For serious negotiation
BarcelonaThe Catalan president, Pere Aragonès, and the Spanish president, Pedro Sánchez, on Wednesday kicked off a negotiation process between the two governments that has been born amidst many doubts and uncertainties, besieged by opponents on both sides, and with not very encouraging precedents. Even so, this is a path that must be explored in depth, especially after the lessons of October 2017, and which, above all, must be faced with the utmost seriousness and rigour by both sides.
To begin with, and as mediation experts underline, it is necessary that both parties really believe in it and act with sincere and true intention to reach agreements. This will obviously be much more difficult for the Spanish side, which is at the table in a legally superior position vis-à-vis the Catalan side (for them, the Generalitat is only an autonomous government) and with few incentives, especially electoral ones, to make concessions. The first mission of the Catalan negotiators, then, is to convince the Spanish government that an agreement benefits both sides and that, on the contrary, a failure harms them both.
The examples of complex negotiation processes like this one, where positions are so far apart and the emotional element is so present (with people in exile, pending trial or who have spent years in prison), call for discretion and patience. One of the experts interviewed by ARA on this issue, Francisco Diez, explains how he failed twice when he had to mediate, as a specialist of the Carter Center, between the governments of Colombia and Ecuador, until he finally succeeded on the third occasion. If both parties take it seriously, there are methodologies and experiences that can be applied to the Catalan case, which is different from most, fortunately, because of its strictly democratic and peaceful nature, but which deals with an issue, sovereignty, that has already been the subject of negotiation in many parts of the world.
This negotiation has a chance of success if it is approached with professional criteria, far removed from the day-to-day and electoral tacticism of both sides. In this sense, it must be stressed that the division in the pro-independence sphere and the absence of Junts from the table weaken the Generalitat's position. The government agreement, which provided two years of margin to explore the path of negotiation, has collapsed at the first opportunity and seriously compromises the unity of the Catalan executive. The two parties now have to find a new balance to rebuild mutual trust and project the image of a cohesive government. As both Roger Torrent and Jordi Sànchez remarked in interviews in the ARA, there is no intention to break the Government, neither on one side nor on the other. Even so, it is not serious for a government to maintain such distant positions on such a central issue as this. The paradox, then, is that perhaps before facing a real negotiation with the Spanish government it will be necessary to rebuild the unity of the Catalan executive with the only possible recipe to achieve it: dialogue.