgian judiciary is facing a dilemma, Der Bund observes:

“This time it won't be able to categorically say no, as it did with the old construction of the rebellion. But can it say yes when a European politician who has always been committed to non-violence is facing a prison sentence of more than 13 years? That would undoubtedly worsen the mood in Brussels towards the latently dissatisfied Flemish minority, and it would deprive the EU of the opportunity to mediate in this conflict for years to come. For now, Brussels' judiciary is giving itself a little time to consider the situation.” (RU) /

Interesting times in Europe

Russian social psychologist Alexei Roschtchin reflects on the tensions between state integrity and the right to self-determination in a commentary published by

“Very strange things are happening in Europe. Although it should be noted that such predicaments practically always arise when it comes to the notorious 'right of nations to self-determination'. This is already a very vague formulation, but in reality, it's an inherent and irreconcilable contradiction. On the one hand, you have 'state integrity' and the 'fight against separatism', on the other the 'right of nations'. There are no rules as to how these two principles should be brought in line with each other. And Scotland's attempts to break away from the UK are yet to come! Things are getting interesting.”

Jutarnji list (HR) /

Demonstrators raising important questions

Jutarnji list can understand why the verdict has driven many Catalans onto the streets:

“Is the verdict against the Catalan politicians democratic? What role does the judiciary play in Spain and is it politically independent? ... Offenders face sentences of one to three years in prison for sexual harassment, six to twelve years for rape and ten to fifteen years for murder. The Catalans see it as a great injustice to hand down nine to thirteen years in prison simply for wanting to push through a political goal that was decided by referendum with a political majority.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

Madrid spoiling chances of dialogue with Barcelona

The Madrid ruling will sever an important link to the Catalans, the Tages-Anzeiger laments:

“In Catalonia the ruling from Madrid is perceived as a revenge move and - quite rightly - completely out of proportion. Thirteen years in prison is the punishment for a capital crime, and this sentence was handed down to the former Catalan vice president Oriol Junqueras of all people, the most important dialogue partner for any future Spanish government. ... In jailing him Madrid is robbing itself of an important dialogue partner, perhaps the most important on the Catalan side and currently the only one entitled to act as such. We are familiar with such procedures from decades of conflict between Israel and the Palestinians or between Turkey and the Kurds, and one wonders whether they are a strategy or mere stupidity. What is clear is that they have made these conflicts unsolvable.”

Público (PT) /

A pardon could heal the wounds

A democratic and tolerant gesture could counter radicalism, Público believes:

“The courts are duty-bound to abide by the law and not engage in politics. But the Catalonian crisis is extremely political, so how should we deal with this court ruling? Should Spanish democracy enforce punishments with all the rigour laid down by law or open a door to peaceful solutions? Punishment creates martyrs and encourages radicalisation of the nationalist virus. A pardon for the convicted could heal wounds and restore dialogue. A decisive and groundbreaking debate should be held on these options.”

Delo (SI) /

EU only takes action against the weak

The EU is committing a mistake in staying out of important political crises such as the one in Catalonia, Delo sighs:

“Catalonian independence is a political matter. By the looks of things Europe doesn't seem to be a political union. Otherwise it would have heard the cries for help coming from Catalonia long ago. And almost all of Europe's heads of government - and their foreign ministers - wouldn't have repeated for years that the Catalonia question is a Spanish domestic affair. ... Because of Spain's economic strength, no one in the EU has admonished it over the Catalonia problem. They have only pointed a finger now and then at weak states like Hungary or Poland. ... European politics is empty, and this is a major political crisis. In Catalonia and Spain as much as in this Europe of double standards.”

Corriere del Ticino (CH) /

No democracy outside the rule of law

The ruling by the judges in Madrid is a homage to the rule of law, editor-in-chief Fabio Pontiggia comments in Corriere del Ticino:

“The Court has called attention to a truth that is all too often forgotten in this political era marked by populism: there is no democracy outside the rule of law. ... In other words, there are no political rights that can be exercised in violation of the laws and constitution of a free and democratic country. ... The twelve separatist representatives were condemned not for their ideas or for their political vision, which they can freely propagate, but for the criminal acts they committed in an attempt to unilaterally implement that vision.”

De Morgen (BE) /

EU should take Spanish justice to task

De Morgen's takes a different view of the situation:

“Where democratic political resistance is classified as crime, the rule of law crumbles. The same applies to the European member states Poland and Hungary, and it applies to the European member state Spain. The European Union would enhance its image if its reaction to the Catalan question were as decisive as it was to developments in Eastern Europe. ... The Catalan separatists dared to do something but did not win a clear enough victory, so they decided to take the bull by the horns. But repression against the political opponent in a constitutional state can never be a good response.”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

These are not political prisoners

Dagens Nyheter rejects accusations that the separatists were political prisoners, and explains:

“The act was illegal. No one prevented them from expressing their opinion. It is absolutely legitimate to want an independent Catalonia, but one cannot take the law into one's own hands and ignore a democratically established constitution. Political prisoners? Of course not. What would be truly undemocratic would be to let the separatists prevail against the half of the Catalan population who definitely do not want to separate from Spain.”

La Vanguardia (ES) /

Rely on moderate forces

La Vanguardia calls on the Catalonians to look to the future:

“In less than four weeks' time, on 10 November, parliamentary elections will take place. This will be a good opportunity to usher in a new political era and to place our trust in a government that relies on dialogue as a solution and takes the wishes of most Catalans seriously. We need representatives who are willing to enter into dialogue and compromise and who take account of all the sensitivities in the country. And who are determined to promote consolidation and greater self-government. Recriminations and systematic criticism of the opponent are not fruitful. Unilateral decisions have achieved nothing. ... Catalonia cannot continue like this. We must look beyond the verdict with composure and the conviction that there is a way to do things differently and better.”