Something is rotten in the State (?) of Catalonia

External Relations

The recent Spanish crisis has dramatically affected the idea of Spain as a unique political entity. From many points of view, it is argued that unity in Spain has always a different meaning. From administration, to politics, the Spanish way of “devolution” of powers became a case study worthy of every textbook about Political Science. The protection and promotion of regional identities, in Spain, has transcended the boundaries of the constitutional principle. Local autonomies are in facts the cradle in which the Spanish pride raised, even before the beginning of Franco’s dictatorship.

Today, the situation in Catalonia seems to be still dangerous and complicated. In particular, Spain has fallen in a grey zone of political incertitude, very far from any sort of probable solution. On October the 11th, Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish Prime Minister, announced to be ready to activate the art.155 of the Spanish Constitution. This article obliges the government of a Spanish autonomous community to respect the law and the Constitution. It is going to apply to the Catalan case, if Carles Puigdemont, President of the Catalan Generalitat, will not take a step back while confirming that his last declaration given on Tuesday is a true declaration of independence.

Immediately after the last reunion of the Council of Ministers, the Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy gave a speech that backed Puigdemont into a corner. PM Rajoy formally asked Puigdemont to clarify whether the last declaration made by the Catalan Parliament was a true declaration of independence or not. In particular, a wide range of experts and political commentators considered this question fully legit. In facts, Puigdemont had suspended the effects of a declaration of independence – never really proclaimed -, placing himself in a profitable grey zone that the Spanish law might persecute only with great difficulties. The formal request of Mariano Rajoy to Puigdemont was to get back to his constitutional and legal obligations. The Generalitat has to respond within few days (16th of October). If the Catalan government will confirm that the Puigdemont was a real declaration of independence, he would have time until October the 19th to withdraw the declaration.

In the case this would not happen, the Spanish government will definitely ask the Senate the permission to activate the process concerned by art.155 of the Constitution, a measure that the Spanish government has never put in place before. The text of the article is broad and the meaning is blurred. It states about the power of the central government to take all the necessary measures in order to constrain the autonomous community to a forced fulfilment of their Constitutional obligations. On the other hand, it is quite hard to conceive which measure could effectively work for Catalonia, binding the Catalan separatists to respect the unity of the country.

Differently, if Puigdemont should confirm that his recent statement was not a real declaration of independence, well, this would inevitably confirm the political success of Madrid’s bargaining strategy. Not only the Partido Popular – Rajoy’s party -, but the socialists (PSOE) and Ciudadanos endorsed Rajoy’s formal enquire to Catalonia.


Catalonia’s position after the request from Madrid is critical of the art.155 threat. Puigdemont twitted his disappointment, affirming that the Spanish position would harm any possibility of peaceful political dialogue between the two governments. On Wednesday the CUP, a marxist and far-leftist Catalan party, which supports the President Puigdemont, strongly confirmed its endorsement to the independence and the political path chosen by the President. The CUP is in facts very relevant in order to understand the big picture of Spanish political debate. During last elections the CUP obtained 10 seats (over the 135 forming the Catalan parliament), supporting the Catalan President, and today it is pushing to make the independence fully effective. CUP represents the most radical actor of the Catalan “independentism”, and its support is crucial to the stability of both the Catalan government and the President Puigdemont, leader of the PDeCAT (Catalan European Democratic Party).


The future is still confused. No one can explain the impact of a probable activation of the art.155, being no precedents of this political measure. Of course, it will deepen and harsh the even larger gap between Catalan separatists and the “unionistas”, probably provoking clashes with Mossos d’Esquadra, the Catalan police that has already been criticized by Madrid, for acting like a “separatist police”.

It is not even clear the political choice of the Puigdemont government. The idea to take time before act is always a wise choice, but it could as well explain the lack of lucidity or even the fear connected to the “independence” card. Maybe feared by the possibility that important credit institutes, companies, and banks might leave the country after such a declaration, the Puigdemont government is even more pressured by the European Union who firmly backed the Unity option, in favour of the political status-quo, even favouring further dialogues and exchanges between Madrid and Catalonia.



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