To the Editor:
On February 14th there will be elections to the Catalan Parliament. [Note: We received this letter on February 11th, too late for inclusion in our paper of the 12th. – The Ed.] These are not normal elections in a regional parliament but are yet another chapter in the confrontation between the Catalan independence movement and the Spanish state.
The European institutions are hoping that the Socialist Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, will defuse the independence movement with some kind of negotiation. The problem is that Sánchez is very reluctant to negotiate, firstly, because his party is deeply Spanish nationalist and, secondly, because any concessions in Catalonia would be used against him by Spain’s ultra-nationalist right-wing parties.
Sánchez would need to be the party with the most votes in the elections to force a pact that would allow him to expel the pro- independence supporters from the Catalan institutions and end the crisis. If he succeeds, he will be able to say in Europe that the Catalan problem is deflating and that there is no need to worry.
Will things go as the Spanish prime minister wishes? After three years of relentless repression, the grassroots independence movement remains determined and mobilised. Catalan pro-independence supporters see these elections as an opportunity to show that the Catalan problem has not gone away and will not go away as long as their demands are not heard.
Polls show a three-way tie between Junts, the pro-independence party of Carles Puigdemont, ERC, also pro-independence, and the PSC, the Catalan branch of the Spanish socialist party. The pro-independence parties could repeat the absolute majority and exceed 50 percent of the votes. Therefore, it seems unlikely that Sánchez’s party will win enough seats to form a non-independence government.
Europe has so far been inclined not to interfere in the Catalan case, for fear of stirring up other separatist movements and to avoid angering Spain. However, if pro-independence supporters achieve a resounding victory on February 14th, Europe will have to accept that the Catalan problem will not be solved by looking the other way.
Maria M. Garayoa