18/10/2021

Socialists must specify their plans for Catalonia

2 min
The secretary general of the PSOE, Pedro Sanchez, at the closing ceremony of the party congress in Valencia

BarcelonaThe 40th congress of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) has been as calm as can be: it was a great staging of the internal peace and the absolute leadership that Pedro Sánchez exercises over a party which in recent years had suffered strong internal crises. The image that symbolised the unity of the party was the embrace on Saturday of Sanchez with former President Felipe Gonzalez, who had been very critical of him. Sánchez, therefore, already has the whole party lined up behind him to carry out his policies.

That is why there was a certain amount of expectation about his closing speech and what he might say, for example, about Catalonia. In this sense, Sánchez once again shielded himself in a generic defence of the path of dialogue as the best solution to guarantee both "harmony" and the "unity of Spain". The problem is that sooner or later this dialogue will have to be filled with content, and so far neither Sánchez nor the PSOE have specified what their specific proposal for Catalonia is, their proposal for it to fit in, which ought to aspire to convince at least part of the Catalans who today declare themselves to be pro-independence. But no, in this respect the PSOE's offer continues to be very generic. What's more, in this congress the word "plurinationality" has been replaced by an innocuous "multilevel Spain", which it is not hard to see as a disturbing step backwards.

The appointment of the Andalusian Juan Espadas as the party's new head of regional policies, after his criticism of the bilateral relationship with Catalonia, is not a good sign either. And in general, at the congress, references to Catalonia, which is Spain's great internal problem, and which is key for Sánchez, have been scarce, as if it were a nuisance.

And it may well be that the topic creates unease, as does the monarchy vs. republic debate, but ignoring it won't make it go away. From this point of view, it is a pity that the congress has not been used to make progress on the Socialists' solution for the Catalan conflict, on what specific measures need to be put in place, for example, to effectively protect the different languages spoken in the State, or on what model of autonomic financing or what structure of powers they defend.

Sánchez prefers to hide behind the threat that a possible alliance between the PP and Vox represents for this more plural Spain that he aspires to embody. And it is true that this possibility is real and would be catastrophic, but it cannot be an excuse for not staying put, for not making risky and audacious proposals. And the fact is that even agreeing on an adequate protection of the Catalan language in the audiovisual law is proving hard work when in theory it is part of the Socialists' own ideology.

After the euphoria of the congress, Sánchez and Bolaños have to return to reality and sit down to negotiate the budgets with ERC, PNV, Junts, PDECat, etc. And here they will see that words are not enough and that trust that has to be built with facts too. Because no matter how strong and united the PSOE is now, it is still far from having an absolute majority.

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